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Volume 21 No. 2
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Indians bolster ballpark’s craft beers, including a $30 bottle

Don Muret
Craft beers have grown to represent 5 percent of America’s beer sales by volume, and MLB concessionaires are going to greater lengths to satisfy their fans’ desire for high-end suds.

At Progressive Field in Cleveland, Delaware North Sportservice, the Indians’ food provider, developed a new Spirits of Ohio stand in Section 154 of the lower deck behind home plate. Those beers, all made in the Buckeye State, range from $6.75 to an eye-opening $29.75 for a 22-ounce specialty beer.

Sportservice built Spirits of Ohio this year after testing craft beers last season in the ballpark’s Terrace Club, a premium space reserved for Indians season-ticket holders. The results were mixed, but Sportservice went ahead with building that stand as well as Your Dad’s Beer, a location in Section 119 in the right-field corner. That particular stand offers old-school beer brands such as Blatz, PBR and Schaefer sold in 12-ounce cans for $4.50 as well as mainstream brands produced by Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors.

Spirits of Ohio sells beers brewed in the Buckeye State.
Chris Angne, Sportservice’s general manager at Progressive Field, first began expanding beer selections beyond the ordinary when he worked at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, another Sportservice account. Three years after arriving in Cleveland, Angne has adopted the same ideas as part of an overall approach to refresh the park’s food and drink menus. Angne has discovered the state of Ohio has a rich brewing history, and in both big league markets he has found beer aficionados willing to pay a healthy price for a new craft beer experience.

Conversely, having to pay $30 for a Hoppin’ Frog Bodacious Black and Tan could be considered excessive. That particular beer, as well as the Hippie IPA ($19.75) and Brew Kettle 4 C’s Pale Ale ($15.75) are available only in 22-ounce bottles. Sportservice must pay a premium at the wholesale level to buy those bottles compared with traditional bottles and kegs, Angne said.

Sportservice’s markup for those three beers is two to three times what it pays for those products at wholesale, he said. The beer price also reflects the food vendor’s cost of doing business at the stadium.

Across sports in general, the markup for domestic beer brands is typically four to five times what the concessionaire pays wholesale and covers the commissions it pays the team as part of their concessions deal, said food consultant Chris Bigelow.

Concessionaires also pay heavy taxes at the wholesale level, Bigelow said.

The Spirits of Ohio stand sold 29 bottles of the three specialty brews during Cleveland’s first three home games, including four of the $30 Hoppin’ Frogs. The Indians were pleased with those initial results, team spokesman Curtis Danburg said.

All told, Sportservice has more than 75 different beers available at Progressive Field, Angne said.

In sports, the craft beer trend began 10 to 15 years ago at arenas and stadiums in the Pacific Northwest, home to many microbreweries, Bigelow said. Centerplate, for example, serves 40 craft beers at Safeco Field, the Mariners’ park, which is across the street from Pyramid Brewery’s Seattle Alehouse.

In some respects, purchasing a 22-ounce microbrew at Progressive Field is similar to buying a fine wine, officials said: The prices vary for both products, and the large bottles are suitable for sharing.

SNOW JOB: The Minnesota Vikings are trying to make good with their corporate partner Mall of America about four months after heavy snow caused the roof to collapse at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.

Mall of America signed a three-year naming-rights deal for the stadium’s field in October 2009. The terms included painting the mall’s logo on the roof, a process that was completed in May 2010. Seven months later, the roof collapsed and officials decided it was better to replace the structure than repair it. The new roof will not be completely installed until Aug. 1, which means Mall of America loses a big piece of activation for nine months, or roughly one-quarter the length of its deal.

The team and the sponsor are discussing a resolution, said Steve LaCroix, the Vikings’ vice president of sales and marketing and chief marketing officer.

Mall of America officials were contacted, but an executive authorized to speak for the company was not available for comment.

In addition to the roof, Mall of America Field has three signs on the exterior of the stadium, banners on light poles, and video board exposure, LaCroix said.

Don Muret can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @BreakGround.