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A Hot Dog...Please?

July 28, 2006 10:00 PM

The Metrodome hot dog vendor.

The Metrodome hot dog vendor. (Source: RP)

There is a hot dog vendor at the Metrodome.

I know because I saw him. He was three sections to my left in the 4th inning, and two sections to my right in the 6th.

I watched him like a hawk between pitches, and saw him finish with his row, exit to the concourse, and then disappear completely on both occasions. Meanwhile, the cotton candy guy went up and down our aisle more or less constantly for 7 innings.

We were sitting in the 19th row of the upper deck, the park was completely full, and a hot dog just seemed like the right thing to have (call me crazy). But I knew it would take some time to climb down, that the line at the concession stand would be long, that the help would be essentially untrained, and that I'd probably have to miss an entire inning or more in order to indulge my appetite.

What's more, the hot dog would come out of a drawer -- not off a grill or even out of hot water. No part of this process interested me, so I simply went without.

For me, it meant that I remained unsatisfied, and began to fume somewhat. For the concession company it meant that I went home with $10 in my pocket that they could have gotten if only there were a second hot dog vendor roaming the upper deck.

Mind you, this isn't the Twins' fault. They do not control the concessions at the Metrodome. Concessions are controlled by the Metropolitan Sports Facilites Commission -- the body which owns the Dome and was snubbed by the legislature in the creation of the new Ballpark Authority. Perhaps this snub was deserved.

In fact, concession control is one of the major upgrades the Twins are looking forward to in the new park. There they will have complete control over all aspects, including menu, pricing, signage and design, even how many people are out in the stands selling hot dogs. I have no doubt that they will do a better job than the company which does it now (Centerplate).

The numbers in the sidebar show just how little the Twins make on concessions. The $6.6 million paid to tenants is for all teams/tenants combined (Twins, Vikings, monster truck rallies, etc.). Even assuming that 3/4 of that goes to the Twins, that would come out to just $3.53 per fan at any given game (1.4 million fans in 2005).

That's insanely low -- especially given the outrageous prices. One suspects that the MSFC, Hormel and Centerplate are the ones making the real money in this arrangement. The new park will be a major improvement for the Twins.

But setting aside my hunger pangs, the dynamic of roaming vendors (also known as "in-seat vendors") is pretty important to determining everything from how many fixed concession stands you need to how many seats are appropriate for each row, and how many rows can fit between horizontal cirulation aisles. The fewer roaming vendors, the more space you need to allow for fixed stands, their long lines, and fans moving to and from their seats to spend money.

And the money part is the real issue, of course. The easier it is to spend money at the game, the more people will spend. It's that simple.

It's more fuel for those, like me, who vehemently dislike the Metrodome. There are 31 rows in the upper deck, with no horzontal aisles of any sort. Each row has from about 20 to 35 seats, with only skinny aisles at each end. (I'm choosing not to mention how cramped the leg room is, but this could be a subject for another entry.)

It would seem that economics alone would suggest that investment in roaming vendors would pay off very well. Since we have to live with the Dome for 3 more seasons, it would be great if someone at the MSFC would get on Centerplate, or just fire them and find somebody else.

Concessions at the Dome have been a problem since day one. No wonder the Twins were so adamant that they regain control in their new home. Whether it's hot dogs or walleye-on-a-stick, I'm looking forward to buying it right from my seat on a regular basis.

Comments


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A few minor thoughts: hopefully at the new park they will allow fans to keep the pop bottle caps, kind of annoying ever since the Knoblach incident in left field. Also the fact that the 1st 2 rows in the outfield are roped off, is uneccessary ever since the Jeffrey Mayer incident.

Posted on August 6, 2006 at 10:03 PM by Luke Highlight this comment 1

I don't think it's the Knoblach incident that prohibits them from giving you the bottle caps. I believe it's the way they keep track of sales of soda. They do the same with beer bottle caps. This is also done at the Xcel, Target Center and any other ball park I've been to in past years. Do what my girlfriend does, bring your own cap from home.

Posted on August 7, 2006 at 1:16 PM by Boofda Highlight this comment 2

I also noticed that they only started removing bottle caps after the Knoblauch game, but perhaps it's just coincidence -- I don't remember many bottle caps thrown at him, mostly hot dog wrappers.

