The SODA Blog

The official blog of the Sportsplex Operators & Developers Association

Guaranteed good eats: Sox Park offers new twists on classic ballpark food, most craft beer in the majors !

Joseph
Times business reporter Joseph Pete orders the Cuban Burger at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago.

The Chicago White Sox are rebuilding and are likely to lose more games than they win this season.

But it’s still an exciting time at Guaranteed Rate Field, a chance to see young talent develop as the Pale Hose tries to replicate the tear-it-all-down-and-stockpile-prospects approach that propelled the Cubs and Houston Astros to World Series titles. And of course the team has rolled out new food, amenities and craft beer this year.

Guaranteed Rate Field now offers than 100 different beers, including from beer sponsors Modello, Revolution and Goose Island, said concessionaire Delaware North Operations Manager Rebecca Spalding.

“We have the most craft options out of Major League Baseball,” she said. “We’ve led the charge with that. But that’s what fans are looking for. Craft beer is huge and it’s definitely something that’s hot right now. So we’re excited to be able to provide that.”

Last season, Sox Park replaced the Miller Lite Bullpen Sports Bar in right field with the Craft Kave, which sports more than 75 craft beers from 38 different Midwestern breweries, including 3 Floyds in Munster and 18th Street in Hammond. Fans could watch other games or horse races in the craft beer-themed sports bar, and pay a surcharge to sit outside right over the right field bullpen, with a view that feels like being on the field. It proved so popular they’ve added a Craft Kave Express location with 40 different brews on the 500 level.

“It’s something no other ballpark has, and it was widely received by fans,” Spalding said. “We wanted to make it available to fans on the 500 level so they don’t have to travel as far to try all those craft beers. It’s a little bit less space, so it’s just the more popular selections.”

Craft beer lovers can choose from a wide variety of India Pale Ales, pale ales, stouts, lagers, pilsners, sours and wheats.

“We have the full gamut of beers available,” Spalding said. “We don’t want all IPAs because we know our fans like all different types of beers. Whatever your taste is in beer, we want to have that for you. Craft beer lovers also want to try new things, so we, for instance, had a jalapeno ale. It was different. Craft beer lovers want to try new things.”

The Craft Kave is planning a mug club, where participants could potentially earn T-shirts or their photos on the wall after trying enough varieties of beer.

Chicago-based Revolution Brewing also is pouring six of its acclaimed craft beers on tap in the remodeled Revolution Brewing #SoxSocial Tap room on the 200 level, which is in an all-new location that’s accessible from the stairs at Section 157. Fans can go there to charge their phones, get free T-shirts or other prizes when they check in with the MLB Ballpark app, or snap selfies in front of a life-sized Jose Abreu bobblehead or a huge map of the surrounding Bridgeport neighborhood.

There’s a rotating draft beer menu, a full bar with wine and cocktails, basic food items like pizza, phone chargers with lockers, comfy seats for hanging out and 22 televisions. There’s an outdoor patio where fans can chill out and watch the game if they prefer the view there to their own seats.

“Revolution Brewing is an established hometown brewery that shares our passion for connecting with fans who love White Sox baseball in new ways,” said White Sox Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing Brooks Boyer. “We are thrilled to grow our relationship with a brand that has such a strong presence in Chicago and among our fans.”

Other new features at the park include the new virtual reality batting cage in The Chicago Sports Depot near Gate 5, which simulates a 90-second home run derby at Guaranteed Rate Field, and the new Grab-’n-Go food stand in Section 142. Similar to a 7-Eleven or Walgreens, the kiosk offers beer, pop, milk, juice, fresh fruit, yogurt, hummus, salads and wraps that are often somewhat cheaper than more traditional ballpark fare.

“It’s meant for fast transactions,” Spalding said. “Just like at an airport, it has beverages, salty and sweet snacks and healthier choices. It’s a one-stop shop for fans to get items that couldn’t find anywhere else in the ballpark. We do get requests for healthy items, and want to have that available for the fans that like it. It’s definitely a need our fans do have. People are always in search of healthy options.”

