by Steve Haruch
Mold in ice machines at six stands at Miller Park in Milwaukee. A cockroach crawling over a soda dispenser in a private club at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh. Food service workers repeatedly ignoring orders to wash their hands at a stand at Detroit's Ford Field.
Sports fans don't always see such health threats when ordering a $5 hot dog and $6 beer at a professional sports stadium or arena. But the violations catch the eyes of inspectors who poke, prod and probe stadium kitchens that dish out a range of foods from burgers to sushi, for tens of millions of fans who eat at major professional sports venues from coast to coast each year.
As someone who's consumed my fair share of such sporty comestibles, I have to say I got a sick feeling in my gut when the subject came up. And naturally, I wanted to know how edible/filthy our local arena chow is.
Thanks to the handy interactive map over at the ESPN website, I was able to find that information pretty easily — though not at first. Initially, I couldn't find Nashville at all ... until I realized the map defaults to displaying only the venues with 1-25 percent of vendors in violation. So I clicked on the 25-50 percent tab, figuring surely we weren't dirtier than that. No nachos. Um, 50-75 percent (please)? Here's how it looks, according to the inspectors:
LP Field, home of the Titans: 62 percent of vendors in violation, with the lowest score — 74 — going to a vendor with three critical and 10 non-critical violations.
Bridgestone Arena, home of the Predators: 59 percent of vendors in violation, with the lowest score — 75 — going to a vendor with three critical and nine non-critical violations.
But don't worry, because "critical violations" are just, y'know, stuff like storing meat at too-warm temperatures, and employees not washing their hands and ... um, "rodent or insect contamination." At least we don't have a pigeon poop problem, right?
WKRN looked into it, but got the usual corporate non-answer from the International Association of Assembly Managers, the organization that represents vendors at LP Field: "Quality food service is a priority for our member venues."
I, for one, feel completely at ease after that response. I figure I've got at least a 41-percent chance that the nearest vendor has a clean inspection record. And in baseball, that'd work out to a .410 batting average — which, come to think of it, is pretty impressive!