On Thursday, ESPN released an exhaustive look at the health inspection scores for every major sporting venue in the United States, with a detailed breakdown of the number of restaurants and vendors within each venue that had high-level violations.
Stadium concessions are an interesting world, in that they serve an insanely high volume of customers in a very limited amount of time and, as such, sometimes things don’t happen exactly as they should with regards to health regulations. Having worked a year at Turner Field in Atlanta (RIP) at the Chick-fil-A there and having many friends that were at the time concessions supervisors, I have seen this first-hand and heard many stories about the less than savory details about how your concessions food gets made.
Still, that’s not to say everywhere is a disaster and NBA arenas ranked pretty well in the ESPN study. Seven NBA arenas landed in the top 25 of all arenas in terms of food safety and health, while 15 were in the top 50. That’s pretty good, and possibly the result of NBA arenas typically being a bit smaller than baseball or football stadiums, although size isn’t necessarily a factor.
On the flip side, five of the bottom eight arenas in all of sports hosted NBA teams, although one of those, the Palace at Auburn Hills, is no longer in use. The good news for Detroit is that the new Little Caesars Arena improved the Pistons in-arena dining from having 86.11 percent of vendors reporting high-level violations at the Palace to just 31.71 percent in their new downtown location.
Oracle Arena, hosting its final season of Warriors basketball, reported just 1.12 percent of vendors having high-level violations, making it the best venue for safe food in all of major U.S. sports. Atlanta’s State Farm Arena (formerly Philips) was second overall at 4.17 percent. The Bradley Center in Milwuakee (now closed), the United Center in Chicago, Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, the Amway Center in Orlando, and the TD Garden in Boston round out the top venues for food safety in the league.
The Spectrum Center in Charlotte graded out 107th of 107 venues, with an astounding 92 percent of vendors reporting violations. The Palace was 106th, while the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Pepsi Center in Denver, and Vivint Smart Home Arena in Utah all found themselves ranked 100th or worse.
The thought that popped into the minds of many when reading the ESPN report was that you should eat before you go to the arena. Well, ESPN took into account the average number of high-level violations in the area around the arenas into account, and only two NBA venues did worse than the average restaurant in the area (Spectrum Center and the Palace). If nothing else, that can serve as a reminder that most restaurants have some form of “high-level” violation on their health inspection. That’s only a surprise if you’ve never worked in the industry.