Who will feed the masses at Kent Events Center?

Kent city officials have announced that Savor, a Philadelphia-based concessionaire for 35 stadiums and arenas across the nation, will handle the food and beverage services at the Kent Events Center. Savor is the food-service division of SMG, the operator of the events center.

Seattle Thunderbirds Vice President Colin Campbell

Seattle Thunderbirds Vice President Colin Campbell

Kent city officials have announced that Savor, a Philadelphia-based concessionaire for 35 stadiums and arenas across the nation, will handle the food and beverage services at the Kent Events Center.

Savor is the food-service division of SMG, the operator of the events center.

Ben Wolters, city economic development director, told the City Council at its Sept. 2 meeting that a city panel had selected Savor.

“They have the ability to meet our financial expectations and the ability to handle a variety of events,” Wolters said. “They not only do sporting events, but catering.”

A final contract between the city and Savor is slated to go to the Council in October for approval.

The city panel picked Savor over Ovations Food Services of Florida and Centerplate of South Carolina. Centerplate runs concessions at Safeco Field.

The $84.5 million city events center is slated to open on Jan. 2, 2009. The 6,025-seat arena is under construction at West James Street and Fifth Avenue North.

“The building experience combined with the food experience – there will be no reason people won’t continue to support and come back to the facility,” said Martin Thorson, senior vice president of Savor, in an interview Thursday at the events center.

Savor took over food and beverage services in July at McCaw Hall at Seattle Center. Savor, which has been in the food service business since 1983, also runs concessions at the Lynnwood Convention Center, another facility operated by SMG.

The Seattle Thunderbirds minor league hockey team will be the anchor tenant of the events center. The T-Birds plan to move in either late December or early January to Kent from their current home at KeyArena in Seattle. The city of Kent has a 30-year lease with the Thunderbirds.

“We’re excited to have Savor on board,” said Colin Campbell, vice president of the Thunderbirds, in an interview Thursday at the events center.

Campbell planned to meet last week with Thorson to discuss potential local and regional food and beverages to serve at the arena.

“Food is not a convenience but a part of the fan experience,” Thorson said.

The exact menu has yet to be determined. But two of the four permanent concession stands will be set up as grill stations, while two other stands will feature more standard fare such as pop, hot dogs and popcorn, Thorson said. Kiosks will be spread throughout the arena concourse to help speed up service. Beer and wine also will be sold.

Owners of the 20 suites at the arena will have access to a full bar and be able to order off a menu that will vary from night to night. A full-service dining area will be set up for premium-seat ticket holders on the upper southeast corner of the arena.

Savor also will cater to private groups that rent the facility.

“We will offer full catering and with our kitchen, the options will be limitless,” Thorson said. “We will be able to customize the catering menu.”

Savor soon will hire a food and beverage manager and an executive chef. Thorson said anywhere from 75 to 100 food and beverage employees would be needed to handle a crowd of 6,000.

SMG plans to hold a job fair in Kent at a date to be determined in mid-October to help fill as many as 150 to 200 part-time positions for food and beverage employees, ushers, ticket takers and other positions.

Savor and city officials are negotiating the final details of a three-year contract with a two-year extension option. The three-year contract would end in January 2011.

Savor has food and beverage service contracts with 35 stadiums and arenas, 30 convention centers and 22 theaters across the nation and in Europe, Mexico and Canada.

Besides 40 or so Thunderbirds games per year, Disney on Ice, Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus and the Harlem Globetrotters have made reservations for shows in 2009 at the events center, Wolters said. Exact dates for those shows have yet to be confirmed.

Contact Steve Hunter at 253-872-6600, ext. 5052 or shunter@reporternewspapers.com.

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