SBJ/March 5-11, 2012/Facilities

Sportservice lands Lambeau food contract

Editor's note: This story is revised from the print edition.

The Green Bay Packers have agreed to a five-year deal with Delaware North Sportservice to take over concessions and premium dining at historic Lambeau Field.

The foodservice deal coincides with the $143M expansion of Lambeau Field’s south end zone.
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As of last week, the deal was pending final negotiations. Tim Connolly, the team’s vice president of sales and marketing, refused to comment further.

The Packers become Sportservice’s seventh NFL client (see box), and mark a big victory for the concessionaire, which was one of 10 food vendors that expressed interest in the contract. The account at Lambeau, which opened in 1957 and underwent an extensive renovation completed in 2003, carries some extra prestige thanks to the history of the team and the venue, but also because of the large volume of non-NFL business and special-event catering at the Lambeau Field Atrium, which opened as part of the $295 million renovation.

No information was available on which concessionaires submitted proposals after the interested firms met with the team and toured the stadium in early October.

Sportservice replaces Levy Restaurants, the Chicago-based company that had operated the stadium’s foodservice since 2002. When the Packers issued a proposal last fall for the contract, Connolly told SportsBusiness Journal that the Packers were satisfied with Levy’s operation but that new executives in the team’s front office, a product of significant turnover there over the past decade, wanted to evaluate other options.

The Sportservice deal coincides with a new $143 million expansion project in the south end zone at Lambeau Field covering 6,600 new seats. New wireless technology to accommodate stored-value tickets and gift cards to pay for concessions is part of the project.

Some food stands at Lambeau, one of the oldest NFL stadiums, did not have the ability to accept credit card transactions, but the Packers recently took steps to resolve the issue, signing a deal with tech vendor NCR to install a new point-of-sale system with 425 wireless and touch-screen terminals for the 2012 season.

The upgrades will increase speed of service and sales with better management of gift card and loyalty programs for season-ticket holders, according to NCR officials. The technology also meshes with a new all-inclusive ticket package for 180 new seats.

The Packers, the NFL’s only publicly held team, reported about $6 million in net revenue from concessions and parking income for fiscal 2010, the most recent period for which figures are available. Lambeau Field has 167 suites and 6,260 club seats, and 72,922 total seats. The Packers reported $58 million in sales and marketing revenue in 2010, a figure that covers 600 to 800 atrium functions annually.

Sportservice has a strong presence in Wisconsin; the company has been the Milwaukee Brewers’ food provider since 1970, spanning Miller Park and the old County Stadium.

For Sportservice President Rick Abramson, a Wisconsin native, winning the Packers’ business is a high point on both a professional and personal level. Abramson got his start in the business working as a hot dog vendor at County Stadium in the 1960s. From 1953 to 1994, the Packers played two to three home football games every season at the Milwaukee ballpark.
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