The ballplayers won’t be the only ones wearing gloves when the Phillies host the Cubs today at Opening Day 2001.
For the first time in memory, the Vet’s concession workers will be wearing them, too.
Stung by a season of health-code violations and a notorious nose-picking affair, the stadium concessionaire will require its workers to wear plastic sanitary gloves when they serve up ballpark grub this season.
The glove regs are among a host of rules implemented under a controversial no-bid food-and-beverage contract that the city handed to Aramark Corp. last winter. Aramark, the Philadelphia-based cafeteria conglomerate, took over concessions last summer when it purchased longtime stadium vendor Ogden Entertainment.
Given the Vet’s terminal condition (the decaying stadium will be replaced in three years), the rules don’t exactly signal a brave, new era of cleanliness. Nonetheless, the stadium is spending millions for a cosmetic sprucing:
* The luxury boxes got a new coat of paint.
* The field – among the worst in professional sports – got a new artificial carpet.
* The players got refurbished dugouts.
* And the perennially abused fans get. . .Grilled Neopolitan Zucchini!
Squash prices were unavailable at press time.
City officials boasted, though, that prices for the Vet’s other so-called “culinary delights” will remain at last year’s levels. That means $2.75 for a boiled hot dog and $3 for a soggy pretzel.
But the price freeze is deceptive, thanks to the provisions of the city’s secretly negotiated pact with Aramark.
In a little-noticed contract revision, City Hall has agreed to reduce its cut of food and beverage sales at concession windows by 20 percent.
That will cost taxpayers about $1 million a year.
Aramark, which last year posted $7.3 billion in worldwide revenues, gets to keep the change.
Importantly, the city’s share from sales in the upscale Food Court behind home plate will increase.
However, combined with a recently announced BYOB ban in the luxury boxes (which puts a half-mil in liquor sales into Aramark’s pockets), the complex deal seems a windfall for the vendor.
For its part, Aramark will spend $1 million in improvements to concession facilities, for everything from new french fryers to a new souvenir store (next to Chickie’s & Pete’s on the 200 Level).
Such corporate benevolence does not come without an angle.
In a tidy arrangement that would make a South Philly shylock envious, Aramark gets to amortize the cost of improvements over three years – with 85 percent of the tab attributed to the second and third years.
That’s important to Aramark because, under Philadelphia’s Home Rule Charter, no-bid professional contracts are limited to one-year terms.
Let’s imagine (and this will require little creative thought on the part of experienced fans) a worst-case scenario at Veterans Stadium.
Let’s say Aramark is as bad as it was at the end of last season, when it failed repeated health inspections and its cotton candy man was caught with a finger up his nose.
Let’s say the grilled zucchini tastes like the plastic sanitary gloves.
Aramark almost certainly will get next year’s deal. And the year after that.
Anything less, and the city must return $850,000 in unamortized costs to Aramark.
The Phillies should play such hardball.