The Vet’s a mess – so who’s to blame?
The teams? The food vendor? The city?
Publicly, both the city and the food-and-beverage vendor yesterday took responsibility for cleaning up Veterans Stadium.
But behind the scenes, everybody’s pointing fingers in the wake of a Daily News report this week that exposed unsafe and unhealthy conditions at the Vet.
They’re embarrassed by the People Paper’s stomach-turning description of roach-infested kitchens and nose-picking employees.
And they’re trying to clean up after city inspectors cited the stadium with enough health code violations to fill seven pages.
“Heads are rolling down here,” said one source, who described a heated meeting between the Phillies and the stadium vendor in the aftermath of the Daily News report.
Sources said the Phillies are putting the heat on the stadium concessionaire, Aramark Corp. The company took over the stadium concession contract this summer when it purchased the Vet’s longtime vendor, Ogden Entertainment.
On the record, an Aramark spokesman said in an e-mail statement, “We are engaged in an ongoing repair and cleanup effort at Veterans Stadium as a key part of our transition strategy for this new account. Some of these efforts are taking place in response to the recent Board of Health findings. Other actions were scheduled well in advance of the Board of Health’s report. ”
Other sources told the Daily News that Aramark – stunned by the breadth of grime it inherited – is pressing the city to step up its maintenance of the facility.
Under the stadium concession contract, it is Aramark’s job to clean the kitchens and food-service areas. It’s the city’s job to remove trash.
The Street administration vowed to do its part.
“It is our intention to have a facility that our fans and teams can use to have a pleasant experience,” said Joyce Wilkerson, Mayor Street’s chief of staff. “We don’t want to send the wrong message about the city. We look to have a facility that allows people to have a quality time. ”
It appeared yesterday an emergency cleanup of sorts has begun.
A brief tour of the empty stadium showed evidence of a mop-and-bucket brigade. The faint odor of disinfectant wafted through the 200-level Food Court.
Sources said the first to get bathed was the stadium’s infamous cotton-candy machine.
Located beneath light fixtures and ledges coated with grease, dirt and bird-droppings, the machine was operated – at least on one occasion – by a nose-picking vendor who tended to lick his fingers.
Now, it’s missing from its usual spot.
“They yanked it immediately,” a stadium sources said. “That hit them hard, that gross description of cotton candy. ”
Elsewhere, the cleanup was superficial at best.
The walls and many of the not-so-stainless steel concession windows were still covered with a sticky film of filth.
The eating facility was marked with obscene graffiti, gobs of gum and litter.
A cat – one of the many that nest at the Vet to shepherd the stadium’s rat colony – wandered aimlessly near an indoor batting cage.
Two wagons, heaped with bags of festering garbage, awaited removal.
Other problems are less noticeable but far more severe.
An assessment of the Vet completed last November by the design firm Ewing Cole Cherry Brott recommended more than $8 million worth of priority work at the stadium. Among the most severe problems:
A rusting steel structure supporting the temporary stands that are used at every Eagles games.
Wobbily, poorly supported aluminum railings in seating areas.
A variety of electrical code violations.
Boiling water leaking from pipes.
“The leaking water will flash to steam, presenting an immediate danger to anyone nearby,” the report noted. “. . .Stadium staff reports an ever-increasing failure rate. ”
The study recommended another $25 million in renovations in coming years, assuming the Vet continues to be the home for the Eagles and Phils.
Eagles executive vice president Joe Banner said little if any work has been done since the report was released.
“To the best of our knowledge, there have no capital repairs in the year 2000 except for perhaps some minor items,” Banner said.
According to a report prepared by the city, about $1 million in structural improvements are under way, including repairs to the temporary seating area. That total, however, pales in comparison to capital spending in the mid-’90s, which reached as high as $11 million a year.
Staff writer Dave Davies contributed to this report.