EAGLES FANS, leave your hoagies at home. All BYO food will be banned at the Eagles’ new Lincoln Financial Field when it opens next month.
In a startling policy acknowledged yesterday by team officials, the Eagles said their fans would be prohibited from bringing snacks and beverages to games.
Instead, hungry fans will have to stand in line and pay stiff prices for stadium grub.
Blame it on Osama bin Laden.
Team officials said, in a post-9/11 world, outside food is a security threat. In a statement, team president Joe Banner said:
“We have chosen, in consulting with security experts, to error [sic] on the side of caution. In our opinion there is no room to debate that, at this time in our history, this is the proper thing to do. ”
Left unsaid: Forcing fans to patronize the concession stands means big bucks for the team.
It’s part of the payoff under the team’s complex deal with the city that financed construction of the $515 million stadium. City taxpayers were tapped for about $200 million toward the cost of the facility.
Unlike Veterans Stadium, where the team had to share concession sales with the city, the Linc gives the Eagles control over food and beverage sales. Though it was never explicitly stated, the team says that control gives it the right to ban outside food.
Thus – in addition to costly seat licenses, higher ticket prices and $139 million in stadium naming rights – the Eagles now stand to profit on every morsel consumed in their new stadium.
Banner rejected any allegation of money-grubbing.
“It is patently irresponsible in this day and age to question the motives behind a policy driven by and recommended by security experts,” he said. “There historically are a minuscule number of Eagles fans who bring their own food to our games. To suggest that for this minuscule number of people and dollars we would create a policy that will require additional security and time-consuming searches – just to possibly make a couple of dollars – is in our opinion totally irresponsible. There is no basis whatsoever for any such accusation. ”
Team officials noted food bans are common at other football stadiums, including at New England’s Gillette Stadium and Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium.
But outside food is OK at Denver’s Invesco Field, and a similar ban at Seattle’s new Seahawks Stadium was reversed after fan protest.
More importantly, bringing your own food to the stadium is a longtime Philadelphia tradition – not just at the Vet, but at Shibe Park and Franklin Field. Homemade sandwiches, hoagies from Primo’s, and soft pretzels and peanuts from parking-lot vendors aren’t just a cost-savings; they are culinary treats that touch the very heart of the city’s sports experience.
The decision to end 70 years of BYO food at Eagles games was first hinted at last week, when stadium rules were published on the team’s Web site. Along with firearms, alcohol, laser pointers and umbrellas, the list of “prohibited items and behavior” included “food. ”
Yesterday, Eagles Digest editor Dave Spadaro, an Eagles employee, confirmed the policy in an interview on WIP (610-AM).
The policy was immediately greeted by boos.
At the team’s online message board, angry writers said the team was holding fans “hostage. ” They called it “price-gouging” and “an obvious attempt to make more money. ”
Councilman David Cohen, who lost a lawsuit to halt construction of the stadium, called the policy “an unwise decision. ”
“That seems to be at odds with their contention that the new stadium is going to be more fan-friendly than the old stadium,” Cohen said. “There’s too much emphasis on the money-grabbing aspect and less concern about the comfort and convenience of fans.
“It’s getting awfully expensive for a working-class man to take his family to games. ”
Don’t expect City Hall to go to bat for fans.
“This is really an Eagles issue,” said Christine Ottow, a spokeswoman for Mayor Street.
“We certainly sympathize with fans who want to bring their own food to save money,” Ottow said, “but this is an issue under the team’s control.