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Fairgrounds concession stand scores a hat trick with expanded menu

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The city scored big with a new menu as the Thousand Islands Privateers made their debut at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds arena over the weekend.

To coincide with the Federal Hockey League team’s move to the ice arena, the Parks and Recreation Department expanded the menu to include hot foods at the concession stand.

Italian sausage — with or without onions and peppers — chili, nachos, pizza, fried dough and chili cheese dogs are being sold at Privateers games, during public skating and for special events.

Those warm items were selected because they should be popular throughout the winter, Parks and Recreation Superintendent Erin Gardner said.

“We’re going to see how it works out and go from there,” she said.

Beverages, candy and slushies are some of the other items available.

With a big crowd of 1,200 fans on Friday night and about 400 on Saturday, a second concession stand was set up near the hockey action next to the rink. About 15 Parks Department employees were on hand to help out during the two hockey games, crew chief Jerome Romig said.

To get ready for the new items, the city invested about $5,500 in such new concession equipment as a pizza warmer, two chili kettles, a nachos machine, an ice maker and a pretzel machine. The city also has contracts for food items from Renzi Foods and pizza from nearby Bernardo’s Pizzeria. Gardner and Romig attended a food industry trade show and liked what they sampled from the Watertown food company, she said.

On Saturday night, it was an assembly line-like operation, with hockey fans lined up three-deep during periods of the game.

Concession stand worker Kimberlee Forbes said all the new food items were popular, but especially the pizza.

“We’ve been hopping,” she said.

Mary Parry, who worked at the Greater Watertown-North Country Chamber of Commerce for decades, attended her second hockey game ever on Saturday. She and a friend munched on some fried dough during the break between the second and third periods.

“This is really good, and this has been really fun,” she said.

The Privateers moved with a lot of fanfare to Watertown from the financially troubled Bonnie Castle Recreation Center in Alexandria.

With the Privateers playing 30 games at the arena, the city has a chance to bring in some hefty revenues. Team officials have said fans typically spend about $3 per game, and the Privateers could attract about 1,000 people to each game.

City Comptroller James Mills initially budgeted $50,000 in revenues and then nearly doubled that amount to $95,000 after the Privateers signed the contract to play at the fairgrounds. On the expense side, the city expects to spend about $60,000 on the concession stand this year.

Last year, the city accumulated $40,921 in revenue and had profits of $22,657 before labor costs. With labor, it lost $21,366, Mills said.

Two years ago, the Parks Department took over the concession stand and upgraded it. After failing to make a profit the previous winter, the Watertown Hockey Association bowed out and didn’t renew its contract to operate the stand.

The Privateers are paying the city for ice time and office space. The team will run the beer sales concession stand. In recent weeks, the City Council has been debating what concert promoters and organizations should be charged for concession fees.

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