With the Pittsburgh Pirates coming off their most successful campaign since the days of Crystal Pepsi, selling the baseball at PNC Park shouldn’t be that hard in 2014.
The current times reflect that the action on the field – regardless of the teams or the stadium – is only part of the experience for fan employing their buying power at a baseball stadium on a given day.
For those who prefer to eat food at the ballpark instead of watching it race around the warning track, ARAMARK – the foodservice provider of the stadium – is doing its part to keep Pittsburgh in the unofficial arms race between clubs and stadiums across the majors.
ARAMARK’s biggest contribution toward gaining buzz is a grilled cheese sandwich named “The Closer.”
This is not just any grilled cheese sandwich though. The creation features four slices of sourdough bread, nine different cheeses, candied bacon along with the leek and granny smith apple compote.
Tatchos have also picked up social-media steam in the days leading to the park’s 2014 debut. The offering with the smooshed name features tater tots topped with chili, nacho cheese and green onions with a side of sour cream.
Pulled pork nachos featuring chips topped with pulled pork, cheese and barbecue sauce; plus a rotating menu of seasonal salads, pretzels, and macaroni and cheese for the kids.
“Signature items are always important,” Executive Vice-President and General Manager of PNC Park Dennis DaPra said. “Every ballpark wants to be recognized from a food and beverage standpoint with that special, signature item. We do make a concerted effort with our partners to come up with unique and special items every year.”
While the standard fare of hot dogs, Cracker Jack, peanuts and soda will never depart PNC Park, taking steps forward with new food items is an exciting part of any new season.
“For what we do with ARAMARK, we’ve always created new items with fancy names and unique to what we’re doing each year,” said Steve Musciano, General Manager of ARAMARK. “Last year we had the brunch burger, we had the pulled-pork pierogi stacker. It’s kind of like a test. Those things come to our menu, they stick on.
“Are we focusing on signature items? Not necessarily. I think the times are changing with the food, it’s not just a plain hot dog ... Of course hot dogs are still our No. 1 seller, always will be.”
The Pirates also opened a partnership with BRGR, featuring four gourmet burgers along with a quartet of shakes. Highlighting the menu is the stand’s ballpark-exclusive “Abso-Bac’n-lutely” burger.
“Just like baseball, BRGR is quintessentially Americana: Authentic and timeless,” said Richard Stern, partner of the S&P Restaurant Group.
Gone from the park is the team’s partnership with Pepsi-Cola – and the company’s iconic bottle over the stands in right-center. The Pirates announced a multi-year deal with Coca-Cola to serve soft drinks at the ballpark.
“We are very excited to be a part of the Pirates organization,” said Jim Dinderman, Vice-President of of Sales for Coca-Cola’s Pittsburgh Marketing Unit.
The team also partnered up with Pittsburgh Brewing to unveil the I.C. Light Landing in left field. Brian Walsh, the CEO of Pittsburgh Brewing noted that three new Pirates-themed I.C. Light cans will be released during the season.
Levy Restaurants, which handles the food service needs of the premium seating areas, focused on new dessert options available at the park.
“If you’re on that level, you’ll probably hear the dessert cart coming because there are ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaahs’ every time people come out of their suite and see it,” Levy executive chef Adam Holt said. “It’s loaded up with everything.”
Shawn Curtis is the sports editor of The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/shawncurtis430.