New food choices at Timberwolves games not for everyone



Fans looking for basic fare and affordable options might just be out of luck


SOECharlesHallmansquareThe Minnesota Timberwolves has new concessions items this season. A first-ever sampling party was held October 23 for “a mix of media and season-ticket members,” including the MSR at the downtown Minneapolis arena.

This reporter however did not taste any of the new food: a male worker seemingly didn’t understand me when I asked if a simple hamburger was available — he instead pointed me to the new 1/3-pound Bar-B-Que Burger topped with pork, barbecue sauce and onion crisp.

A Black female worker also couldn’t convince me to try the new “Ball Hog,” a 1/2-pound kielbasa. “The kielbasa is good,” she insisted, but to no avail.

Another Black female worker tried but failed to get me to try the Italian Panini: “The Italian Panini tastes like a good grilled cheese sandwich,” she claimed. With ingredients such as marinara sauce, salami, pepperoni, pesto mayonnaise and mozzarella cheese, it didn’t look like a grilled cheese sandwich to me, which made my refusal final.

I didn’t win any brownie points either with a woman who wanted me to sample a steak sandwich topped with onions and provolone cheese, and served on some fancy bread — I told her unless it was well done, no thanks. Like the man earlier, she also was hard of hearing when she responded it was medium rare.

Nick Heitmeyer, Delaware North Companies General Manager for the Wolves Arena. Photo by Charles Hallman
Nick Heitmeyer, Delaware North Companies General Manager for the Wolves Arena.
Photo by Charles Hallman

“Your tastes and preferences might vary from mine’s,” explained Nick Heitmeyer, the arena’s concessions general manager when asked what happened to a simple hot dog, hamburger, popcorn or chips. “Times have changed,” he told me.

Before he and I briefly chatted, we checked out the new items’ prices:

  • $9.50 for a BBQ burger basket (one burger and a bag of chips)
  • The kielbasa costs $9.50 as well.
  • But for only $9 dollars, you can get the Panini, along with chips.

All told, attending pro sporting events for the most part remains too pricey for the common folk, which I proudly am a card-carrying member. According to Team Marketing Report’s 2012-13 Fan Cost Index (FCI), it costs a family of four over $300 to attend an NBA game — this includes tickets, food, parking, programs and a cap or two. The Wolves are around $54 dollars under the league’s FCI average of $315.66.

I once told my two adult sons that they will never experience going to an NBA game as their father. It’s not about changing times or different generations but that teams, whether they are the league’s best or perennial sad sacks as the Timberwolves, they’re not looking for fans but to achieve bottom-line objectives.

Team officials often boast of “creating a great fan experience” at games, but this reporter strongly questioned this with food prices more suited for the “one-percenters” than us average working stiffs. Such prices make most of us act like Chris Rock in I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, asking how much does one rib cost.

The cheapest meat item at the Wolves-Lynx arena is $5.50 for a hot dog. To wash it down, it costs you either five dollars for a medium or six dollars for a large soft drink. Therefore the cost of food for a family of four — consisting of four hot dogs and four medium drinks cost $42. And if your family is successful in begging you to buy them one of the fancier items, let’s say the barbecue burger “meal deal,” it will cost you $58.

“Yes we do have some items that might be perceived as expensive,” responded Heitmeyer in an unapologetic tone. “We do have a wide variety of different types of items. We try to cater to those that might not afford something as expensive as the others.”

Are we talking here about going to a Wolves game or a Marx Brothers event — a night at the opera?

“We are trying to appeal to everybody,” argues Heitmeyer. “We have to keep all the consumers in mind when we choose our menu items.”

Based on these new offerings at last week’s Wolves concessions sampling day, not all consumers have been consulted.

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to