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Volume 21 No. 2
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Earthquakes are raising the bar – or at least lengthening it

Don Muret

San Jose Earthquakes fans can belly up to one of the largest outdoor bars in sports at the MLS team’s new stadium when it opens in March.

The scoreboard bar anchors the north end zone, the open end of horseshoe-shaped Earthquakes Stadium. It sits beneath the video board, which has screens on both sides, four feet above field level and about 60 feet behind the goal, said Michael Patterson, a project architect with 360 Architecture, the stadium’s designer.

As the Earthquakes and 360 developed the stadium, they reserved the south end for 700 to 800 fans in supporters groups convening in a standing-room terrace. At the opposite end, they wanted a destination to frame an open space in the 18,000-seat facility.

The north-end scoreboard bar at Earthquakes Stadium will measure 118 feet long.

The 118-foot-long scoreboard bar — which the Earthquakes say is the largest exterior bar in North America — fills the north end nicely as a one-of-a-kind fan amenity, team President Dave Kaval said.

The bar is accessible to all ticket holders and should handle more than 1,000 patrons on game days, Kaval said.

“As we saw the stadium taking shape, we needed a neighborhood underneath it for people to congregate,” he said. “It has the look and feel of a high-end bar and a tie-in with San Francisco. [Most] of the wood is from old redwoods that are 2,000 years old.”

The redwood materials were reclaimed from the roof of an old zeppelin hangar at Moffett Field, a federal airstrip in Northern California. The same finishes are part of the owner’s club at Levi’s Stadium, the 49ers’ new facility.

> FLEX AND FLIP: Aramark is testing a new concept at Minute Maid Park tied to adjusting menu items at the same concession stand over multiple homestands, and as frequently as game to game.

Carl Mittleman, newly appointed president of Aramark Sports and Entertainment, discussed the future of sports concessions during a session on “Five New Ideas” at SportsBusiness Journal’s recent facilities conference in Pittsburgh.

In Houston, Aramark, the Astros’ food provider, has tested a “street eats” theme this season at one stand by incorporating flexibility into the design and operations to bring the food truck experience into the ballpark without the truck, Mittleman said.

“One week, we could be partnering with a Vietnamese concept, the next homestand we could be bringing in a [Houston chef] Bryan Caswell concept and a third concept could be in-house,” he said.

In many cases, concessionaires have limited real estate to work with at sports venues, and the flex concept allows Aramark to better use existing stands, Mittleman said.

The tests in Houston are serving as a model for the Minnesota Vikings’ new stadium, he said. Aramark will be the team’s food vendor when the facility opens in 2016.

In the future, Aramark officials see the possibility for expanding the concept even further by “flipping” concession stand options during a game. To date that idea has not been tested, they said.

One example, though, could be “The Butcher and the Baker,” a stand selling burgers and sandwiches during the first five innings of a baseball game before switching to pastries and ice cream, Mittleman said.

Advances in food service technology with digital menu boards and cooking equipment would help facilitate the quick changeover as the grill stand slows down and fans’ attention turns to satisfying their sweet tooth.

“Baseball is probably the better sport to test [in-game flips] given the longer service times and the need of the business where you have a desire for a main meal early on in the event and the dessert need later on,” he said. “You might still have ‘Butcher’ available, but now you’re featuring ‘Baker’ through LED signs and graphics. The idea is to service fans better and give them what they want when they want it.”

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