There’s also a wealth of new concessions on the 100-level and 500-level concourses, including Affy Tapple Caramel Apples, Chocolate Caramel Pretzel Rods, Churro Ice Cream Sandwiches, Cuban Burgers, Hand-Scooped Ice Cream, Johnsonville Specialty Sausages and Organic Apple Strawberry Frozen Juice Cups.

For fans lucky enough to land seats in the club level, there’s also new Buffalo Chicken Empanadas; Nashville Hot Chicken Sliders; provolone-stuffed dough balls known as Knuckle Balls; and the South Side Horseshoe, a spin on the classic open-face Springfield sandwich that loads Italian sausage, giardiniera, hand-cut fries and Modelo cheddar sauce on thick-cut Texas toast.

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Lincoln City, NB Council approves new sports facility !

 

April 18, 2018

On Monday the Lincoln, NB city council approved a new project.  It will be west Lincoln’s very own sports facility.

Authorization was given to fund a brand new, 78,000 square foot indoor sports complex that will be able to hold eight basketball courts or 12 volleyball courts.

The nearly 12 million dollar complex will be called the Lincoln Sports Facility.

“We are one step closer to making this project a reality. Sports tourism is becoming a really big business in the United States and we believe this will attract a number of people from outside of Lincoln,” said developer Sam Manzitto.

Pending a traffic safety study, construction documents will be filed shortly. 

The location will be across the street from west gate plaza near west O street and southwest 14th plaza.

A little more than 10 percent of the funding will come from tax payer dollars, but city council members say the economic potential of a state-of-the-art sports complex will pay for itself with ease.

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To turn a failing Hazelwood mall into a sports complex, St. Louis County wants $6 million from CVC !

April 18, 2018

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger is requesting the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission contribute $6 million to help pay for the PowerPlex project, a regional youth sports complex that would re-imagine the failing St. Louis Outlet Mall in Hazelwood. 

According to a letter Stenger posted to his Facebook page on Monday, the county is asking the CVC to appropriate the funds from its Convention and Recreation Trust Fund. 

Stenger, officials with the CVC and some County Council members met Monday afternoon to discuss the possibility of the CVC chipping in on the $92 million project.  

“I’m supportive of the PowerPlex project and am working right now on finding the resources and funding from the CVC for that project,” Stenger told the Post-Dispatch. “The CVC indicated they are willing to discuss it and consider it.”

The massive proposal, including a 750-foot long dome for indoor play, would put baseball fields and basketball and volleyball courts alongside entertainment, restaurants and retail on the site of the nearly vacant St. Louis Outlet Mall, originally known as the St. Louis Mills when it opened only 15 years ago. Some current tenants could remain at the property.

Big Sports Properties, led by former newscaster and former St. Patrick Center CEO Dan Buck, is the developer behind the ambitious plan. A previous plan to put the complex in Chesterfield fell apart last summer after the city balked at a request to extend an agreement to buy land and lease it to developers. 

St. Louis County Council Chairman Sam Page, in a letter to CVC Chairman Andrew Leonard, said the money would come from the county’s 3.5 percent hotel tax. 

“When coordinated with other similar efforts in the St. Louis region, this type of attraction can bring needed tourism activity to our region and help brand us as a family travel destination,” Page said in the letter. 

 

Officials with the CVC were not immediately available for comment.

To move forward with the project, Buck’s group needs to overcome roughly $36 million debt held by a transportation development district established on the mall site. The special sales tax district has seen revenue plummet as stores in the mall closed, putting the property at risk of foreclosure, Buck said.

Hazelwood is offering to buy the outstanding TDD bonds to clear the way for Buck’s group to buy the mall property. 

Some $6 million of a county contribution would go to the Hazelwood site to free up money for debt service. The city of Bridgeton is also partnering on the project, and $2 million would go toward turning the fields at the Bridgeton Athletic Complex just across Highway 370 from dirt to turf for tournament play.

County Council members have hinted at the possibility of the CVC helping out financially. And the CVC pledged two years ago financial support for a youth soccer tournament complex in Creve Coeur Lake Park.

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Albuquerque’s west side sports complex booked through November !

