UMass Dining takes over McGuirk Stadium

By Hae Young Yoo


Shannon Broderick/Daily Collegian
(Shannon Broderick/Daily Collegian)

Fans enjoyed clam chowder and hand-rolled sushi off the new menu at McGuirk Stadium concessions Oct. 3 when the Massachusetts football team won its first home game against Florida International.

Ken Toong, executive director of auxiliary enterprises at the University of Massachusetts, said in a phone interview that he and his team believe in continuous improvement and decided the stadium concessions needed something different. They did not receive complaints about the food before, Toong said, but they wanted to bring the full glory of UMass Dining Services to the stadium.

“We had things like chicken tenders, pizza, hot chocolate and burgers, things that every concession has,” Toong said. “And we thought, it’s not that exciting, so what can we do?”

The new menu now also offers Maine lobster rolls, Niman Ranch BBQ pork sliders, Maple Valley ice cream, local apple pie and Esselon coffee. One hundred percent antibiotic-free chicken tenders are now available inside the stadium and on MinuteFan Way and 100 percent grass-fed, certified-humane beef burgers are sold at Baby Berk food trucks, according to a press release.

Van Sullivan, manager of Campus Center Food Services, said fans were surprised but pleased with the food, especially about the lobster rolls, sushi and clam chowder.

“Nobody expected that when they got there. They were used to traditional food so it was a bit of a shock, honestly,” he said.

Sullivan added there was a subtle but noticeable difference when they decided to represent everything in the stadium as UMass Dining Services.

“And once you open that thinking up, it’s like, well, why can’t you do lobster stew? Why don’t we have fresh sushi?” Sullivan said.

Toong said the University serves more sushi, 4,000 rolls every night, than any other college in the nation. Feedback from students showed they wanted more sushi at night, so he thought, why not expand it to concessions?

The students Sullivan talked to were also happy with the way UMass Dining Services set up the student BBQ outside the stadium entrance. Sullivan said he thought the setup made it easier for students to get food and make it up to their seats to enjoy the game.

“The burger was excellent and I was able to top it with some delicious coleslaw. I’d say the food experience there has definitely improved my enjoyment of the games. I also like how they served hot chocolate,” Ken Zarrilli, a junior accounting and economics major, said.

The stadium concessions accept YCMPs, Dining Dollars, UCard, cash or credit. The student BBQ will accept meal plan swipes, YCMPs and Dining Dollars.

This homecoming weekend, guest chef Bruno Wehren from Las Vegas will be at McGuirk Stadium for the game on Saturday, Oct. 17 against Kent State. He will create recipes for a signature mac and cheese bread bowl, made with local cheese, three types of brochette and local baked potatoes with 11 different toppings, including lobster stew and Cajun shrimp. Everything will be added to the menu.

As with all UMass Dining foods, staying local is an important factor, according to Toong.

“With everything we do now, we ask ourselves, ‘How can we use local as much as possible?’ It’s fresh but you also want to know where food comes from,” Toong said.

Feedback shows that students want food that tastes good but is healthy for them as well.

Toong said variety is important but he is pushing for a more plant-based menu. He and his team try to use more olive oil instead of mayonnaise in recipes, more honey instead of sugar, and are cautious of sodium. The changes are made slowly and with special attention to food waste.

“I think we’re setting a trend for the rest of the country,” Toong said. “We’re changing the way America eats.”

Hae Young Yoo can be reached at [email protected].