Tennessee Athletics is in the midst of numerous additions and renovations designed to improve Volunteer fans' experience at sporting events. The renovations of Neyland Stadium and Thompson-Boling Arena and the construction of Pratt Pavilion, Regal Soccer Stadium and Sherri Parker Lee Softball Stadium all demonstrate a great commitment to UT athletes and fans.
One addition for the 2007-08 school year that will be less noticeable, but equally as appreciated, is the athletic department's new concessions contract with Sodexho. UT agreed to a five-year contract with the food and facilities management company that allows Sodexho to run concessions operations at all athletics venues. In the past, the athletics department has managed concessions on its own.
"We are very excited to be partnering with the University of Tennessee," said Todd Boyd, Sodexho's concessions general manager in charge of UT's account. "This is a university and a community that takes great pride in athletics, and we are looking forward to being a part of it."
As a result of the new partnership, numerous changes are on the way for UT fans, and the first of those will be noticeable on Sept. 8 when the football team entertains Southern Miss. Boyd and his staff are currently in the process of examining how football concessions were handled in the past and beginning to implement changes.
One of the main goals is to alleviate congestion by increasing the number of cashiers at each stand and reorganizing and simplifying the menus. Additionally, the company plans to make the most popular products available at every concession stand.
Sodexho is also working to bring nationally-recognized brands into the concessions setup to complement the local companies Volunteer fans are familiar with. Fans also will have the opportunity in the coming weeks to sample and choose which foods will be made available at sporting events this year.
"Product selection is a big part of our process early on," Boyd said. "We feel like the people who are going to buy and eat the food should have a say in what we offer them."
One of the biggest advantages Sodexho brings to UT athletics is experience. Tennessee is the 47th Division I athletics program to contract with the company, and that wealth of knowledge allows for flexibility in the company's offerings.
"There are 46 other general managers who do exactly what I do every day," Boyd said. "I talk to them, and I have them at my disposal. If something works somewhere else, we can try it here. We will never learn what is best for us until we try out new things."
The changes in concessions should be noticed from the first football game forward, but the full vision won't be realized until the structural renovations and additions are complete throughout the University's athletics venues.
Nonetheless, Boyd and his staff have great expectations for the future.
"It is our goal for fans to come into the stadium or arena for the first game and be excited about the changes we've made," Boyd said. "When they come in for the second game, we want them saying, I've got to have another one of those."
Sodexho Looking For Non-Profit Organizations
One unique aspect of Sodexho's philosophy is its willingness to give back to local communities. The company is currently looking for non-profit organizations to assist with game-day concessions operations for UT football and basketball.
The company takes groups of six or more from local organizations and trains them to operate concession stands at UT's major sporting events. In exchange for its efforts, the non-profit organization receives a portion of the proceeds from the stand.
Organizations that are available to make a commitment for the entire season are preferred.
For more information on the program, contact Sue Snavely at (865) 974-1204.
Story Courtesy: UT Sports Information & Public Relations