Editor's note: This story is revised from the print edition.
Baseball and beer are synonymous, but it’s fine wines that the New York Mets and Aramark hope will make a difference when Citi Field opens in April.
Aramark, the Mets’ food and beverage provider, signed a vendor deal with Westchester County-based Zachys Wine & Liquor to develop a world-class wine program at the ballpark. There is no sponsorship tied in with the agreement.
Zachys will provide specialty wines for private and public spaces at Citi Field, including a bistro-style restaurant inside the Delta Sky 360 Club on the first suite level operated by New York restaurateur Danny Meyer. Zachys will not receive a fee but will enjoy exposure for its association with Citi Field.
Meyer already has a relationship with Zachys, and for Aramark it made sense to use the firm’s expertise as officials position the park’s 60,000 square feet of event space for corporate functions outside of baseball.
“It’s not just about the chardonnay and merlot any longer,” said Clint Westbrook, Aramark’s regional vice president. “Zachys does an incredible volume of business in New York. This will open doors for us and the stadium that haven’t been opened before.”
Zachys will lend a hand to the Mets-Aramark joint venture announced in September that is responsible for booking non-baseball events in Citi Field’s clubs, lounges, restaurants and meeting spaces.
The list of scheduled special events had grown to 20, Dave Howard, the team’s executive vice president of business operations, said last week.
Aramark, pending approval by the New York State Liquor Authority, plans to sell Zachys-approved wines in public areas, including concession stands in the Jackie Robinson Rotunda inside the main gate (non-game days only) and an indoor eatery in the upper deck, Westbrook said.
Prices have not been established yet for wine sold by the glass and bottle at Citi Field.
The Zachys deal could expand to other Aramark sports accounts in the Northeast, Westbrook said. Aramark also feeds fans at Fenway Park, Camden Yards and Citizens Bank Park.
BLACKHAWK DOWN-TOWN: The Chicago Blackhawks were close to signing a three-year contract last week to move their practice operation from a western suburb to a facility about a half-mile west of United Center.
The deal to relocate from The Edge ice arena in Bensenville, Ill., 23 miles from downtown Chicago, to Johnny’s IceHouse gives the Blackhawks plenty of time to decide whether to build a new practice facility tied to their home arena. They’re talking about the concept with 360 Architecture.
“They loved the scheme that we showed them,” said 360 principal George Heinlein, the designer working with the team on the project.
The Blackhawks declined to discuss their long-term goal of constructing a new practice facility on the west side of United Center, a building that would consolidate the club’s coaching and administrative offices and be accessible from the arena’s event level.
“Any comment beyond the life of [the Johnny’s IceHouse] contract would be premature,” said Brandon Faber, the team’s director of media relations.
Johnny’s IceHouse, pending city approval, plans to build a second NHL regulation ice sheet for the Blackhawks to use starting next season, Heinlein confirmed. Visiting teams practice at the IceHouse’s current facility, according to the venue’s Web site.
Two NHL teams, the Columbus Blue Jackets and New Jersey Devils, have practice rinks adjacent to their arenas.
STORED-VALUE ADD: The San Francisco Giants are another team introducing loaded tickets in 2009, technology where concessions credit is embedded into a ticket’s bar code.
The Giants will automatically load $5 credit for season tickets in the 3,000 seats in the View Reserve section spanning the upper deck seats at AT&T Park.
“We wanted to add value in a challenging renewal area,” said Russ Stanley, managing vice president of ticket services and client relations.
Don Muret can be reached at email@example.com.