Arena food has been more than just hot dogs, popcorn and peanuts for some time, but the new food courts, celebrated with a ribbon-cutting today, greatly expand the arena's menu.
The food courts were built on the outside of the concourse, as compared with the existing concession stands, most of which are on the inside of the concourse.
Building on an outside wall allowed for easier ventilation, which in turn allowed the coliseum to install for the first time grills, char broilers and fryers, said Andrew VanDeweghe, ARAMARK general manager. The coliseum contracts with ARAMARK to provide most of its food service.
The addition of the cooking equipment allows the coliseum food staff to actually cook, as opposed to just heating and serving food.
Each food court has its own theme. On the west side of the 200 level, the Appleseed Burger Co. will sell a variety of burgers, a turkey burger, garden burger, twisted fries, onion rings and mini apple fritters.
The east side food court has two options: Slice'd, featuring hand-tossed pizza, sub sandwiches and cannoli. Wok this Wayne will offer sesame garlic beef; General Tso's chicken; vegetable lo mein; pork egg rolls; and vegetable spring rolls.
The food courts are in part a reaction to consumer demands for more variety and sophistication in arena food. "This is very much a trend," VanDeweghe said.
Each food court has a large expanse of windows and stand-up tables for those who don't want to haul their eats back to their seats. There won't, however, be chairs. "We didn't want to take away from the event," VanDeweghe said.
While patrons wait for their food they don't have to worry about missing any of the arena action. Each food court will have four 60-inch TVs and a giant projector screen, said Nathan Dennison, coordinator of marketing and media services at the coliseum.
"We really think it's going to be a great gathering place," Dennison said.
The food courts should have the added benefit of easing congestion on the 200-level concourse, where passers-by sometimes have to navigate through lines of people waiting for concessions. Dennison said the food courts should "open up concourses to allow more space to move around."
Based on the popularity of the new food courts, the coliseum will "play it by ear," Dennison said, as to what other concession stands will be open during events.
VanDeweghe said the addition of the new cooking equipment will allow the coliseum "to add a culinary aspect to our concessions." Even the food service staff will look different. Those preparing the food will be in chef's coats and hats, VanDeweghe said.
Food courts aren't the only improvements patrons will notice. As part of this summer's $3.96 million project, in addition to the food courts eight of 12 restrooms on the 200-level concourse were completely renovated.
New walls, stalls and fixtures update the restrooms. One men's restroom was split in two, with one side now for women and the other side for men. Dennison said that was done to more evenly distribute the location of men's and women's restrooms. It should alleviate the complaint that women had to walk by two men's restrooms to get to a women's restroom. With the change, "quite honestly the women don't have to walk as far," Dennison said.
Name that burgerThe coliseum will offer a signature burger, but the staff needs the public's help naming it. "Signature burger" doesn't do justice to this monster: a cheeseburger topped with bacon, pulled pork, an onion ring, french fries, lettuce, tomato and barbecue sauce, all between a bun. Open wide!
The contest to name the burger starts today. Go to www.facebook.com/acwmc for more information.