The company managing it says the fields are booked every weekend through November, and the combination of tournaments, league events and practices are expected to bring in 250,000 visitors to the facility this year.

Council President Ken Sanchez says it’s already proving to be a big win.

“There will be a cost associated with it, too. You’ve got maintenance, you’ve got umpires. But again, you’ve got some major tournaments coming to Albuquerque that should offset that through sales tax at the same time,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez says the council is set to approve a five-year contract for SMG to manage the complex, Civic Plaza and the Convention Center for $4.5 million.

That vote is expected in two weeks.

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Ballfield Updates From Beacon ! (April ’18)

Apr. 3, 2018       |       BeaconAthletics.com        |       Ballfields.com

THIS WEEK’S FIELD THOUGHTS

Choosing the right float drag or drags for your infield can be a confusing task but we can help with that. In fact, it’s wise to have a couple different types of float drags in order to be properly equipped to do your dragging duties no matter what the conditions are on your infield skin. All of these choices leave a nice professional finish. Checkout these recommendations… Click to see float drag recommendations from Beacon’s Paul Zwaska on Ballfields.comChoosing Float Drags for Your Infield Skin

Visit Ballfields.com frequently for tips & articles andGroundskeeperU.com for online training.

Pro Rigid Steel Mat Drag  SAVE 10%!

IN STOCK: Typically ships the next business day. Speedy between-innings touchups and pre-game prep. Its leading edge levels surfaces while the slightly angled rigid steel skims over the field — no digging in — for a smooth finish and minimal displacement. (Valid thru April 8, 2018, discount applied automatically)

Cocoa Mat Drag w/Leveling Bar  SAVE 10%!

IN STOCK: Typically ships the next business day.  The finishing drag that virtually floats across your infield. Natural fiber cocoa provides a highly professional finish. (Valid for 6×4 Cocoa Mat with Leveling Bar only thru April 8, 2018, discount applied automatically)

Cocoa Mat Hand Drag  SAVE 10%!

IN STOCK: Typically ships the next business day.  A perfect finish. The Cocoa Mat Hand Drag seemingly floats over topdressing for a pro-style finish — without displacing topdressing or soil. (Valid thru April 8, 2018, discount applied automatically)

OPEN BOX ITEM OF THE WEEK

OPEN BOX Item — Outfield Distance Marker (“200”) — SAVE $25!  — This navy blue outfield distance sign with gold lettering (24″ numerals) is a great value. Standard = 38″H x 56″W.  Brand-new condition. Quantities are limited… Reg. $95, NOW $75

By Groundskeepers, For Groundskeepers.

The time and effort necessary to train new staff each year can become overwhelming, and that’s exactly why we developed Groundskeeper U. GU is the perfect online tool for teaching new staff, summer help, and volunteers. Through videos, photos, audio, and written material your staff will learn the right way with the tried and true practices taught by Paul Zwaska.

Enjoy this by-groundskeepers-for-groundskeepers resource and, when you find a lesson or technique you know others will benefit from, be sure to share it on social media and with your colleagues!

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Forget the ballgame ! The Texas Rangers food menu is the real MVP !

Opening day is here and Texas’ two Major League Baseball teams will be opening the season against each other.

More: Texas Rangers 2018: Predictions for upcoming major league baseball season

The World Champion Houston Astros will take on the in-state rival Texas Rangers at Globe Life Stadium in Arlington. And yes there is talk about opening day rosters and a team’s chances at winning a championship.

But what has fans attention on opening day – ballpark food.

The same day the Astros and Rangers will face off, Globe Life Stadium’s concession stands will offer up some interesting fare. Or if you’re a cardiologist potential money in the bank.

Texas Rangers Ballpark food items:

OLD CLASSICS:

The “BOOMSTICK” – This monster 7-pound chili dog will test your food prowess and napkin strength. Question is, do you tackle it by yourself or with your group of friends at the ballpark?

The “MVT” Dog – That’s the Most Valuable Tamale dog, featuring a tamale stuffed with a Boomstick hot dog.

