SBJ/Aug. 26-Sept. 1, 2013/Facilities

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  • No waffling here: New food offering at Turner Field is a hit

    Don Muret
    The Atlanta Braves caught lightning in a bottle by signing a deal with Waffle House to run a food stand at Turner Field, says Derek Schiller, the team’s executive vice president of sales and marketing.

    One month after Waffle House opened for business on the field level near the visitors’ bullpen in left field, its average sales of waffles and hash browns have almost doubled the numbers posted by the grilled sausage cart that sat in the same location last season, Schiller said.

    As of last week, Waffle House had sold an average of 160 waffles and 140 orders of hash browns a game, said Pat Warner, Waffle House’s vice president of culture. By comparison, a 24-hour Waffle House restaurant sells about 100 waffles and 160 orders of hash browns a day, Warner said.

    The Waffle House stand serves waffles and hash browns.
    Photo by: POUYA DIANAT / ATLANTA BRAVES / GETTY IMAGES
    At Turner Field, waffles cost $5.75 plain or $6.50 with chocolate chips or peanut butter. Hash browns run from $5.25 to $9 for “all the way” with onions, cheese, ham, peppers and chili.

    The deal is a three-way partnership among Waffle House, the Braves and Aramark, the team’s concessionaire. Waffle House employees run the operation using Aramark’s equipment and point-of-sale system.

    Atlanta-based Waffle House has seen its success at Turner Field driven largely by the power of social media, Schiller said.

    Several Braves players have mentioned the deal on their Twitter accounts, which “has helped push the social following,” he said. Waffle House launched a Twitter account — called @wafflehouseted in a nod to the ballpark’s nickname — that has attracted more than 1,800 followers.

    The chatter has extended beyond Atlanta to other big league markets. The Charlotte Bobcats are among three NBA teams that have contacted Waffle House about opening a location at their arena, Warner said.

    Keen interest in the Bobcats’ rebranding to the Hornets for the 2014-15 season has led the NBA club to consider more concession options at Time Warner Cable Arena, including Waffle House, said Pete Guelli, the team’s executive vice president and chief sales and marketing officer. No deal has been signed.

    Waffle House will be conservative in its approach to expanding to other sports facilities, Warner said. Outside of Turner Field, all 1,650 Waffle House restaurants are 24/7 operations, and company officials prefer that business model.

    “Turner Field is a perfect fit because we are an Atlanta company,” he said. “Going into other sports venues is not really a path we have decided to go down yet. We like to focus on running our restaurants. We feel we do that well. But it’s been fun with the Braves.”

    The partnership extends to a cross-promotion. Waffle House diners can show their receipt at the Turner Field ticket windows and receive a free game ticket when they buy one at the regular price. In turn, fans displaying a Braves ticket stub at Waffle House get a free waffle.

    > FIELD OF PLAY: Safeco Field’s first concert proved to be a success for the Seattle Mariners. The Paul McCartney show on July 19 grossed $4.5 million in ticket sales from paid attendance of 45,229.

    The Mariners rented the stadium to Live Nation and generated revenue from concessions and parking, said Tony Pereira, the team’s senior director of ballpark operations.

    The team finally landed a stadium show 14 years after Safeco Field opened in 1999. The MLB club faces competition from CenturyLink Field across the street, home of the Seahawks, and acts such as U2 and the Rolling Stones preferred to play the bigger building.

    “McCartney wanted a smaller venue with a more intimate experience for the fans,” Pereira said.

    Squeezing a concert into the MLB schedule is another challenge that the Mariners faced.

    “Our show was on a Friday and the team came home on the following Monday for a seven-game homestand,” he said. “We resodded 5,000 square feet of grass. We expected to do some of that, but it wasn’t a huge amount. There were no complaints from the team.”

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

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  • Levy filling the Horseshoe with local food

    Levy Restaurants has upgraded Ohio State’s food operation by signing deals with 10 regional brands to feed Buckeyes football fans.

    Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
    The Chicago-based concessionaire followed through on its commitment to bring more local flavors to Ohio Stadium after signing a seven-year deal with the school in March to take over food service at all sports venues on campus.

    The initiative played a key role for Levy winning the contract, as well as the financial guarantees it pays to the university and its extensive experience operating concessions and premium dining at the major league level,
    Levy Restaurants is bringing new tastes and sprucing up stands at Ohio State.
    Photo by: LEVY RESTAURANTS
    Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith said.

