Filthiest Arena: ‘06 Fan Food Ban Was For ‘Safety’

Paula Lavigne and Lindsay Rovegno of ESPN.com compiled a handy list of local health department food service violations at all MLB, NBA, NHL and NFL venues in the United States and Canada in 2009.

Barack Obama at the Verizon Center

Federal law requires me to remind you to immediately stop reading this post if has been less than sixty (60) minutes since you last patronized a Bojangles Chili bar. For those of you who do not fit that criteria, you may proceed.

Of the dozens of arena and stadium health inspections compiled, there’s one major pro sports venue that stands out above the rest.

That is, the home of the Washington Wizards and Capitals: the Verizon Center in DC.

Excerpt from the ESPN.com list:

Verizon Center
Washington Wizards, Washington Capitals
Vendors with critical violations: 100%

Inspection report excerpt: Mice droppings, a critical violation in Washington, were found at at least 10 vendors.

Can’t get worse than that, can it? Actually yes.

In 2006, DC’s WTOP radio, via DCist, reported that the Verizon Center officially banned fans from bringing their own food into the arena.

The reason? Excerpt:

Spokesman Matt Williams says the restrictions will help improve safety and comply with industry standards.

So in 2006 the Verizon Center banned fans from bringing in their own food for alleged food safety reasons, only to have the same building rank dead last among all major league sports venues in food safety four years later.

Hope those increased concessions sales were worth it.

I’ve snipped some other highlights from the ESPN health inspection food service survey:

Yankee Stadium: Inspectors also had a vendor dump a bottle of Chivas Regal whiskey containing dead fruit flies.

Mellon Arena - Pittsburgh Penguins: In one of the arena’s higher-end clubs, inspectors found a live cockroach on top of a soda dispenser holster behind the bar.

Lambeau Field: Two locations were cited after inspectors found an employee who “did not wash hands after blowing nose or eating food prior to handling customer food or ice.”

Joe Louis Arena - Detroit Red Wings: Inspectors also found roaches below a soda dispenser at one location.

Ford Field - Detroit Lions: At another stand, they found an employee’s half-eaten hamburger in a warming unit.

Louisiana Superdome: Inspectors found rodent droppings and dirty surfaces and utensils at one location.

Conseco Fieldhouse - Indiana Pacers: Evidence of pests or rodents found at two locations.

Lucas Oil Stadium - Indianapolis Colts: Vendors received 39 critical violations during a series of inspections in 2009 for pests or rodents. Last November, a local TV station highlighted problems the stadium had with mice after inspectors found mouse droppings, dead mice and live mice in various parts of the stadium, prompting action.

Sun Life Stadium - Miami Dolphins, Florida Marlins: In June 2009, an employee complained anonymously that small insects and other debris were blended into frozen alcoholic beverages at a stand where equipment wasn’t being cleaned. When inspectors checked, they issued a critical violation for a buildup of slime inside the frozen drinks machine. (Vendors with critical violations: 93%!

Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium - Denver Broncos: At three bars, inspectors found fruit flies in bottles of whiskey.

Pepsi Center - Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche: Inspection report excerpt: At one bar, inspectors found phorid flies, sometimes called coffin flies, in a bottle of cognac.

US Airways Center - Phoenix Suns: One location faced possible closure over pest problems after inspectors in December found mouse droppings and, upon reinspection, found “dozens of flies and a live roach” in the dish room.

The three venues with zero critical food service violations:

  • Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum - New York Islanders
  • Scottrade Center - St. Louis Blues
  • Gillette Stadium - New England Patriots

The best part of the report was the health inspection reports of Chicago’s Wrigley Field, U.S. Cellular Field and United Center. All three were cited for no serious food service violations.

One small detail: None of the venues were inspected during events.