NEW FOODS ON THE MENU:

“The Dilly Dog” – DFW-based company Best Maid will provide a pickle for this as it is cored out and stuffed with a hot dog with a corn breading around it. The State Fair of Texas is famous for its corn dogs but this is another level. It will cost you $10.

“The Triple B” – The combination of bacon, brisket and bologna on a bun with barbecue sauce. What Texan wouldn’t want that. Cost: $18.

And finally, the “The 7th inning Cinnamon Roll” – A cinnamon roll is already good but now it’s deep fried and has raspberry sauce on it. Cost $10.

That just scratches the surface as the new fare has captivated DFW media over the last week.

With the Rangers prospects not too good this season, it seems the organization had to do something to get fans to the games.

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A Requiem to Old Ballparks !

If you write for a blog on a fairly regular basis, you will at times find yourself challenged to come up with the next idea to write about. This week’s post came to me while riding into work last week. As usual I was listening to music on my iPod on my 40-minute drive into work when a song came on that I hadn’t listened to in a long time since it’s not on any of my regular playlists. It’s a song by Frank Sinatra which he released in 1973 called “There Used to Be A Ballpark”. The song is written by Joe Raposo who was referring to the old Polo Grounds ballpark in Harlem, New York where the Giants played until 1957. The Mets would go on to use the old ballpark for a short time while Shea Stadium was built. After that, the Polo Grounds would succumb to the wrecking ball. Sinatra sings this song beautifully and as you listen, you can’t help but think about a lot of the old ballparks, as I did on that morning riding into work.

Ballparks all over the country play a vital role in helping communities come together to cheer for a common cause. Fans celebrate together and suffer together, all of which helps a community to bond, whether you are in a big city or small town. In fact, in small towns, it is often the main source of entertainment for much of the summer. We can hem-and-haw all we want about the justification for the costs of some of these grand structures but the payoff in pride and community is something that can’t be measured monetarily when looking at return on investment for a city or town.

I’m sure you have heard elderly people talk about their memories of going to ballparks past and how special they were to them and how bigger-than-life they were in their eyes at that time. When you look at pictures of old ballparks, it is amazing to see just how grand so many of these were. It’s hard not to love an old ballpark and to harken back to the old days. Heck, it was an old ballpark, Wrigley Field, that inspired me to want to become a Major League Baseball groundskeeper. And I did. Then, I got my chance to shut an old ballpark down… Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. There are times when I remember back to many fond memories of my first six years in Major League baseball there. It was a very special place. Back in the day when baseball was much simpler.

So, with those thoughts I present to you a short presentation below featuring just some of the ballparks that had served their fans so well during their lifetime, but have now disappeared from the American landscape only to be passed-on by memories. Take it away, Frankie…

Paul Zwaska

Paul Zwaska

A former head groundskeeper for the Baltimore Orioles, Paul graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1984 with a Bachelor’s in Soil Science with a specialty in Turf & Grounds Management. Paul took over as head groundskeeper for the Orioles’ final season at old Memorial Stadium in Baltimore and then was heavily involved throughout the design and construction phases of Oriole Park at Camden Yards which debuted on April 4, 1992. Paul has led Technical Sales Support at Beacon Athletics since the summer of 2000. In 2012, Paul authored and oversaw the launch of “Groundskeeper University”, the first online ballfield maintenance training venue. Over the years, Paul has donated thousands of hours working with West Madison Little League, which also plays a critical role in the research and development for many of Beacon’s innovative field maintenance tools.

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Thrift shop donation helps renovate ball fields !

Yellville City Parks Commission in Arkansas is pleased and excited to announce grant funding along with a matching private donation for a major renovation of the t-ball field in the Yellville Sports Park.

The Parks Commission was granted $15,000 from the Rural Services Grant program late last year and that amount was matched with a donation of $15,000 from the Marion County Thrift Shop.

Work to be completed will include fencing the entire field, construction of covered dugouts for the players, bleachers, sunshades and concrete pads and walkways for the fans.

‘The plan is to have all this work completed in time for this season’s play sometime around the first of May,” says Lyn Baker, chair and spokesperson for the Parks Commission.

