March 26, 2014

Rangers hope to bring home the bacon with changes at ballpark

Besides frozen beer and the Choomongous, the team unveiled merchandise partnerships and other facility improvements.

Texas Rangers fans, it’s time to wake up and smell the bacon — at the ballpark.

Globe Life Park in Arlington announced several new concession items, including Bacon on a Stick, frozen beer and the Choomongous, a 24-inch Korean barbecue sandwich covered in spicy slaw, on Wednesday in advance of Monday’s Opening Day game against the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Rangers, celebrating 20 years at the recently renamed ballpark, have made nearly $40 million in upgrades over the past four off-seasons, team officials said. This season, the club renovated the Jack Daniel’s Club, the Majestic Grand Slam Gift Shop and the kitchen that serves all 126 ballpark suites.

Besides new food, beer and wine options, the team unveiled merchandising partnerships with Oakley, Under Armour, Pandora and Hello Kitty.

Delaware North Companies Sportservice, the Rangers’ longtime concession provider, created menu items to help celebrate this season’s milestone anniversary.

Bacon on a Stick, a hunk of smoked Hungarian bacon coated with a maple glaze, at $7, is one of the cheaper new snack options. A new brisket sausage sandwich and a hot dog topped with chopped brisket comes in at just under $10.

But the Choomongous, named for South Korean outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, will set fans back $26.

“We had fun with the names. We have fun with the new items. We can offer more than just hot dogs,” executive chef Cris Vazquez said. “It’s so fun when you see people taking pictures of these big sandwiches and putting them on Facebook. Seeing them smile makes my day.”

Though team officials didn’t provide nutritional information, Bacon on a Stick isn’t one of the healthier eating options. Amy Goodson, a registered dietitian for Texas Health Ben Hogan Sports Medicine, estimated that the sweet bacon treat could pack 500 calories and almost 30 grams of fat.

Can’t decide between pizza and a burger? The Captain Morgan Club offers a beef patty topped with cheese and pepperoni inside handmade pizza crust with a side of marinara sauce.

Fancier fare available in the suites includes new caprese or Southwest Cobb salads, ancho honey-glazed pork chops and grilled chicken breast with chipotle-citrus butter, cilantro rice, oven-roasted vegetables and grilled pineapple relish.

Those dishes are made possible by an overhaul of the 3,600-square-foot Suite Kitchen, said Rob Matwick, Rangers vice president for business operations. The first upgrade to the kitchen since the ballpark opened in 1994 will allow for expanded menu options and faster service, he said.

“The suite customers will benefit from the improved level of service and cooking capabilities the culinary team will have,” Matwick said.

In November, Arlington residents approved a referendum calling for the legal sale of all alcoholic beverages including mixed drinks. That not only allowed for package liquor stores to open up within the city limits but also let the Rangers sell wine at more locations inside the ballpark. Four new wines — a pinot noir, a sauvignon blanc, a malbec and a chardonnay — are available in Sections 15 and 328.

Fans can also wash down their beef and bacon dishes with a $7.75 frozen beer, available only in the Centerfield Plaza. Frozen foam drops the 16-ounce glass of Kirin Ichiban beer to 20 degrees, perfect for a hot day, said Shawn Mattox, Sportservice general manager.

“We are thinking it is going to be a nice treat come summertime,” Mattox said.

The most significant renovations the public will see are to the Jack Daniel’s Club, which is open to season ticket holders before and during home games. The full buffet and bar, formerly known as the Diamond Club, were completely renovated.

The Majestic Grand Slam Gift Shop in center field was also remodeled, creating more room for new men’s, women’s and children’s merchandise. The team also replaced all 1,098 seats in upper-level suites with new padded seats to match the ones installed in the lower-level suites last winter.

Additionally, new white LED lighting replaced the original neon lighting that illuminates the bas relief artwork of Texas historical scenes that wrap around the ballpark exterior.

“It’s an element that adds to the overall experience and beauty of the building,” Matwick said. “This is 20 years later and this is still as good as any facility in baseball.”

Previous renovations brought new video boards and overhauled the audio and video systems; added a two-story restaurant and sports bar with views of the field; replaced the Vandergriff Plaza Sports Park with a 23,000-square-foot air-conditioned indoor play area; and added more club seating.

Those millions of dollars in upgrades, along with plans to remodel the all-you-can-eat area above the Home Run Porch next year, might be enough to help the Rangers land a future All-Star Game, Matwick said.

“We have not put a bid together yet. When we get done with next year’s improvements, I could see that might be something we would possibly consider,” Matwick said. “Ownership has made a significant investment upgrading the park. We know we have a beautiful facility here.”

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