Asmussen | Here's some food for thought

Asmussen | Here's some food for thought

You can watch any sporting event at home. In high definition. Almost as if you are there.

Sure, you miss the sounds and the feel and the energy. But the price is right. So is the access to the restroom (generally, no lines) and concessions (hey, who ate my sandwich?).

Unless they want empty stadiums, teams need to find ways to lure fans from the family room.

So what works?

Inexpensive tickets. In-game entertainment. And food. Lots and lots of food.

For kids and parents, what you eat is a big part of the experience. The hot dogs taste so much better at the ballpark than they do at home. It isn't even close.

You savor every bite of that oozing pizza. Part of it ends up on your pants. No big deal. That's why you grabbed a stack of napkins from the overstuffed container.

There are other delicacies. Pretzels overwhelmed by salt. Nachos with a vat of cheese attached in a handy plastic container. Popcorn that still tastes good even though it was popped "a while back."

Souvenir cups full of Diet Coke and — coming soon to every stadium near you — beer.

Making a change 

Showing an understanding of modern-day fans, Illinois athletics is switching food providers.

As of July 1, Philadelphia-based Spectra will run the concessions stands and the premium-seating areas.

It's OK that the name sounds like a Bond villain, as long as the food is good.

Spectra has a growing client list that includes Texas Tech, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest, Colorado State and Central Florida.

Illinois becomes Spectra's first Big Ten partner. The school considered several concession options before picking Spectra.

You'd think it would be a simple job. Fill a bunch of cups. Cook some hot dogs.

But it isn't that easy.

The customers demand more choices. They want friendly service.

There had been complaints recently about the quality of the food at some of the Illinois venues. The school listened.

Suggestion box 

Not that anyone in charge asked, but I have a few ideas how to make concessions better at Memorial Stadium and State Farm Center.

Spectra plans to work with local vendors. Good move. Here's what they need:

Bob's Pizza Plaza: Yes, I'm asking for my name to be part of it. It's my idea. If they want a small honorarium, I'm sure it can be arranged.

Champaign has a bunch of local pizza places. I have tried them all and enjoyed every one. Here are my four favorites, which can share a stand at Memorial Stadium/SFC: Papa Del's, Garcia's, Jupiter's and Old Orchard Lanes.

No chains allowed. It's a good mix of thick (my favorite) and thin (my wife's favorite).

The only problem with B.P.P is that it will be so crowded you might miss part of the game. The answer: delivery to your seat/suite.

Who Wants Ice Cream? Duh, everyone. Again, let's turn to local places like Jarling's for the sweet treat. Now, if we can only solve the problem of dripping.

The Pit (As In Barbecue): Hickory River has been available at Illinois venues. We want that to continue.

There are other local joints that know how to cook meat. Can we please have a Black Dog stand, next to Bobo's next to Po'Boys?

Enjoy the good eats.

Bob Asmussen can be reached at 217-351-5233 or by email at asmussen@news-gazette.com.

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