Heading off to the Air Canada Centre last season to catch the Toronto Raptors in action I was always excited for the game. However, with the dubious product on the floor I became more excited for some arena food. Clearly I have a problem.
Original ideas posted at the ZF blog, Dec. 7, 2008.
When I travel to see games elsewhere I always check to see what culinary delights specific arenas have to offer. Toronto, however, does not inspire me. In mentioning that I'm excited for arena food above it's simply because I am usually pretty damn hungry after a long day of web-mapping and the like.
We need to invent (or appropriate) something in the realm of sports related food ... something new and big. And make it region specific. In Philly you have the Cheese Steak, at MSG in New York you have the mighty Knish ... in Toronto we have the Pizza Slice, the Hot Dog and the Nacho with Cheese, all of which can be obtained in every other arena in the known universe.
Perhaps I haven't looked closely enough around the ACC. Perhaps there is a secret epicurean ecstacy that hasn't jumped out at me. But I doubt it.
In Toronto we have a great many ethnic communities that heartily support our Raptors, why not incorporate some international menu items into the fray, all the while keeping it local by proxy. Make the new items vegetarian friendly, how about some West Indian Roti? Open a Beef Jerky booth to reflect our teams greatest Texan ... I don't know ... do something. Help us out! What about Onion Badjis? Great finger food. Heck ... Poutine!!!
Onion Badji: Totally Arena Friendly
Here in the Big Smoke there are already plans (and now action) to diversify our street vendors to include more international choices, why not extend this mentality to the arenas? I realize that this choice is not a simple one to make and much market testing must be done, but the more we can do to separate this team as an original in it's own right the quicker we make it a special place in the basketball world and the better we position ourselves to capture unique players to help define us. To me the surrounding experience is as much a part of the game as the game itself. This is basketball, it's spicy! Letting the bland palates of hockey fans dominate the food we eat is not right, please do something about that!
Oh and while you're at it ACC, how about letting more local breweries have a crack at your basketball audience. It would be heavenly to be able to enjoy an ice cold Mill St Organic while watching the Raps, or a St. Ambroise.
In closing we need something new in the realm of arena food. A local delight (that possibly hasn't been invented yet), a treat that represents the members of the team or an international food that represents the community.
I'm not saying replace ... I'm saying enhance.