3 Tampa Bay stadiums rank low in ESPN's food-safety inspection report

The study looked at 111 pro sports venues across North America.

click to enlarge ESPN forked around with some health inspections. - Dean Hochman via Flickr / Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)
Dean Hochman via Flickr / Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)
ESPN forked around with some health inspections.

Uh, ESPN went Wendy Ryan on us.

Today, the sports news outlet's Outside the Lines program took a page out of the local television news playbook and published results from its review of food-safety inspection reports for all 111 North American pro sports venues. Researchers collected more than 16,000 food-safety inspection reports from health departments that monitor professional football, baseball, basketball and hockey facilities — and three big Tampa Bay stadiums are in the lower half of the rankings.

ESPN's review of routine inspection reports from 2016 and 2017 found that at about 28 percent of the venues, half or more of the food service outlets incurred a high-level violation.

One venue (not in the Bay area) even “poses a potential threat for foodborne illness,” the website said. Can we queue corny B-roll of an under-cooked corn dog?

According to ESPN, the violations include typical suspects (think chicken, shrimp and sushi stored at unacceptable temperatures, employees wiping their faces with their hands and then handling food for customers, cooks sweating over food, or beef blood dripping on a shelf). The report also mentions even more common items that health inspectors notice (dirty utensils or contaminated equipment) and the juicy stuff like the presence of live cockroaches and mice, dirty floors and fruit flies.

“Pesky pigeons and, in one venue, beer leaking from a ceiling,” the petty-ass report added.

We’re not trying to make light of food safety — and the report does mention the fact that sports venues serve a large population every night they're open — but is this really what ESPN is spending its time on?

The story even admits “high-level violations — often labeled as ‘critical,’ ‘priority’ or ‘major,’ depending on the jurisdiction” don’t necessarily mean a venue is unsafe or unsanitary. The report seems to hang its hat on finding venues with the highest average percentage of high-level violations per food outlet in each venue (four of the 111 venues did not have enough vendor data).

The three venues that had the highest percentages of outlets where inspectors found at least one or more high-level violations?

  • No. 107: Spectrum Center, Charlotte (92 percent)
  • No. 106: The since-shuttered Palace of Auburn Hills, Detroit (86.11 percent)
  • No. 105: American Airlines Center, Dallas (83.08 percent)

The three venues that had the lowest percentages of outlets where inspectors found at least one or more high-level violations?

  • No. 1: Oracle Center, Oakland (1.12 percent)
  • No. 2: State Farm Arena, Atlanta (4.17 percent)
  • No. 3: NRG Stadium, Houston (4.44 percent)

And where did Tampa Bay venues rank?

  • No. 49: Tropicana Field (25 of 79 outlets inspected found to have high-level violations, 31.65 percent)
  • No. 70: Raymond James Stadium (33 of 70 outlets inspected found to have high-level violations, 47.14 percent)
  • No. 85: Amalie Arena (16 of 29 outlets inspected found to have high-level violations, 55.17 percent)

“We are aware of the report published today by ESPN regarding health inspections and arena violations,” Amalie Arena said in a statement.

“We pride ourselves on providing a world class environment for all our guests and the food and beverage experience is very important to us — in fact we are confident that we do an excellent job in this area. However, we will take a close look at the report and respond as necessary to any concerns raised therein.”

About The Author

Ray Roa

Read his 2016 intro letter and disclosures from 2022 and 2021. Ray Roa started freelancing for Creative Loafing Tampa in January 2011 and was hired as music editor in August 2016. He became Editor-In-Chief in August 2019. Past work can be seen at Suburban Apologist, Tampa Bay Times, Consequence of Sound and The...
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