Seahawks season brings fans new food experience

SEATTLE - In sheer size, the owner of Salumi Artisan Cured Meats refers to it as a case of David verses Goliath. But a new partnership between the small, local eatery in Pioneer Square and the giant concession stands inside CenturyLink Field seems like the perfect match, especially for fans.

"It's a huge idea to have better food at the stadium," said Gina Batali, owner of Salumi.

Salumi is one of a half-dozen restaurants CenturyLink Field approached several months ago to take part in its newly revamped Community Concessions Program.

"We are bringing their products into the concession stands," said Adam Link, general manager of CenturyLink Field. "We are going to master their food and let fans know they can find these products outside."

When the stadium opened in 2002, the community concessions concept focused on physically bringing in local restaurants to man their own food booths and make their own products to sell. But after several seasons, Link said the restaurant owners didn't find the program worth their while financially, so they choose not to come back.

"It wasn't working," Link said. "Trying to bring your staff in for just ten games made it difficult to be successful."

That changed in March, when a new concessionaire started at CenturyLink Field and decided to revamp the old program. Under the new model, the concessions operator buys the recipes and the main ingredients from the local restaurants and then works with those restaurant owners to master several signature dishes. Each item will be available at a new booth, staffed by concession employees, called: 'The Best of Pioneer Square, Chinatown, and the International District.'

"We want to help promote the places and the neighborhoods where you can find these products outside CenturyLink Field," Link said.

During the 2011-2012 football season more than 1 million people came through the gates at CenturyLink Field. According to Tom Norwalk, president and CEO of Visit Seattle, that kind of exposure is priceless not only for the small business owner but also the city's food, retail, and lodging scene as a whole.

"It's really quite remarkable when you think about how we are still somewhat of a seasonal city," Norwalk said. "But we are performing incredibly well throughout the year."

In 2012, Seattle visitors spent $5.9 billion on food, hotels, transportation, and entertainment, which includes sporting events. This year, Norwalk thinks the city could post even bigger numbers especially with the high profile nature heading into this football season.

"We have a home Monday night game which is always big," Norwalk said. "And a home Sunday night game of the week against San Francisco on the national stage. This is exposure we could not afford to buy for the image of Seattle."

And local business owner Batali thinks including the community concessions program will only help add to that excitement.

"We are limited in what we can do," Batali said. "This is a chance to have a relationship with fans in a different environment and take fan food to better level."

The new community concessions program kicks-off Saturday for the Seahawks preseason home opener against the Denver Broncos. It will feature dishes from Rain Shadow Meats, Salumi, McCoy's Firehouse, Grand Central Bakery, Kau Kau BBQ, as well as several other restaurants in the Chinatown-International District.

Fans can look for the local 'Best Of' booth on the main concourse. There will also be stands on the upper deck selling some of the local food items. Link said they plan to have the local food booth at every event following this weekend's game.

CenturyLink Field also announced the grand opening of its Brougham Beer Hall on the main concourse. The beer hall offers beer, wine, and food options from the restaurants included in the community concessions program.

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