Nearly two weeks ago, after the USC-Clemson baseball game in Columbia, the Twitter-verse went nuts with fans complaining about long lines at the concession stands. One fan estimated the lines were 100 people deep and said it would have taken “two innings to get a diet Coke.”
“It’s the Clemson game,” fan Chris Lee tweeted to USC Athletics Director Ray Tanner with the hashtag #dobetter. “Should’ve been better prepared for the crowds. But this is an ongoing issue that is never addressed.”
Tanner tweeted back: “Totally in agreement with your assessment. Aramark, our concessionaire was briefed earlier this week and they failed. It is being addressed.”
This weekend, with the No. 8-ranked Georgia Bulldogs playing the No. 22 Gamecocks in the first Southeastern Conference series of the season, USC Athletics officials say they and Aramark are stepping up to the plate.
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“We’ll be prepared and ready to go,” said Jeff Crane, the executive associate athletics director who oversees concessions. “We feel comfortable that we will move people through the lines pretty quickly.”
Aramark has increased staffing to 40 to ensure all of the windows at main concession stands at Founders Park will be open for the three-game series that begins Friday. During the Clemson game, two windows were closed because of a short staff of 30.
In addition, they are increasing the “points of sale” from 25 to 30, including an ice cream stand on the third base line, Crane said.
“And later this season we’ll add a ‘grab and go’ area,” he said. “We have one at Williams-Brice (the football stadium) – popcorn, drinks, nachos.”
Aramark uses community groups, mostly school and church groups, to staff the stands at baseball and basketball games, Crane said. On March 3, the Clemson baseball game started at noon with an announced capacity crowd of 8,242 while just a few blocks away the women’s basketball team tipped off about 2 p.m. at Colonial Life Arena before an announced sellout of 18,000.
Crane called it “a little bit of a perfect storm” that, he said, caused staffing shortages.
But he added that in all of the university’s venues, including Williams-Brice, there needs to be more points of sale to shorten lines and waiting times, and USC and Aramark are working to create them.
Aramark is in the second year of a 10-year contract and there are no plans to change vendors, he said.