Business & Real Estate

Firm owned by Yankees, Cowboys will run food service at new Kings arena

The announcement emphasized the farm-to-fork theme.
The announcement emphasized the farm-to-fork theme. Sacramento

A firm co-founded by the New York Yankees and Dallas Cowboys will run the food concessions at the new Sacramento Kings arena, but Sacramento-area restaurants will be prominently featured inside the arena as well.

The Kings announced Friday that they have hired Legends Hospitality, a high-end food-service and sports marketing company, to operate the food and beverage service at their $477 million downtown arena.

They also named Michael Tuohy, the chef at midtown Sacramento’s popular LowBrau sausage and beer hall and Block Butcher Bar, as executive chef of the new arena. The team committed itself to a “farm-to-fork” ethic at the Downtown Plaza arena, featuring some of the top restaurants in the region.

“You’re going to see some well-known (restaurant) brands in the arena,” said Kings President Chris Granger, addressing a crowd gathered at Soil Born Farms in Rancho Cordova. “It will look very familiar to everybody.”

When the building opens in October 2016, Tuohy won’t be the only Sacramentan with a hand in the arena’s food and beverage operation. He will be joined by prominent restaurateurs Patrick Mulvaney, Randy Paragary and Randall Selland on an advisory council that will work with Legends.

The council will “be our guiding light,” said Shervin Mirhashemi, president and chief operating officer of Legends. “They’re going to steer us in the right direction.”

Tuohy and Paragary said they are talking with the Kings about bringing some of their restaurants to the new arena.

“We need good sausages there,” Tuohy said with a laugh. “And beer.”

Branded local restaurants are popping up at sports stadiums around the country. But the Sacramento arena will go further than most. “To the extent that we’re going to do it here, it will be unique,” said Eric Gelfand, senior vice president for communications at Legends.

With Legends, the Kings are partnering with a company that has established itself as a luxury brand in sports food service and marketing. Based in New York and Los Angeles, the company handles food and drink at Yankee Stadium, the Cowboys’ new AT&T Stadium, Angel Stadium in Anaheim, the Rose Bowl and other venues. It also operates in-stadium merchandise stores and has worked on marketing of premium seating at the 49ers’ new Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Notre Dame’s football stadium and Churchill Downs racetrack in Kentucky.

Despite the company’s high-end reputation, Granger and Mirhashemi said they will work to keep pricing of food and beverages reasonable. “I expect our pricing to be in line with where we are now” at Sleep Train Arena, Granger said.

The Kings are Legends’ first NBA partner. The deal runs more than five years, Gelfand said.

The announcement of the Legends deal had a distinctly agricultural feel. Mayor Kevin Johnson joked that the arena’s motto will be “farm to court.” The Kings’ mascot, Slamson, showed up in bib overalls. As if on cue, a school group wandered through Soil Born Farms during the announcement, and so did a black labrador. The nonprofit farm offers educational programs and partners with food banks.

The Kings have brought some farm-to-fork touches to Sleep Train Arena since the new ownership group led by Vivek Ranadive bought the team last year. At the new building, they will take the concept to new heights. Among other things, the team said it will source 90 percent of the arena’s concessions from farms, breweries and wineries within 150 miles.

There will be “a local flair and a creative flair to everything we do,” Granger said.

Legends, founded six years ago, is co-owned by the Yankees, Cowboys, Goldman Sachs and Checketts Partners Investment Fund, a firm led by longtime sports executive Dave Checketts. A former head of the NBA’s international division and one-time president of New York’s Madison Square Garden, Checketts is chief executive of Legends.

In a 2012 interview with The New York Times, he said Legends was generating more than $200 million in annual revenue. Mirhashemi said current sales are “considerably higher.”

Levy Restaurants of Chicago will continue as the main concessionaire during the last two years at Sleep Train, Granger said. Levy was an unsuccessful bidder for the contract for the new arena, he said.

Call The Bee’s Dale Kasler, (916) 321-1066. Follow him on Twitter @dakasler.

Related stories from Sacramento Bee