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Volume 21 No. 2
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Big eats: Ohio State plans to put food contract out for bid

Don Muret
Ohio State officials plan to issue a proposal this fall for one of college sports’ most lucrative food contracts.

Sodexo, the Big Ten school’s concessionaire, has been feeding thousands of Buckeye football fans at Ohio Stadium since 1985, when Marriott Management Services, the company’s predecessor, held the contract.

Marriott and Sodexo merged in 1998, the same year Schottenstein Center’s Value City Arena opened as the new home of Ohio State’s basketball and hockey teams. Sodexo has run food service at the arena since it opened in November of that year.

Renovations tripled the size of the Endowment Lounge at Ohio State’s Value City Arena.
Sodexo’s deal expires next summer, and the school wants to see what other food vendors have to offer for the stadium, the arena, the Jack Nicklaus Museum and other sports venues on campus, said Xen Riggs, OSU’s associate vice president for student life.

Officials made that decision after food consultant Chris Bigelow completed an assessment of Ohio State’s sports food business.

Ohio Stadium alone, a 102,329-seat facility with 81 suites and 2,227 club seats, generated more than $22 million in food and drink revenue over the past five seasons, Riggs said.

At the arena, which at 19,500 seats for basketball is the Big Ten’s largest, men’s basketball produced $1.6 million in concessions revenue for the 2010-11 school year, the most recent figures available. The numbers were $337,000 for men’s hockey and $227,000 for women’s basketball.

Over that same period, concerts at Value City Arena generated $1.3 million in concessions income, Riggs said.
Whether Sodexo retains the contract or a competitor wins the deal, the concessionaire will run the arena’s newly expanded Endowment Lounge, an event-level club reserved for the facility’s 150 courtside seat holders. The renovated club, tripling in size to 3,500 square feet, reopens this fall with 18 high-definition televisions and a full-service bar.

Ohio State expects to award the new food contract by next spring, Riggs said.

GRANDDADDY’S 100: Officials in Pasadena, Calif., are in the early stages of negotiating a deal with The Colonnade Group to produce a fan festival tied to the 100th Rose Bowl Game in 2014.

That year will also mark the 125th anniversary of the Tournament of Roses Parade as well as the 100th birthday of the Wrigley Mansion, headquarters of the parade organization.

The Colonnade Group, based in Birmingham, Ala., has run similar fan fests for the Southeastern Conference and Big Ten Conference football championships in Atlanta and Indianapolis, respectively.

In Pasadena, most of the festival’s activities, including an interactive museum revolving around the rich history of the game and the parade, will be housed at the Pasadena Convention Center, said Michael Ross, the facility’s CEO.

A meeting is scheduled for early September for the principals to develop a final plan for the festival and sign a contract for event operations, said Robbie Robertson, president and CEO of The Colonnade Group.

WATERS ON WRIGLEY: Roger Waters ranks his performance of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” at Wrigley Field as one of the most amazing things he’s ever done over the course of his 40-plus-year career, according to Chicago Cubs President Crane Kenney.

Mark Campana, co-president of North America concerts for Live Nation, told Kenney about the conversation he had with Waters after the show. With Wrigley’s small footprint, Waters told Campana, the ballpark felt more like the “world’s largest opera house” than a stadium. Waters was so moved by his own experience on the field that he asked Campana to contact a local radio station so he could share his thoughts with late-night listeners.

Campana was “stunned,” Kenney said. “He had never heard of a performer that wanted to thank the venue and the city in that way.” The promoter told Kenney that it took a while to convince the overnight disc jockey that it was Waters.

Wrigley Field’s back-to-back, sold-out shows of “The Wall” and Brad Paisley in early June grossed a combined $7.4 million in ticket sales.

The Cubs rent the park for concerts and generate most of their revenue from concessions. Food and drink sold at concerts “far outpace” baseball per caps that run “north of $500,000” depending on the game and the day, Kenney said.

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