LANDOVER – The Washington Redskins have made several additions this offseason, and not just at the quarterback and safety positiions.
Starting at FedExField this year, fans can expect to see vegetarian chili dogs, local brews and pizza on-demand.
On July 10, the Redskins opened the doors of FedExField to season ticket holders at their annual open house, a perk for fans and an opportunity for the team’s business officials to test interest in new food items at the stadium.
For Chris Bloyer, senior vice president of stadium operations and guest experience with the Redskins, said the challenge is attempting to accommodate the changing demands of fans.
“I think that what people’s options are for entertainment continue to grow, and if we don’t do our best to keep up with the changing environment and making our experience the best it can be — keeping up with technology, making it as convenient as possible, making sure that what fans want when they’re wherever they are — we do our best to make sure they can have it here,” Bloyer said.
Hoping to follow the trends, Bloyer has introduced new items at the stadium that he hopes will accommodate the growing list of specialty foods that fans demand at sporting events.
This year, Ben’s Chili Bowl is adding a vegetarian chili dog to its menu at the stadium. Hagerstown-based Hoffman’s Quality Meats is providing food for suites and meats for gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches for fans. And this year, local pizza chain Paisano’s will be delivering slices to seats.
“As technology grows and as people’s palates grow, they want a different variety in the foods that they are eating, so where in the past you could just get away with a regular hotdog,” said Jason Trippett, co-owner of Hoffman’s Quality Meats.
Part of Bloyer’s challenge is keeping up with trends. With the rise in craft beer, the Redskins have made an effort to add local brews to their selections each year. New to FedExField this year is Gaithersburg’s Elder Pine Brewing and Blending Company.
Bloyer said the local crafter brews will update as the season progresses, with seasonal beers — meaning, season ticket holders can have options to sample a variety of ales and lagers — much different than the Budweiser-or-bust days of long-ago at football games.
For many of the vendors at FedExField, partnering with the Redskins is an opportunity that goes beyond sales as it is beneficial for marketing purposes too.
“It’s a bit of both. Like it’s a great way to put our beer out there and let people see us and learn what we are, as well as supporting an organization that you know, we all love and follow,” said Brittany Slechter, taproom manager with Elder Pine, which just began distributing in September.
The additional foods and drinks were some of several suggestions the Redskins have received, mostly from season ticket holders, from surveys they have conducted. Bloyer said sports has changed as fans expect an ever-increasing list of options.
Last season, the Redskins averaged 61,028 fans a game, according to ESPN, which accounts for only 74.4 % of the capacity at 82,000 seat FedExField.
While Bloyer chalked up the empty seats at last season’s games to the way the team distributed tickets to market, he acknowledged that the Redskins are in a crowded field of entertainment options, and the team needs to do more to cater to them.
In addition to the new food items this year, the Redskins continue to make changes to the stadium itself. Currently under construction is an east end zone party pavilion, matching the one the team opened in its west end zone last year. That end zone had a 90-foot live bar and live bands that played before kickoff.
“Because if you come to a football game and you can’t get things that you could get if you go somewhere else, it may be one of the reasons why you don’t come to the game, and we certainly don’t want that to be the case,” Bloyer said.