Archive for Wednesday, January 8, 1992


January 8, 1992


When game day arrives in Lawrence, there are more than two teams in action for the benefit of Kansas University fans.

Orville Embrey is a member of a non-sports team that goes to work at KU athletic events. He works one of the many concession stands that serve thousands of hungry and thirsty fans at Allen Fieldhouse and Memorial Stadium.

"When you're working together as a team and all of a sudden you have half a million customers, you have to be able to work well together," said Embrey, a veteran worker for the Jayhawk Kiwanis Club, which runs a concession stand during KU games.

Embrey and other concession workers say working well as a team in the concession stands can be just as important to KU fans as the Jayhawks' performance on the court.

"We've had some games where it's real smooth and others where it's a little rough," said Bob Pharr, supervisor of a concession stand operated by the Lawrence High School band. "You just have to be prepared.''

THE CONCESSION stands, which sell everything from ice cream and lemonade to Polish sausage and pizza, each have two to 20 volunteer workers from local civic groups and fast-food restaurants.

The stands are administered through Mid America Concessions, which has a contract through the KU Athletic Department to provide food, drink and containers, as well as locations and group scheduling for each stand.

Steve Vormehr, owner of Mid America, says KU fans can take advantage of 18 concession stands set up in Allen Fieldhouse during home basketball games. About 30 stands are set up in Memorial Stadium for football games, he said.

Vormehr says working a concession stand is not necessarily easy.

"You've got to be organized to maximize" service and speed as a team, he said.

Vormehr, who has managed KU concessions for two years, said a streamlined menu of some basic items, such as fewer sizes of sodas and hot dogs, has helped increase speed and sales during basketball and football games.

IN ADDITION, items such as bottled water and fruit give diet-conscious KU fans a varied menu.

Until recently, Vormehr said, many fans would eat at home before coming to the game.

"Now they're starting to eat here," he said. "We have a lot of people who come early . . . they've found that they don't have to rush to get something to eat before coming to the game."

Twelve to 14 concession stands are run by area civic organizations and university groups during basketball games.

The organizations receive a percentage of the profit for each item sold, and they can make from a few hundred to thousands of dollars from annual sales, depending on the size of the stand, location and amount of sales.

Profits from the LHS band's stand help pay for an out-of-state trip taken by the band once every three years.

"It's not going to make you rich or anything, but it helps the kids so they don't have to pay so much for their trips," Pharr said. "We've got about 190 kids in the band, so we have that many parents to help out."

VORMEHR estimated that 1,600 hot dogs, 2,100 boxes and tubs of popcorn, and thousands of sodas were sold at the fieldhouse concession stands during last week's KU-Pepperdine basketball game. The LHS band's concession stand alone went through about 300 pounds of ice during the game, Pharr estimated.

Not surprisingly, the busiest time at the concession stands is at the half.

If a stand runs out of cups, hot dogs, ice or other items, a volunteer has to run to a commissary and pick up more. In Allen Fieldhouse, the commissary is located on the second floor.

However, vendors usually are able to anticipate the amount of items they will sell, and a run for more items during the game doesn't occur often, Vormehr said.

THE REV. STEVE Swanson, who helps operate a stand for the Clinton Parkway Assembly of God's youth group, said working at the stand builds character.

"It really shows how they can work well together as a team," he said. The youth group's workers are teens and young adults, ages 13 to 20.

KU students, homemakers and retirees volunteer in other stands. Even county commissioners get in on the act.

"At halftime we just can't keep up," said Louie McElhaney, Douglas County Commission chairman, who has worked several years in the Kiwanis' stand.

Vormehr said 10 to 15 organizations currently are on a waiting list for a vending spot.

Openings become available if an organization that already has a spot cannot keep enough volunteers for its stand or if members arrive late to a game, he said.

"We have strict rules," he said.

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