As for the Metrodome concession figures, it doesn't look like the Twins are out that much money because of the MSFC -- they themselves only made $2.2 million profit all year. Also, the problems you experienced with the lack of hot dog vendors are usually due to infrequent and unexpected crowds. Since the new park will likely sell out (at least for a few years), the Twins will have a more constant number to rely on when hiring and deploying vendors than the MSFC currently does.

Posted on August 9, 2006 at 7:54 PM by spycake Highlight this comment 3

I don't remember EVER being able to keep bottle caps in the dome. And as for Knoblauch night, I think it was mostly pennies being thrown, and at least one dollar-dog.

Here is my report from Knoblauch night.

-- Rick

Posted on August 15, 2006 at 2:59 PM by Rick 4

You could never keep the bottle caps past about the second or third game of dispensing the bottles. It is not how they keep track of sales either. The reprecusions of the Chuck Knoblauch game were no beer vending in the lower deck outfield for the remainder of the season.

As to the dearth of hot dog vendors, it is Centerplates fault. In specefic I thinkit is Centerplates regional manager. He does not like in stand vendors and thinks they make too much money. Therefore he has done his best to make it not worth the while of the vendors to sell. Things like offering the same products, same products for less in the concession stand or trying to force fans to purchase at concesion stands with rules that limit vendors contact with the fans. I suppose they would argue that it is to maximize Centerplates profits, (at the expense of the fan.) I actually doubt it maximizes their profit, but that is my best guess at a rational.

----
BUT, You also have to understand that if enough people where that interested in having a hot dog around you there there would have been more hot dog vendors around, that is just the way it works.

So in one sense I agree but in another sense what do you care if the Twins make more money on concessions if you are supposedely unaffilliated with them?

Also why are you putting up a site like this cheerleading a stadium which will be funded by government force, taking extra money from every purchase one makes in Hennepin county whether they care about baseball or not. Are you sure you are not affilliatd with the Twins?

Posted on October 3, 2007 at 12:53 AM by someone who knows Highlight this comment 5

You do sound like someone who knows, and I appreciate the observations about Centerplate and the difference between in-seat vendors and concession stands. That does seem to explain something that has always been very mysterious to me.

But let's clear this up: I'm a FAN, just like you. I have NO affiliation with the team whatsoever. Never have, and probably never will. I have developed sources within the organization and within the supporting organizations solely for the purposes of keeping track of the stadium design and construction. I'm a baseball fan first, a Twins fan second, and a ballpark fan third.

Next, as a fan, I want the Twins to put a winning team on the field. If you are also a fan then that's what you want -- and to do that you must also want them to have a new stadium with all of the modern revenue streams it affords -- including concession revenues that they are not getting now. (As a fan, I also want a hot dog now and then without having to go into the concourse where it is terribly difficult to continue scoring the game.) The Twins could probably have limped along in the Metrodome for another decade or so and maybe even continued to field some competitive teams, but they would have started each new season in a bigger hole that other teams don't have. A new stadium is all about staying competitive.

The funding mechanism issue has been beaten to death, and I've said the last I'm going to say on the subject (many other places on this site, click my name). It's a done deal. Time to move on.

Finally, you may not realize it, but this article is over a year old. Since then, the in-seat vendors have started wearing different shirts (bright yellow) making them MUCH easier to spot, and they seem somehow more plentiful (could just be a mistake in perception due to the color change). Hot dog vendors in the upper deck are still a relative rarity, but at least I see them once in a while now.

I wish I could take any credit for goosing Centerplate into making these improvements, but that is highly unlikely. What's substantially more likely is that they need to impress the team in order to have any shot at getting the contract at the new ballpark. Concessions overall were substantially improved in 2007 over 2006 (the hot dogs are still too big and the buns still too dry, but you can't have everything).

Still, I feel confident that there's a better concessions company out there and I hope the Twins find them.

Posted on October 3, 2007 at 01:37 AM by Rick 6

Does anyone know if they sell none alcoholic beer at the Metrodome?

Posted on September 28, 2008 at 04:53 AM by Mike Highlight this comment 7

They do sell non alcoholic beer at the Dome, just ask in the stands.

Caps have nothing to do with inventory counting, why would you count caps when you can count the remaining bottles.

It's all about what can be thrown, and how easy it is to throw. Same with lids for cups, they fly like frizbees. Once one is thrown the field fills up with them. Then games are delayed to pick up junk. if people would grow up and watch their kids, you could keep the caps and have lids.

it will not change with the new stadium, it's a league decision.

Posted on February 24, 2009 at 09:56 AM by Phoebe Highlight this comment 8

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