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TheStreet Open House

Centerplate Lets Major League Baseball Forget Peanuts and Cracker Jack

PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- Safeco Field in Seattle hasn't hosted a Major League Baseball playoff game since 2001 and has seen two winning Seattle Mariners seasons in the past decade.

Its food, however, is near the top of the league.

Still home to its long-beloved Ivar Dogs -- slivers of fried cod topped with tartar sauce and cole slaw -- and Porter's Place BBQ's spicy "The Man" sauce, Safeco Field took a desolate portion of the stadium near the bullpens and turned it into a food paradise in 2012. The 'Pen opens two and a half hours before the first pitch, has an unobscured view of the field, fights off Seattle's notorious dampness with a cozy fire pit and features a cocktail lounge and open-air craft beer bar.

At the center of it all is James Beard Award-nominated chef Ethan Stowell's Hamburg + Frites burger bar, his La Creperie crepe stand, Bill Pustari's New Haven-style pizza spot Apizza and a cantina and taco/torta stand named after former Mariner slugger Edgar Martinez. With the Mariners' average ticket price above the league average at nearly $28.50, the team has to give fans at Safeco some sort of value just to keep them in the building. With the team's fortunes keeping average attendance below 30,000 since 2007 and below 40,000 for the better part of the past decade, the team could use an assist.

Concessionaire and hospitality firm Centerplate has been in charge of Safeco's food and beverage options for the past half-decade and has brought them steadily up to the standards of not only the surrounding SoDo District, but of the most food-savvy fanbases in the U.S. Centerplate also oversees concessions and hospitality at the San Francisco Giants' AT&T Park, the Tampa Bay Rays' Tropicana Field and at more than 300 other locations, including venues in the National Football League, the National Hockey League, the National Basketball Association, Major League Soccer, the English Premier League and minor leagues around the world.

Its stated goal is to make it better to be in each of those facilities. That's a bit easier to do when clients such as the Giants win two World Series titles in the past decade and the Rays are playoff contenders, but chief executive Des Hague insists Centerplate would be taking the same approach if the Mariners were celebrating back-to-back titles.

We ran across Hague and his team about a month ago while commenting on a picture of a macaroni and cheese hot dog served by Centerplate at Portland Timbers games and posted by ESPN's Darren Rovell. It's a formidable food item, but it's just one example of the kind of signature, locally sourced foods Hague and his company have been trying to introduce at each of their venues. At Safeco this year, Ivar Dogs are joined by local oysters and salmon and nine-gallon casks of beer from 50 local brewers.

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