BALTIMORE – In the weeks before Opening Day at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in 1998 and 1999, concession workers were not the only ones scurrying about in the stadium’s four dozen food stands, kitchens, restaurants, and holding areas.
Mice, according to Baltimore City Health Department records, were just as active in the home of Major League Baseball’s Orioles.
“Eliminate heavy mice droppings on the soda shelves,” reads a typical order given to one stand owned by Aramark, the company that runs the stadium’s concessions, during the annual pre-Opening Day inspection in 1998.
Some of the 1998, 1999 and 2000 individual inspection reports were missing from the files provided by the health department to Capital News Service. But about half of the 1998 files provided to CNS showed evidence of mice infestation.
Subsequent year’s inspection records, which are much more complete than 1998’s, describe fewer cases of mice infestation in 1999, and none in 2000.
Bernard J. Bochenek, director of the Baltimore City Health Department’s Bureau of Food and Institutional Facilities, said evidence of mice is sometimes found during the annual inspection because it occurs just a short time after the stadium becomes operational after a long winter break.
Only one inspection is performed at the stadium each year unless a mid- season complaint is filed, and that one inspection takes place before a single regular season game is played.
Over the course of last year’s six-month season, 3.3 million fans attended the Orioles’ 81 home games after the only annual inspection, according to the club.
The records show that over the past three years the health department has cited Aramark during the preseason inspections for:
– In several cases, failing to install thermometers in concession stand refrigerators to ensure food is kept at the proper temperature.
– Often neglecting to provide soap and paper towels at hand washing sinks.
– Having dirt in an ice machine.
– Storing an ice shovel on a dirty floor.
The stadium’s concession stands and kitchens showed a major improvement between 1998 and 2000. Each stand in 1998 received, on average, four violations. This year, the average number dropped to zero or one in most cases.
“Obviously we take all health inspections seriously, and we make it a priority to address any concerns inspectors have,” said Doug Warner, a spokesman for Aramark.
Camden Yards has a program to meet health standards, Warner said, including a year-round maintenance staff and a full-time coordinator who oversees sanitation.
The team said it’s not entirely responsible for food safety.
“Bottom line is that we don’t really get involved in the concession process,” said Orioles spokesman Bill Stetka. “The food areas in the ball park are managed by the concessionaire.”
But, “We’ve never been given any reason to believe that there’s a problem here in Oriole Park,” he said.
“We get very few complaints,” he said.
The incomplete records provided to CNS include two complaints from stadium patrons since 1998, one for a bad hot dog and another for an uncooked chicken finger. Both spurred one-time mid-season inspections, and no problems were found.