KANSAS CITY — Customized concessions are coming to ballparks, with build-your-own concepts cropping up in stadiums across the country.
Fifth-Third Ballpark, where the West Michigan Whitecaps play, is introducing a new build-your-own burger bar this season.
“This is the most exciting new thing we have, in my opinion,” said Mickey Graham, director of marketing for the Whitecaps. “It’s been an idea we’ve had for years, but we’ve just never done it. Now we think it’s something people will really want.”
The burger cart boasts an array of options, including waffle, pretzel, brioche and traditional burger buns. Fans also have a choice between a 1/3-lb. hamburger, turkey burger or veggie burger topped with their choice of one of three cheeses and 11 toppings, such as guacamole, bacon and sriracha ketchup.
Personalized pizzas are on the concession roster at Kauffman Stadium, home of 2015 World Series Champions the Kansas City Royals.
Sports fans with a sweet tooth may visit Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies, where the stadium is serving up special-made sweets at its build-your-own frozen yogurt stand. The dessert destination features 8 frozen yogurt flavors and 24 toppings.
For those looking for a chance to build a better-for-you option, Coors Field also contains a build-your-own salad station, offering a choice of 3 greens, 26 toppings and 10 dressings.
Several stadiums also are incorporating make-your-own Mexican food concepts. Busch Stadium, where the St. Louis Cardinals play, features a build-your-own nachos stand. The Cleveland Indians’ park, Progressive Field, offers a build-your-own taco experience. Fans may concoct their own creations with a choice of 6 tortilla options, 12 proteins, 3 cheeses, 6 toppings, 4 salsas and 7 sauces.
But create-your-own concepts are not the only way ballparks are catering to customization. Fifth-Third Ballpark holds a contest each year for fans to create their own recipes and pitch them to the park.
“We ask fans to submit items they want to see,” Graham said. “We get hundreds and hundreds of ideas submitted to us, anything from requests for more gluten-free options to 4-page recipes for casseroles. We collect all those ideas and boil them down to the final 10.”
Once the finalists are chosen, Graham said, fans vote for their favorites and the winner winds up on the stadium menu.
“This year’s winner is called the Dutch Love, which is a pita filled with turkey pot roast, gravy, french fries and cheese curds,” he said. “It tastes phenomenal. We’ve been doing the food voting for 7 years now, and we’ve seen kind of a shift from the crazy and wild stuff to something that actually they’ll want to eat, that tastes good.”
Some of the proposed items won’t be sold in the stadium for that very reason, Graham said. For example, one concept was the Guinness Fish Dog, which featured Guinness battered cod with a spicy chipotle sauce and scallions in a hot dog bun.
“That one was a little too out there for us,” Graham said. “We have to choose things we think people will want, first of all. If it’s too out there and weird, they may not want it. The fans have the final say on what we do here. If they don’t buy it, we don’t keep it.”
Other options that didn’t make the cut include “Shellfish Tendencies,” a Belgium waffle topped with lobster salad, “Alaskan Chili,” a Klondike bar topped with hot chili and cheese, and the “Nut So Healthy Bar,” two deep-fried chewy granola bars covered in chocolate.
But not all parks turned down the idea of kooky cuisine. The Atlanta Braves’ field, Turner Field, is introducing the Burgerizza, a 2-oz. hamburger patty topped with five slices of cheddar cheese and bacon all sandwiched between two 8-inch pepperoni pizzas. At Globe Life Park, home of the Texas Rangers, fans may feast on the Chicken and Donut Skewer, a foot-long skewer of donut holes and fried chicken drizzled with buffalo honey sauce. The Pittsburgh Pirates’ PNC Park is proffering the Cracker Jack & Mac Dog, a hot dog topped with Cracker Jacks, jalapeños, macaroni and cheese, and a salted caramel sauce all wrapped up in naan bread.
“Outrageous is fun and catches your eye, but I think it’s cool that our fans are going more toward flavor and taste,” Graham said. “I think what the fans taste and actually enjoy will keep them coming back.”
Click to view a slideshow of new ballpark foods.