SBJ/March 18-24, 2013/People and Pop Culture

Spotlight: John Wentzell, president, Sportservice

Sportservice president brings facility operation experience

   
Wentzell is traveling around the country to talk with Sportservice clients.
Photo by: DELAWARE NORTH COS.
John Wentzell spent his first 16 years with Delaware North Cos. as an arena management executive at TD Garden, where he was also president of DNC Boston for six years.
    In January, Wentzell took over as president of Sportservice, the company’s food and hospitality division. In MLB alone, Wentzell now oversees accounts with the Detroit Tigers, Cincinnati Reds, Chicago White Sox and St. Louis Cardinals. He spoke  recently with staff writer Don Muret.

As you meet with clients, what are there concerns?
There are common, underlying themes [with] product differentiation they look to provide. It’s about establishing a value proposition as they sell ticketing products, wherever they may be. They’re looking for our participation and integration in creating those new products and making them work.

How has your facility operations experience helped address the needs of Sportservice clients?
It’s great to be able to sit across from our clients and say I understand specifically the issues you’re thinking about and how the experience around food and beverage fits into various seating products.

One of your clients, the Cleveland Indians, made news by reducing food prices for the 2013 baseball season. Is this something other teams are talking about?
I wouldn’t say it’s a huge issue in terms of pricing sensitivity. Across baseball, the majority of our clients have gone up in pricing across the board. That’s not to say there aren’t certain prices that were either held constant or were repackaged, whether it’s beer, hot dogs or pizza.

How has your hockey business been during the shortened NHL season?
It’s been very good. … There have been some ups and downs in a few places. Nashville has been tremendous with fan reaction and attendance, with spending terrific across food and beverage and retail. That’s been a particularly bright spot.

Bringing local brands to the ballpark continues to be a strong trend for all food providers. What’s new on that front for Sportservice?
We will be rolling out one to two food trucks [in MLB] to complement our existing operations. There are diverse uses for those trucks, both on game day but also non-game day, working directly with our clients to bring part of the ballpark food experience directly to community events.

Do you see the mobile piece of concessions finally gaining some traction?
Adoption has been very low … hampered by technology restrictions in stadiums as far as being able to get a signal. We need to catch up as an industry.

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