SBJ/April 8-14, 2013/Facilities

Vikes find many food-deal contenders already in Twin Cities

Don Muret
The competition to win the food contract for the Minnesota Vikings’ new stadium should be interesting considering the level playing field in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

As big league concessionaires prepare responses to a proposal issued March 22 by the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority in conjunction with the Vikings, consider that the Big Four in sports food all have a presence in the market.

Delaware North Sportservice runs food service at Target Field and general concessions at Target Center. At the Metrodome, Centerplate has general concessions and Aramark premium dining.

Across the Mississippi River, Levy Restaurants manages all aspects of food service at Xcel Energy Center.
Aramark, through its educational dining division, operates concessions and premium dining at TCF Bank Stadium, home to the University of Minnesota.

With the exception of Cleveland, New York, Seattle and the Bay Area, no other big league market has such an even distribution of sports concessionaires, said food consultant Chris Bigelow. His firm, The Bigelow Cos., is not involved in developing the Vikings’ stadium.

Looking closer at the RFP, the proposal requests that vendors submit terms for three financial arrangements, all of which would share a percentage of gross sales with the Vikings. Two options are tied to 10-year terms, with one requiring a $3.5 million investment paid to the authority to buy a point-of-sale system and other equipment. The third option is a five-year deal with no investment, according to the document.

The RFP also says each prospective bidder may also submit alternative proposals with specified capital investments.
On the authority’s end, the $3.5 million investment is “really nothing” compared with the $10 million to $25 million other NFL stadiums have required of a concessionaire, Bigelow said.

The deadline for proposals is April 23, one month after the document was issued, an especially quick turnaround for getting the information in hand. The authority and the team want to have a signed contract with a vendor in operation by June 15, according to the proposal.

“We typically tell a client that it takes six months with the total process until a company is under contract,” Bigelow said. “Unfortunately, when you see a fast turnaround like this, it is all about who will pay the highest commissions.”

Commissions are always important, Bigelow said, but so is the investment, track record at comparable venues, creative design ideas, locally relevant menus and the on-site management team.

Outside of the Big Four, Legends Hospitality Management, which runs food and retail at Cowboys Stadium, and Ovations Food Services, the food provider at EverBank Field, also have NFL experience.

> RED STATE: The Philadelphia Union is the latest sports property to sign a ticketing deal with Redbox, the company that rents DVDs for about a dollar at grocery stores, Wal-Mart and other retail outlets.

Starting in mid-April, the MLS team will provide a few hundred discounted single-game tickets to be sold through Redbox kiosks and its website, said Cara Joftis, the Union’s vice president of marketing and communications.

Tickets are priced at the team’s group rate of $25 in the corners, $35 along the sidelines and $45 at midfield in an attempt to reach general consumers, Joftis said.

The Union is the second MLS team to sign with Redbox after Chivas USA, Redbox officials said.

In the past six months, Redbox has expanded its beta test of the offering, signing deals with International Speedway Corp. for NASCAR Sprint Cup races in Los Angeles and Phoenix, in addition to NASCAR and IndyCar events at Pocono Raceway, and a few minor league teams. The firm works with Paciolan, New Era Tickets and Outbox to integrate their systems with Redbox’s platform, said Jason Rubinstein, Redbox Tickets general manager and vice president.
 
Redbox’s $1 convenience fee on the tickets is minimal compared with tickets sold by traditional ticketing vendors.

Rubinstein said he could not share ticket sales details because of confidentiality agreements.

Don Muret can be reached at dmuret@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @breakground.

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