SBJ/May 9-15, 2011/Colleges

Centerplate investing $2M in Notre Dame concessions

Centerplate is investing about $2 million to improve food service at Notre Dame after signing a five-year deal to run concessions at all sports venues on campus. School officials announced the agreement last week.

A major portion of the investment will pay for installing a modern point-of-sale system to accept credit cards at Notre Dame Stadium, Joyce Center and Compton Family Center, the university’s new $50 million hockey arena opening in October. In addition, Centerplate will add cooking portables and revamp a few permanent stands to cook food. There are currently no cooking stands inside the stadium, said Greg Fender, Centerplate’s senior vice president.

UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME
Centerplate will be the first outside company to handle Notre Dame’s food service.
It’s all part of Notre Dame’s mission to present a better game-day experience for Irish sports fans, said Mike Seamon, director of game-day operations for football. Three seasons ago the school’s president, the Rev. John Jenkins, charged the athletic department to take a hard look at all aspects of event operations and find ways to improve those elements. Concessions was high on the lists of fans and consultants that Notre Dame hired to examine those operations, Seamon said.

Notre Dame is outsourcing food service for the first time, after managing concessions in-house for decades. The school issued a proposal last fall to several national food providers, including Centerplate, and invited them to the Pitt-Notre Dame game in October to get a taste of the traditions and pageantry associated with Fighting Irish football. Officials went through the interview process and selected Centerplate after talking to several of its clients, most notably the Indianapolis Colts, about 130 miles away at Lucas Oil Stadium.

“We found out that they listened to their partners and there was an open and collaborative relationship,” Seamon said. “That theme kept ringing true.”

It also didn’t hurt Centerplate’s cause that it already has a presence in South Bend with deals at the city’s convention center and performing arts center that it can lean on for support at Notre Dame. Centerplate is also strong in the region, with 22 deals at facilities in Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky. All told, Centerplate now has 24 college accounts, among the industry’s leaders in that market, Fender said.

Centerplate officially takes over July 1.

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