Baker said, ‘Great thanks to the wonderful ladies who operate the Thrift Shop whose mission is for the betterment of our community, and thanks to the community who supports their fund raising efforts.”

The Marion County Thrift Shop has also participated in funding the same quality of improvements around the other to fields and the Sports Park in years past.

Look for Yellville City Parks on Facebook to watch the progress of this project as well as regular updates about the three parks managed by the Yellville City Parks Commission.

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Spring Fever & Your Ballfields !


March Madness is here! But, I’m not talking about basketball. I’m thinking of the mad rush to get ballfields up and running for the season after a long winter’s nap. Now that it’s March, coaches and players all over are preparing for the upcoming baseball and softball seasons. If you play in the northern or eastern two-thirds of the U.S., you are familiar with the winter we just battled through. While ballfields in the south are coming to life as the crack of the bat is echoing through their parks, we in the north may be suffering through fairly deep snow cover and frost levels and the coaches are getting itchy. Opening up your ballfield for the season in these climates must be done carefully in order to avoid damage to the playing surface ahead of the main season. The tips that follow should help you to get your field underway as quickly as possible with the least amount of damage.

  • If snow is covering your field and the coach demands that they absolutely need to get out there, you can work to remove the snow off the field. It will take equipment, manpower and time to get it done. Unless, of course, your field is in the path of the nor’easter, like the Boston area. In that case, nothing short of a miracle will be needed this year. Use plows on the grass that have either rubber scraper blades or use some type of pipe horizontally across the base of the plow to greatly reduce the potential for turf damage. If the snow is deep — 3-4 inches or more — be careful trying to push too much off at one time, you could begin to spin your wheels which could severely damage the turf underneath.

 

    • When your field is snow free, wait until the field has lost all frost in the soil profile before attempting any work on the skin portion. If it’s too soft to walk on, you, nor anyone else should be on it. The field may look bone dry in the early morning because it is frozen, but as the sun heats the surface the infield skin can become a quagmire as the frost in the ground prevents the free water on the surface from draining through. You’ll know when the frost is out of the ground as the infield skin portion will drain fairly quickly and begin to dry off on the surface and firm up in the strong March sun and wind.

 

    • If your field is in the northern part of the country where you get a depth of frost each year in the 3″ or more range, Mother Nature’s freeze-thaw cycle has naturally aerated your soils and opened up a tremendous amount of pore space in the soil profile. This natural aeration is fantastic for your turfgrass on the field but not for your infield skin surface. That pore space on a skin surface will fill with water on rainy days which will slow the skin from rapidly recovering after a rain event. By rolling the infield skin surface once it has dried enough to get equipment on it, you drastically reduce the pore space in the infield surface which seals the field back up so water will run off the field more efficiently.

 

    • Fields without snow cover were at the mercy of the strong winds that come with the season. The strong winds can blow soil, drying agents and topdressing materials into the lips of the infield skin. These lips are natural dams impeding water from moving off your infield skin surface. Be sure to clean or edge out all lips to allow water to freely drain off the surface of the infield skin.

 

    • Make sure the surface of the skin is smooth and level. Fall is actually the best time to re-level your infield skin so there are no low spots in the skin which will collect water. This exercise best prepares your field(s) for rapid water removal in the spring. If it wasn’t re-graded last fall, go out to the field right after a rain while there are still puddles on the infield skin and, using a rake, carve the outline of each puddle. When dry enough, nail drag the infield avoiding the low spots so you can find them, then use a Level Board to cut down the high spots and fill the low areas to help the water move off the infield more effectively.

 

    • Keep some calcined clay drying agents around for those emergencies. But if the puddles are large or deep, then use a Beacon Puddle Sponge or a Puddle Pump to remove excess water leaving just very shallow wet areas where drying agents can then work their magic.

 

    • Whatever you do, NEVER use brooms to sweep excess water off an infield. You will only worsen the surface grade of the skin by sweeping more soil out thereby creating an even deeper hole for water to stand in. This will also build up the lips even worse creating a bigger dam along the edge.

