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Volume 20 No. 45


Don Muret
The arrival of Charlotte’s first golf major allowed Levy to showcase its food operation in the city its golf division calls home.

The Chicago-based concessionaire runs general concessions and premium dining at about 35 golf tournaments, including the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, the same course that played host to the PGA Championship this month. Levy holds the account for the PGA Championship as it moves around the country.

The vendor also has deals with the Women’s PGA, Senior PGA, Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, among other professional golf tournaments.

For the PGA Championship, Levy had a workforce of 1,000 employees and 140 managers from around the country, compared with 600 workers and 60 to 75 managers for the Wells Fargo. The PGA was projected to draw 200,000 spectators, while the Wells Fargo typically caps attendance at 35,000 a day over the four-day tournament.

“We still wanted to treat it as if it was our first time coming in here, so that we could give everyone the best experience possible,” said Melissa Matthews, director of sales for Levy’s golf division. “The elements are different. We’ve got bigger kitchens and pantries because we’re serving more guests. We wanted to make sure we handled this event with velvet gloves.”

Burgers were grilled on site, but Levy made much of the food for the PGA Championship 30 miles away at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Logistically, feeding fans at golf courses is different from feeding them at arenas and stadiums. It revolves around the installation of pop-up venues, such as the 48,000-square-foot Wanamaker Club at Quail Hollow, plus smaller sponsor chalets, which the PGA of America installed in Charlotte.

Most of Levy’s food preparation for Quail Hollow events takes place at Charlotte Motor Speedway, one of its motorsports accounts. Because of local health department restrictions, the vendor prepares its grab-and-go items and higher-end dishes at the track’s huge production kitchen. Three small refrigerated trucks then haul those items overnight to Quail Hollow, a 30-mile drive south from the speedway. For the PGA Championship, each truck made three round trips to distribute food for the following day, said Jim Abbey, Levy’s regional vice president of culinary, who lives in Charlotte.

“It’s kind of like camping, in a way,” Abbey said. “You’re out in the woods and you have to create running water and electricity … the foundation. [In golf], you’re dealing with fire codes and health codes, which is the reason why we produce the majority of food at CMS. Our goal is to make the food look really fresh when delivering the baked goods, salad bars, breakfast sandwiches, lunch and snacks to all the different tents and chalets around the course.”

Hot foods such as burgers, brats and hot dogs are grilled on site in small batches during the course of the day. But in the heat of summer, the emphasis is on lighter fare such as fresh fruits and veggies, and that’s where the speedway’s facilities play a critical role, Abbey said.

Next year, the PGA Championship is set for Bellerive Country Club near St. Louis, and Levy officials are already in discussions with Scottrade Center and the America’s Center convention complex, both Levy accounts, for how they can support the golf operation.

Last year, Levy used the U.S. Tennis Association’s production kitchen in Queens to prepare food for the PGA Championship at Baltusrol in New Jersey. It was no picnic for Levy, considering it’s a 45-minute drive at best and requires taking toll roads, Matthews said.

In markets where Levy does not have a neighboring account, it has built a massive production kitchen at the golf course. The 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine, a Minneapolis suburb, is one example, Matthews said.

Levy’s golf portfolio first gained traction in 2006, when the company took over multiple golf events from Restaurant Associates. Both firms are owned by Compass Group USA, whose North American headquarters are in Charlotte.

In 2015, Levy bought Prom Management Group, whose clients included the U.S. Open, the Players Championship and the Barclays. Levy’s first golf account was the old Western Open in suburban Chicago.

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

Colorado State Stadium, which will host its first game Saturday, puts football back on the Fort Collins campus.
Photo by: TIM O’HARA

Colorado State’s new football stadium gives the Mountain West Conference school a higher profile among non-power five schools and, for the first time in nearly 50 years, a home on campus.

“For 49 years, we hosted football in a location that didn’t allow for direct interaction with the university,” CSU Athletic Director Joe Parker said. Hughes Stadium, the Rams’ old facility, sits two miles west of the Fort Collins school.

