Ripken Baseball Enters The Food Business
There will be plenty of new food for the IronBirds home opener on June 20.
They’ve been professional baseball players.
They’ve written books.
They’ve lent their expertise to baseball broadcasting.
They own three minor league baseball teams.
The Ripken brothers are up to it again.
“We’re in the food business now,” Bill Ripken said.
“We’re called Double Play Dining,” Cal Ripken said. “I think the obvious reason being that we were a double-play combination.”
“When we first built the stadium, there were a lot of challenges to get the stadium built. One of those solutions was to take an outside vendor,” Cal Ripken said. “First it was Finish Line, and it turned out to be Levy. They did a really nice job. But the more you get into the minor league business, the more you want to control every aspect of it. So we started looking at the possibility a couple years ago, when our contract came up, to do this ourselves.”
Bill added: “We were building a stadium when we didn’t even have a team. The idea to take all [the food operations] on, it was probably unrealistic.”
Now, they’re ready for the task.
Ripken Stadium will feature a number of new food items, as recently highlighted by Patch.
“When you think about it, stadium food is not what stadium food used to be years ago,” Cal Ripken said. “When we grew up, you had popcorn, you had peanuts, hamburgers and hotdogs. In all venues, now, they’ve gotten a little more creative. We wanted to spread our wings a little bit and be creative in that fashion, and be responsive to the desires of the customer.”
They’re also responsive to the camper.
With the number of large groups that visit Aberdeen to take part in camps, clinics and tournaments at the Ripken Youth Complex, providing a group dining option on-site was a sound investment in the Ripkens’ eyes.
“A travel team comes with a 40- or 50-person group, so they like to sit together, relax and have that sort of experience,” Cal Ripken said. “So by bringing it in-house, we can consider other opportunities, or even have crab option outside of game days.”
With IronBirds game times falling around 7 p.m. on weeknights, Ripken Stadium is host to not just baseball games, but family meals.
“It’s an integral part of the experience. In the rush of a busy life, if you’re trying to get to the game and you don’t get dinner, well you can get dinner here,” Cal Ripken said. “You want to provide a good variety and good options to do that each and every game.”
The Ripkens were exposed to a variety of delicacies during their big league playing careers, and that only helped to fuel their desire to bring quality and variety to Aberdeen.
“All ballplayers came into Camden Yards and they were always looking for a crab experience,” Cal Ripken said. “Many times we would put crabs on the plane for a long trip to Seattle. Then you would go to Seattle, and you’d actually go into the fish market, get the Dungeness crabs, put them on the plane and fly to Texas. There is a flavor to where you travel. And we’re very conscious of that.”
With the introduction of burrito and wing bars, as well as ribs, variety is the new flavor at Ripken Stadium.
“It’s unique. We’re going to have quite a few more options, and hopefully we can continue to do new things every year,” Bill Ripken said. “If we can add one new thing each year, that would be pretty cool.”
TELL US: How many IronBirds games will you be attending in 2012? Leave a comment.