 

If past winters have taught us anything, it is to always put your ballfields to sleep in the fall ready to play. You’ll find it makes your ensuing spring prep much easier. You can confidently get the coaching staff and their team out on their fields much more quickly. Spring weather should finally begin to shift northward next week across the eastern two-thirds of the country. Those of you in the south are probably relieved that you don’t deal with the cold, snow and frost. As a northerner, though, I’ll gladly take some snow and cold as an opportunity to catch a little break in the action as opposed to dealing with fire ants, mole crickets, excessive heat and a location where there are events on my field all year long… but then again, that’s just me! Good luck to everyone in preparing your fields.

Paul Zwaska

Paul Zwaska

A former head groundskeeper for the Baltimore Orioles, Paul graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1984 with a Bachelor’s in Soil Science with a specialty in Turf & Grounds Management. Paul took over as head groundskeeper for the Orioles’ final season at old Memorial Stadium in Baltimore and then was heavily involved throughout the design and construction phases of Oriole Park at Camden Yards which debuted on April 4, 1992. Paul has led Technical Sales Support at Beacon Athletics since the summer of 2000. In 2012, Paul authored and oversaw the launch of “Groundskeeper University”, the first online ballfield maintenance training venue. Over the years, Paul has donated thousands of hours working with West Madison Little League, which also plays a critical role in the research and development for many of Beacon’s innovative field maintenance tools.

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County approves $37M sports park !

    When it is complete, the project, located on 210 acres on the east end of Panama City Beach within the Breakfast Point development, is proposed to consist of an outdoor field complex, an indoor sports center and a new elementary school.

PANAMA CITY, FL — A new sports park on the Beach that is projected to bring in thousands of visitors each year should be open by next spring.

The Bay County Commission on Tuesday gave the final approval on the project, which is expected to cost about $37 million.

The first phase consists of 13 fields, including eight rectangular fields for soccer, lacrosse, rugby, football and flag football, as well as five collegiate-sized baseball and softball fields.

When it is complete, the project, located on 210 acres on the east end of Panama City Beach within the Breakfast Point development, is proposed to consist of an outdoor field complex, an indoor sports center and a new elementary school. The Convention and Visitors Bureau is trying to secure Triumph Gulf Coast oil spill funds for the indoor center.

“This project really will transform Panama City Beach as a tourist destination,” said Dan Rowe, executive director of the Bay County Tourist Development Council (TDC). “We anticipate during the first phase that you are approving today it will generate an additional 75,000 rooms of (hotel) business every year, with a majority of those happening outside the summer months of June and July, which really helps to diversify our economy. It helps to strengthen Panama City Beach as a year-round destination.”

The commission had three final votes to get the project off the ground Tuesday, voting to give Phoenix Construction a $23.7 million contract to build the park; modify and transfer an agreement with the St. Joe Co.; and hire Compass BBVA for financing.

The county is borrowing up to $35 million from a bank loan to pay for the park and is getting a 4.05 percent interest rate on the 15-year note. The county’s 5 percent bed taxes, paid by people staying in hotels, generates about $18 million to $20 million a year, and it has been continuing to increase as more hotels are built and more events are held on the Beach.

The annual payment on the sports park bond will be about $3.1 million, which officials estimate to be less than 20 percent of what the bed tax will generate.

“That is more than enough to pay the debt service” on the loan, said County Finance Director Ashley Stukey.

The resolution the commission approved pledges bed tax revenues as the funding source for the loan payment.

“This resolution states that if the (bed) tax were to go away, the county is not obligated to pay the debt,” Stukey said.

But Bay County Clerk Bill Kinsaul said if there were a default on the loan— which he could not envision happening — it potentially could hurt the county’s credit rating.

“Ultimately, if something happened, the TDC is the county,” Kinsaul told commissioners. “I don’t think the county could completely divest itself from it if something were to occur.”

Kinsaul said after the meeting that three-fifths of the bed taxes aren’t pledged to projects, so there should be plenty of bed tax money to pay off the loan.

“That’s why we are getting this interest rate in this environment. We have a great rating, a great revenue stream,” he said.

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