We end 2015 with a countdown of the 10 biggest stories of the year on Ballpark Digest, as chosen by editors and partially based on page views. Today, #5: Outrageous food items are still a cornerstone promotion for most baseball teams, but 2015 saw a subtle shift toward high-end, sit-down dining at the ballpark.
In an era where many visits to a ballpark involves some sort of outrageous food offering, 2015 saw plenty of headline-generating food items from MLB, MiLB, independent and summer-collegiate teams.
But the biggest food story of 2015, in terms of reader and industry interest, wasn’t a nine-patty burger from the Philadelphia Phillies, but rather high-end offerings that featured sit-down dining of some sort and high-end ingredients. These were the three food stories of the year that generated the most interest:
- The Minnesota Twins introduced a new sit-down food offering at Target Field with Barrio, the award-winning Twin Cities restaurants. The full bar featured a selection of tequilas, craft beer and offered a food menu featuring pork carnitas tacos with diced onion, cilantro and lime, along with chips and fresh guacamole.
- The Twins were not the only MLB team to partner with a local restaurant in 2015. Indeed, the Target Field improvement was part of a 2015 movement by MLB teams to partner directly with local restaurants for high-end offerings, including Chronic Tacos at Angel Stadium and Shake Shack at Citi Field.
- Every team should own a pizza bus or some sort of food truck. We’ve seen food trucks from other MLB and MiLB teams before, but none like the Big Top Baseball pizza bus. The point here isn’t that teams should be getting into the pizza business; it’s that something like a pizza bus can be a welcome change of pace from the extreme-food trend that spawned $29 lobster rolls at Fenway Park or the triple-triple, 2,200-calorie cheeseburger at Citizens Bank Park. Extreme foods continue to make headlines, but we’re seeing the food needing to get more and more extreme to get the attention of the press. the Pizza Bus — it’s an experience, not just a food truck. The bottom level is the kitchen, featuring the aforementioned wood-fire stove, a small cooking area and walk-up ordering windows. Fans enter the bus in the normal boarding area and walk up the stairs to a second-level party deck. At the ballpark, this becomes a portable suite (the bus is parked down the third-base line at Warner Park, down the first-base line at Witter Field), complete with drink rails, stools and a serving table. It’s also a marketing tool for the Big Top Baseball teams: Madison Mallards, Green Bay Bullfrogs, Kenosha Kingfish and Wisconsin Rapids Rafters.
As noted, we’re not arguing that food trucks be owned by every team — but planning for them can certainly enhance the ballpark experience. Sloan Park, spring home of the Chicago Cubs, was designed to host food trucks (brilliant move in the Valley of the Sun, where food trucks rule), and the Frisco RoughRiders (Class AA; Texas League) included dedicated spaces for food trucks at the State Fairway area in the Dr Pepper Ballpark renovations.