N.Y. Yankees’ 40-year concessionaire mum on signs it faces shutout at team’s new ballpark

STAMFORD Conn. Sports and entertainment foodservice specialist Centerplate Inc. has declined to comment on indications that it could lose its lucrative, 40-year-old contract for Yankee Stadium when the ballpark is relocated next door in 2009.

An executive of Stamford-based Centerplate asserted that a renewal of the contract, which provided the company with nearly 10 percent of its revenue last year, was still under discussion and that nothing had yet been decided.

However, an industry insider, who requested anonymity because of his business dealings with parties involved in the matter, said the Yankees plan to shift to self-op foodservice.

At least one other concessionaire that bid on the new ballpark’s foodservice contract gave the same indication about the Yankees’ plans, which reportedly would entail the openings of quick-service outlets of noted New York City foodservice landmarks.

Yankee Stadium officials confirmed that a contract decision was still under discussion, but offered no further comment.

Centerplate’s corporate vice president of marketing, Bob Pascal, said, “No formal announcement has been made in regards to the food-and-beverage service provider for the new Yankee Stadium.” He declined to discuss assertions that the Yankees intend to go the self-op route to provide food for fans.

According to the insider source: “My understanding is nothing is finalized, but that is the talk — that Centerplate will not continue once the new stadium opens.”

However, the veteran contract executive indicated that the Yankees were not displeased with Centerplate’s performance in any way.

“It is not due to any unhappiness with Centerplate,” the source said. “In fact, you will probably see many of their employees staying on with the new company.”

Centerplate’s 2006 annual report indicated that the Yankees contract accounted for 9.6 percent of the concessionaire’s net sales last year and that the team was its largest client.

The company last week posted a $2.2 million profit for the second quarter ended July 3, mainly on a tax benefit, versus a year-earlier loss of $100,000. However, for the first half of fiscal 2007 Centerplate still was in the red, with a six-month net loss of $5.8 million, compared with a loss of $5.7 million for the first half of 2006. The company blamed lower operating income, higher interest expense because of increased borrowing and higher interest rates.

Revenue for the second quarter rose 5.3 percent from a year earlier to $200.8 million, and was up 7.2 percent for the six months to $326.2 million. The company said sales at its Major League Baseball accounts increased by $4.5 million for the quarter as a result of higher attendance levels and per-capita spending at the ballparks.