Cool New Stuff at Citizens Bank Park

Posted by Kurt Smith on Friday, March 28, 2014
It’s pretty cool to park in Lot S at Citizens Bank Park, even if there isn’t a ballgame going on.

Lot S is the Media Lot, and yes, expert that I am on all things Citizens Bank Park, I didn’t know that either.

Thanks to Ken Dunek and JerseyMan Magazine, and to the kindness of the Philadelphia Phillies, I was invited to a Phillies 2014 Media Event, where the Phillies and the nice Aramark folks tell hungry newspeople what’s new at the ballpark this year. Oh, and to share hot dogs with cheesesteak meat on them.

Citizens Bank Park is celebrating its tenth anniversary this season, and the Phillies are marking the milestone with banners commemorating the top ten moments…as chosen by 43,000 fans. I’m guessing the World Series win in 2008 will be #1, but the other nine are anyone’s guess. We’ll find out when they're unveiled on April 7.

(I don’t know if my personal favorite—the thriller of a hockey game between the Adirondack Phantoms and Hershey Bears—will make the list, but I should have voted.)

Flyers and Phillies announcer Jim Jackson hosted the event. I chatted with Jim a little bit; very nice fellow. We talked hockey of course, and when Sidney Crosby’s name came up, he shared a bit about what a class act Crosby is off the ice.

Diplomatic types can be so disappointing.

Jackson cordially introduced the reps from the Phillies, Aramark and Citizens Bank. After a short discussion of the commemorative baseballs for ten years at the Bank, they went through some of the new merchandise. This included a Phanatic Bobblehead of the Month, Batterman and Wordmark tees, and new ladies apparel…

...and of course, the hottest item of the new year, Phanatic Phun Glasses…flying off of the shelves already, according to Aramark Director of Retail Kevin Bender, who was kind enough to model a pair for me. Erin Noss, the Aramark rep who invited me to the event, handed me a pair as I walked in. Just imagine a ballpark full of fans wearing these.

There’s a new Phan Rewards program where fans can score points for interacting with the Phillies on social media, in an apparent effort to reach out to a younger generation with more smartphones than stock options. Points can be redeemed for experiences and merchandise. They’ve even set up a separate website…

And since nothing goes better with a children’s pizza party than a ballgame, the Phillies are now hosting “Perfect Pitch Pizza Parties”…on weekend day games the family can treat the little one and nine of his buddies to pizza, cupcakes, foam fingers, and a wristband to “cut the line” in the Phanatic Phun Zone (I tried to sneak out a few of those wristbands for myself, but the Phillies guard them carefully).

Phoebe Phanatic, mother of the Phillie Phanatic, joins the kids at the parties. Phoebe is just as funny as her son. She "sneezed" on the cupcakes at one point in the event.

The Citizens Bank folks also introduced some new savings at their namesake ballpark. Phillies fans with Citizens Bank debit cards will do well this year—the debit card now gives users discounts on food, merchandise and tickets. And me with my TD Bank card. Oh well, I’m sure they’ll merge soon enough.

They also took the time to talk about the new food items at Citizens Bank Park for 2014, of course. Fortunately, none of my favorites like Federal Donuts are going away. (Whew!)

There will be a new stand called “Frank and Stein”, which will be showcasing twists on baseball’s perfect food.

First there is the cheesesteak dog, a frank with steak and cheese whiz added, and the Bacon Dog, with slab bacon and whiz on it—a favorite recipe of mine when Mom made it for me as a kid. There’s an aptly named Chili Cheese dog, and the healthier option (for a hot dog, anyway) of the Summer Dog—a dog with cucumbers, pickled onion salsa and ancho pepper sauce.

The Phillies also added some new tastes to the ever-changing menu at Harry The K’s…like the Prince Edward Islands Mussels with shallots, bacon and an ale sauce made with craft beer. The Aramark reps told us to help ourselves to the baguette, there was plenty more. Harry's will also have a BLT with chipotle and an onion ring to go with the B, L, and T.

Harry The K’s will also have the growing in popularity (or so I’m told) poutine…fries with gravy, bacon and cheddar cheese curds.

And an “Over Easy Burger”, with a fried egg on top. They missed this one…should have put a raw egg on it and had Rocky eat it. OK, I’m kidding; I've decided a fried egg isn't a bad condiment on a burger.

Finally the Alley Brewing Company will be showcasing some new sandwiches, including a pastrami sandwich which Aramark claims contains five-day smoked pastrami. And I thought cooking my gravy for three hours was a long time.

Jeremy Campbell, the Aramark rep, almost sounded like he felt guilty that the Phillies were adding caloric bombs to the menu. But hey, that’s what the long walk from the parking lot is for.

I asked Jeremy about what the Phillies will be adding in the future, hoping to sneak in a suggestion for the Mart Pretzel Bakery in Cinnaminson. He didn’t have anything to report, but he said that they're always focusing on what they don’t have, and that they do go by fan feedback. “I’ve gone on more dates with Kevin (Bender from Aramark) than I have with my wife,” he said.

So if you want to suggest the Mart Pretzel Bakery be added to the food choices, I will get Jeremy’s e-mail for you. Otherwise don’t ask me.

Finally, the Phillies allowed us all to chow on familiar favorites. No one complained about that. There was the ever-present Schmitter®, which was the first item to run out. I spoke a bit with Joe Pie, the rep from McNally’s where the Schmitter® was born, and learned the full story of the sandwich, which is a great tale—I had it a bit wrong, and I will share that soon elsewhere.

I took a bite of the eggplant vegetarian offering from Planet Hoagie…see, they have some healthy stuff. Also had a slice of Seasons Pizza, which was better than I remembered it being; nicely oily but crunchy crust.

I spoke with Joe Smith, director of operations at Seasons, and asked him why they get their tomatoes from California when they have locations in New Jersey. Joe was, curiously, very tight-lipped about the whole idea, as if he were about to give up the recipe for Coca-Cola.

Federal Donuts will be introducing a vanilla donut this year to their insanely great donuts. I tried one; this should go over well. Also finished a leg of chili-garlic glazed fried chicken, which Tom from FedNuts tells me is by far the most popular flavor. I won’t argue.

Finally, I didn’t bother with the Chickie’s and Pete’s fries…I know full well how addictive they are.

Cool thing for the Phillies to do for media sorts; I walked out stuffed with great Philly food and eager to share new ways to save money at Phillies games with my readers.

I’ve been to a bunch of baseball homes and Citizens Bank Park is one of my favorites; the design and layout are great and it’s aesthetically very well done and fan-friendly. But they’ve also done a marvelous job representing the best in iconic local foods, more so than any ballpark I can think of.

If you want to know more about that, you can check out my article in the upcoming April issue of JerseyMan Magazine, or you can just take a trip to a Phillies game yourself.

My advice? Both.

Thanks much to the Phillies and Aramark for the invite to this was great fun.

Tags: citizens bank park  phillies 
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