KC health inspectors recently visited Royals’ Kauffman Stadium. Here’s what they found

Kauffman Stadium’s new menu items will include Korean BBQ, brisket-topped tots

Aramark, which oversees the concessions at Kauffman Stadium, will introduce seven new items this season.
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Aramark, which oversees the concessions at Kauffman Stadium, will introduce seven new items this season.

Kauffman Stadium made national news in 2014, but not just for the Kansas City Royals’ World Series run.

A report on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” said poor food handling and dirty conditions at many of the stadium’s concessions was putting fans’ health at risk. The Kansas City Health Department also found numerous critical violations.

So have things improved?

The Star took a look at Kauffman’s most current inspections — about 90 reports covering the 88 permitted/licensed establishments inside Kauffman, categorized as 52 permanent locations and 36 portables (pushcarts or mobile stands). The inspections were conducted between March 22 and April 3.

Of the 52 brick-and-mortar operations, 24 had no critical violations and 17 had only one. There were nine operations with two critical violations, one with three and one with five. Three operations had follow-up inspections and all three aced their re-inspections. One other operation, Papa John’s Pizza/Hot Corner Grill in C-413, still needs to be reinspected.

“I feel like things have improved since 2014 in a big way,” said Toby Cook, the Royals’ vice president of public relations. “We worked hand-in-hand with Aramark to make improvements since that report came out.”

Just one operation, the Hot Corner Grill/The Pit/Crown Classics/Sweet Spot, had five critical violations during an opening day inspection: a leak from the roof was dripping on packages of bread; there wasn’t any soap at a three-compartment sink; and cheesy corn and baked beans were held at improper temperatures. It had no critical violations during an April 3 follow-up inspection.

Other operations had such violations as raw hamburgers thawing in standing water, chicken wings and salsa held at improper temperatures, grease dripping from a vent unit above a cooktop, raw beef stored above hot dogs in the cooler, build-up on soda nozzles, no hot water, and low sanitizer levels.

Aramark, Kauffman’s official concessionaire, also oversees a dozen portables and about two dozen are assigned to third party companies to sell lemonade, cotton candy, funnel cakes, snow cones and other treats. Mobiles are required to have zero violations in order to pass their permitting inspection for the year.

Kauffman also has branded operations such as Topsy’s, Dippin’ Dots and Berries Kabobs that are permitted separately.

“Aramark is our partner, but we also recognize that when people come to the ballpark, their mind-set — rightfully so — is that this is a Royals concession stand, this is a Royals merchandise place,” Cook said. “We operate as though it is ours, but we also have a partner that we’re working with to actually execute the objectives.”

Kauffman also was recently honored with 21 Food Safety Excellence Awards for inspections in 2018.

The recent inspections are a vast improvement over the findings of a city inspection shortly after the 2014 World Series. The ESPN story noted that dozens of critical health code violations were found at Kauffman Stadium and Arrowhead Stadium.

Those included mouse feces on the same trays as pizza dough, cockroaches in vending areas, mold growth in ice machines, trays of food destined for customers that measured at unsafe temperatures and sinks for hand washing that were blocked by trash.

In a statement, Naser Jouhari of the Kansas City Health Department said: “We are encouraged by the steps Aramark is making toward food safety and will continue to work with their food service operators to ensure safe food all season long.”

From covering the World Series to the World Cup, Pete has done a little bit of everything since joining The Star in 1997. He writes about baseball and has a quirky blog that augments The Star’s coverage of area teams.
Joyce Smith has covered restaurant and retail news for The Star since 1989 under the brand Cityscape. She appreciates news tips.