    “They just picked up Wisconsin, too,” Smith said. “Levy brings a pro sports mentality to concessions. That’s important because we need to be very creative to hold on to our fans. More of them are watching the games at home. Attendance is going down all over college football.”

    Topping Levy’s list is Columbus restaurateur Cameron Mitchell, whose signature recipes from four of his themed eateries — Cap City Diner, Marcella’s, Ocean Club and the Pearl — will be served on the club level. Mitchell has been running his own restaurants for 20 years.

    Ohio flavors

    Local and regional brands coming to Ohio Stadium as part of Levy Restaurants’ Pride of Ohio program.

    Cameron Mitchell restaurants
    Schmidt’s cream puffs
    Graeter’s ice cream
    Blue Jacket Dairy
    Mike Sells Potato Chips
    Short North Bagel Co.
    Yellow Boy’s Polish Boy’s
    Ohio Pasture Proud
    Gerber’s Amish Farm
    Local Hog food truck

    Source: Levy Restaurants

    Other Ohio brands such as Graeter’s ice cream (Cincinnati) and Blue Jacket Dairy (Harrison) are regional companies that reflect the statewide audience that fills the 107,000 seats in “The Shoe” on football game days.

    Molly Kurth, Levy’s director of operations at Ohio State, held the same position for Sodexo, the school’s former food provider, and her knowledge of the sports food landscape on campus and throughout Ohio was key for selecting the right vendors to drive revenue, Weber said.

    Levy also did statewide market research and product sampling of potential partners to arrive at the right mix of regional brands, she said.
    Over the past 60 days, Levy revamped the 28 concession stands it operates at Ohio Stadium with new signs and upgraded equipment and graphics. The company also renovated half of the 60 total portable carts operating in the building, she said.

    Columbus-based Donato’s Pizza, Marsha’s Homemade Buckeyes candy and food truck purveyors Roosters and Pitabilities are holdovers from last season. The food trucks are part of Ohio State’s fan fest program on the south plaza outside the stadium.

    In a separate deal with the university, Panera Bread will run three stands at Ohio Stadium through its ties with Sam Covelli, Panera’s largest franchisee and a major Ohio State athletics donor.

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  • Warriors put theater boxes in Oracle, will test demand before new arena’s debut

    The Golden State Warriors are building 16 theater boxes at Oracle Arena to fill the need for a smaller suite product and test the market in anticipation of their new San Francisco arena.

    The Warriors are spending $3 million for the retrofit, a project that includes construction of a new VIP Club for 240 floor-seat holders. The NBA team is adding a second row of 114 floor seats for the coming season priced at $750 a seat per game.

    Also on tap at Oracle Arena: a new VIP Club.
    Image: KREATE INC.
    The work will be done in time for next season.

    The four-seat theater boxes replace eight regular suites on the south side of the arena’s mezzanine level, opposite stage end. The team is offering both one-year deals for $90,000 and the four-year “Bridge to San Francisco” package, starting at $80,000 a year and escalating to $95,000 in the agreement’s final year.

    Those deals cover the cost of food and drink, including beer, wine and soft drinks. Hard liquor is a separate fee. The setup includes an upscale lounge behind the seats where meals are served.

    About 10 NBA teams have introduced theater and loge boxes over the past five years, including the Phoenix Suns, the team for whom Warriors President Rick Welts served in the same position before joining Golden State in September 2011.

    The new inventory provides the team’s sales staff with the opportunity to market a product they expect to be part of the new waterfront arena targeted to open for the 2016-17 season.

    “Long before that arena is built, it’s giving us a great learning experience to sell premium,” Welts said “We have three more seasons here and in our mind it’s an invaluable beta test for San Francisco.”

    As of last week, two weeks into the sales process, the Warriors had sold two theater boxes and had commitments for two more units, he said.

    The 3,000-square-foot VIP Club, also on the south end, provides a new space for floor-seat holders. Team officials, in conjunction with AEG Facilities, the arena’s management firm, converted a two-story storage area at event level, Welts said. All 240 floor-seat holders, including those buying the new second-row floor seats, get exclusive access to the club.

    The Warriors have sold all the new floor seats available and have about 10 reserved for sponsor commitments, Welts said. Those in the front row pay $1,700 a game.

    The Warriors plan to sell naming rights to the club, Welts said.

    Architectural Dimensions designed the theater boxes, and Kreate developed the floor seats and the VIP Club.

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