Colorado State Stadium

Location: Fort Collins, Colo.
Project cost: $220 million
Architect: Populous
Construction manager: Mortenson
Owner’s representative: Icon Venue Group
Total square footage: 727,000
Fixed seats: 36,500, plus standing room for 5,000
Premium seats: 23 suites, 821 outdoor club seats, 148 indoor club seats, 224 loge box seats
Branded spaces: New Belgium Porch (north end zone), Orthopedic & Spine Center of the Rockies Field Club (field level, west side)
Concessionaire: Spectra
Video board: Panasonic
Sustainability: Projected to be LEED Silver
       Source: SportsBusiness Journal research

“It’s about how can we build a strategy to engage as many stakeholder groups as possible to campus,” Parker said.

Keeping that goal in mind, Parker thinks Colorado State now features one of the best and most intimate college football venues in the country. Design highlights of the $220 million stadium, which opens Saturday with Colorado State’s game versus Oregon State, include one of the first field-level clubs in the college space as well as the New Belgium Porch, sponsored by the craft brewer based in Fort Collins.

Colorado State was on the front end of public beer sales in college football, for years allowing fans of legal drinking age to buy adult beverages at Hughes Stadium. At the new facility, the New Belgium Porch, a 1,200-capacity standing room space in the north end, is a $400 add-on for season-ticket holders. The porch has two bars and three levels of drink rails, giving the school the flexibility to book the outdoor area on non-game days. The old-school bicycles hanging from the ceiling establish the theme for Fat Tire, New Belgium’s signature brew.

The brewer’s deal is valued at about $5 million over 10 years, Parker said.

“New Belgium has a great corporate personality and is very creative with different artwork on display,” he said. “There are great views to the field. You’re looking directly at the video board in the south end, the largest in the Mountain West and three times bigger than we had before.”

A common area on the suite level (above) and one of the 23 suites (below). All premium inventory, which also includes loge boxes and club seats, sold out by October 2016.
Photos by: TIM O’HARA

The field-level club is named for the local Orthopedic & Spine Center of the Rockies. It’s situated at midfield on the west side, behind the home bench. The Rams pass through the indoor lounge on their way to and from the field, similar to the setups at the stadiums of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings, Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers.

Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium also served as a model for developing CSU’s 36,500-seat facility, as well as Baylor’s McLane Stadium. Populous designed all three buildings.

“They’re not in a power five conference, so it’s not as big with as much square footage,” said Myron Chase, a senior architect and principal with Populous who worked on Minnesota and Colorado State. “But it still has all the amenities of a power five stadium. You just don’t have the 50,000 to 100,000 seats.”

All premium seat inventory sold out by October 2016, two months ahead of projections, Parker said. The 23 suites are priced at $35,000 and $45,000 a year, depending on the number of seats. The 148 indoor club seats cost $2,300 a person, and the 821 outdoor clubs seats are $1,500 a person.

The 43 loge boxes, distributed in groups of four and six seats, cost $12,000 and $16,000 a year. All premium seats were sold in three-, five- and seven-year contracts, generating $3 million a year to help pay debt service on the stadium, Parker said.

At the New Belgium Porch in the north end zone, bicycles symbolize the brewer’s Fat Tire brand. An alumni center (below) is built into one corner of the stadium

The new stadium drove overall season-ticket sales to just under 15,000 in mid-August, compared with four seasons ago, when there were just 6,700 season-ticket holders at Hughes Stadium.

The “lift” in season-ticket numbers would not have occurred at the old building, he said. In addition, a new priority seating program tied to donations has all season-ticket holders making financial contributions on top of their ticket price. In the past, CSU was not as disciplined applying that key piece of fundraising, and some people weren’t contributing at the level required, Parker said.

The school is in search of a naming-rights partner in tandem with Campus+, a division of Learfield, the school’s multimedia rights holder. Parker does not expect to get a deal done this football season.

Apart from that potential deal, an anonymous donor gave the school $20 million to transfer the name Sonny Lubick Field from the old stadium to the new one, he said. Lubick, who coached CSU from 1993 to 2007, compiled a 108-74 record and won six conference titles.

The Orthopedic & Spine Center of the Rockies Field Club, one of the first field-level clubs in the college space. Below, a dining area inside the  club.
Photo by: TIM O’HARA