For starters, the boss wants a great hot dog.
Bob Nicholson never had a hot dog in the old Edmonton Gardens, which your correspondent contends led all leagues, but the former head of Hockey Canada consumed an inordinate number of the “chien chaud” in the old Montreal Forum.
“Those hot dogs in Montreal are still the best I’ve ever had. I like that challenge, to make sure the hot dogs and the hamburgers are as good as the old Montreal Forum,” said Nicholson.
Until hearing about that pronouncement, Eric Bayne, the GM of food and beverage at Rogers Place may have figured his challenge here in his area was minimal. All he had to do was improve on the historically underwhelming concessions offered in Rexall Place.
But he accepts the challenge.
“I can tell you that we recognize the importance of the hot dog just as much as Bob and you do,” said Bayne.
“The hot dogs probably always will be the best-selling item in stadiums and arenas. We realize the importance of doing our staple items well and that means serving a hot dog that’s hot and flavourful as well as making sure the cold beer is cold.”
Nicholson said he wants food and beverage to be a big part of the guest experience at events in the building when it opens.
“We are going to make sure that the food in Roger’s Place is at a totally different level than we’ve seen in this city before,” he pronounced.
“In all areas we want to make sure that the food is of a better quality than when they go into restaurants.
“That’s going to be a tall order but it’s one that we’re going to go after. We’re going to make sure that the VIP areas have high-end food that will be different than they’ve seen in a stadium before.”
The man Nicholson hired to build a better hot dog, etc. is also a man not lacking in experience in the business.
Bayne hs been in the business since 1988.
“My first arena was almost 30 years ago, when the Miami Heat got the franchise, I opened first from Miami Arena and I have been working in stadiums and arenas my entire professional career.”
He comes to Edmonton from American Airlines Center with the Dallas Stars and Dallas Mavericks for the past four years.
“I’ve done six Super Bowls, eight World Series, five NHL All-Star Games, four NBA All-Star games and one of my biggest memories, the 1994 Woodstock Concert where we fed close to 600,000 people in a matter of three days. That was quite the experience. It rained for three days.”
So why come here at this stage of his career ?
“If there’s one thing that really gets my adrenalin going, it’s a project like this,” said Bayne.
“To be a part of something where we’re going to set the bar as high as we will set it here and to be a part of something this exciting, I jumped at the opportunity in a heartbeat.”
There will be no lack of concession options for fans when the building opens in September.
The Mezzanine Club includes three permanent large concessions with multiple offerings and three bars. The main concourse will feature four permanent large concessions, nine portables and five bars. On the suite level there is private dining in the suites while on the loge level there’s in-seat service to tables and ledge seating as well as two concessions and three bars. There’s also a loge restaurant open for ticketed guests that can be reserved in advance. The upper concourse features four permanent large concessions, six portables and two bars.
That’s 13 permanent large concessions, 12 permanent large bars, 16 portables, the Loge Restaurant adding up to over 40 separate food and beverage locations in Rogers Place.
If you’ve been to a variety of arenas in North America, including the one the Oilers said farewell to in April, one of the biggest complaints often is the lack of space in the concourses. Rogers Place is expected to get rave reviews for the abundance of social space.
“We’re going to have everything you could possibly imagine. I believe there will be something for everyone at every level of the arena,” said Bayne of his team that would fill both the Oilers and Oil Kings dressing rooms.
“We will have upwards of 60 culinary team members from our executive chef to our sous chef to our chef de cuisines to our premium chefs to our concession chefs.
“I will say the Roger’s Place dining experience will be unmatched.”