Two Charlotte facilities, Spectrum Center and Bank of America Stadium, are ranked at the bottom nationally by a new ESPN report about food-safety violations at pro sports venues. But don’t think being at the bottom is good: It means the Hornets’ arena ranked worst of the 107 venues the report rated. The Panthers’ stadium came in 104th overall.
ESPN also broke down the list by sport: Spectrum ranked worst among NBA venues, and Bank of America Stadium worst of all NFL venues.
“What’s Lurking in Your Stadium Food?” — produced by ESPN’s TV show “Outside the Lines” and released Thursday — used an analysis of 16,000 food-safety inspection reports at 111 pro-sports facilities nationwide, including football, basketball, baseball and hockey venues, to identify locations with the highest percentage of high-level violations per food outlet in each venue. (Four venues didn’t have enough data to be ranked, ESPN decided.)
ESPN’s report defined high-level violations as those that pose “a potential threat for foodborne illness,” and used data from Hazel Analytics. Each venue was ranked by the percentage of outlets — the food stands, carts, clubs and restaurants that serve food — where inspectors found those violations. The study also looked at the percentage of high-level violations per inspection.
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At Bank of America Stadium, county inspections are done on 54 outlets, from the Panther’s Den to Cheese Steak #533, and in three categories — restaurants, food stands and push carts.
At Spectrum, food inspections are done on 22 outlets.
Matt Dicker of Chicago-based Levy Restaurants, which handles food at Spectrum, noted that all the food inspections there had gotten A rankings, or scores above 90: “Any concern that was identified was corrected immediately, and in no instance was a re-inspection deemed necessary.”
A statement from the Panthers about Bank of America Stadium emailed to the Observer said: “We are disappointed in this report,” identified Delaware North Sportservice as responsible for food management and concessions at the stadium since 2010, and added “We are going to conduct a full review.”
The ESPN study used reports from 2016 and 2017. At Spectrum, it highlighted issues like “beer leaking from the ceiling” at the Front Court Restaurant and Bar, bartenders handling cocktail garnishes with their bare hands and “a consistent failure to properly” document when food should be cooked, served or discarded because it was no longer safe to serve.
At Bank of America Stadium, the report cited “moldy, expired cream cheese along with out-of-date deli turkey” in the main kitchen, raw beef dripping blood in an area where ready-to-eat food was stored, and employees who didn’t wash their hands, including one who handled raw beef and then touched utensils.
In Mecklenburg County’s health inspections, “critical violations” — those that can pose an immediate threat to public safety — are listed in red at the top of each report. A food business can get red violations and still get a A ranking because the number of points deducted from the overall score varies based on how serious the violation is. (You can find health inspections at www.public.cdpehs.com.)
A review of all available inspections for Spectrum online, for instance, shows that each produced scores high enough to receive As on their ratings, which must be displayed in every facility that has been inspected.
Dicker cited the wide range of how inspections are done in explaining Spectrum’s poor showing on the list.
“There is a great deal of subjectivity in reporting food-safety inspections across jurisdictions, which makes it incredibly difficult to normalize scores across many counties and states.”
One story accompanying the ESPN report also noted that specific violations can vary widely, depending on the diligence of inspectors. It also pointed out that violations at sports facilities can be more dangerous than at other venues because of the higher number of people being served. A sports venue might serve thousands at one event, a restaurant hundreds in one night.
Despite the rankings, some stadiums came off looking a lot worse than beer leaking from a ceiling: At Denver’s Coors Field, one report found a live mouse in a commercial-size bag of Cracker Jack.