When the San Francisco 49ers football team kicked off the home opener Aug. 17 in its new Santa Clara, Calif., digs, fans were able to enjoy all of the bells and whistles one would expect from a $1.3 billion venue built in the heart of Silicon Valley.
Those with smartphones were able to receive play-by-play statistics seconds after they’re recorded in the official National Football League computer system. They were able to download apps that allow them to search for beer stands and bathrooms with the shortest lines.
And they were able to order food from the comfort of their seats and, for $5 more, have it delivered so they don’t miss a single play standing in line.
Levi’s Stadium also is the most “vegan-friendly stadium in the entire sports industry,” according to concessionaire Centerplate’s general manager Zach Hensley in a July 16 San Francisco Chronicle article.
In fact, the menu features 32 vegan and 40 vegetarian items as well as free-range chicken, nitrate-free hot dogs and gluten-free products among the 180 freshly prepared offerings.
That doesn’t count the two dozen wines and 42 domestic and imported beers that also are on tap.
After viewing the menu and some of the concession fare, what hit me was the dearth of produce items.
Where were snack items, such as sliced apples and caramel dipping sauce and fresh fruit kabobs? Or lighter fare, such as a hydroponically grown butter lettuce and microgreen salad with strawberries, pomegranate arils, goat cheese, candied walnuts and a raspberry vinaigrette, or a whole wheat avocado chicken pita pocket with quinoa salad and yogurt mint dressing – using all California-grown fruits and vegetables?
Granted, the estimated 12,000 servings of garlic fries each game will be made with garlic from Gilroy, just down the road.
Most of the menu items are local, with 85% coming from California and 78% from within 150 miles of the stadium, so kudos to Centerplate for trying to support local businesses.
But the stadium is less than 70 miles from the nation’s salad bowl in the Salinas Valley and even closer to what some consider the birthplace of organic agriculture, Santa Cruz County.
Santa Clara is about 160 miles from the nation’s fruit basket in the San Joaquin Valley, which will have citrus and late-season grapes during the regular football season.
OK, Levi’s Stadium is a football venue, and sports fans aren’t necessarily known for their nutritious eating habits. But if most of your menu features greasy, cheesy, salty items, then hungry fans have no other options unless they bring their own rabbit food into the stadium.
Centerplate representatives declined comment for this column.
The 49ers are first in a lot of ways. Food providers need to continue to think outside of that proverbial square carton and be the first to showcase fresh produce as part of their menu.
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