SEATTLE - There are three words that have been synonymous with baseball: peanuts, popcorn, and Cracker Jacks.
For the home opener, the Mariners will unveil a new menu, which is part of a growing trend to satisfy a more sophisticated palette.
“Food is an easy way, to I’ll say it, connect with your customers,” said Seattle chef Ethan Stowell.
The well regarding local restaurateur has been a consultant for the Mariners and their concessionaire Centerplate for the past five years. He’s helped redesign the food offerings, which now include honey drizzled cheese curds and locally made barbecue wings. There is now a better selection of beer at Safeco than some restaurants, with 70 percent of the taps pouring craft options.
It’s also good business.
Mariners attendance has been cut in half over the past 12 years. In 2001, the M’s topped the league with over 3,500,000 fans at the shiny, new, Safeco. They have hovered around 1.7 million fans in the past couple seasons. New Mariner Robinson Cano’s contract breaks down to roughly $148,148 a game, and the Mariners have to sell 5,487 tickets (at $27 average ticket price) just to pay his deal.
The Mariners spent millions last year to move in walls, add concessions and a party deck known as “The Pen.”
Forbes Magazine noted this month that stadiums are now relying on locally sourced concessions to help drive fan attendance.
The Forbes story quoted the CEO of the M’s concessionaire Centerplate, Des Hague, as saying, “We found out that while there are 81 home baseball games a season, a season ticket holder was only going to 17 on average. We learned that they didn’t go to more games first, because of time and second, because of menu fatigue.”
Part of what’s driving this, according to Forbes, is that season ticket holders get “food fatigue” near the middle of the season and stop spending. That’s another reason why ballparks like The Safe are trying to spice up their menu.