A Ruben panini will be sold this season at the Bird Cage at Fifth Third Field.
The Blade/Lori King
The beginning of a baseball season is a time of renewal. The grass is green, hopes are up, and anything can happen.
This year, even the concession stands are crisper, brighter, fresher.
Fifth Third Field has just completed its first facelift since the downtown ballpark was opened in 2002. Hungry fans will notice that many of the concession stands have been given new identities and themes, and that all of them have been redesigned, freshly painted, and generally perked up.
The $200,000-plus update was designed to blur the line between the ballpark and its urban setting, where several restaurants are found on every block.
"We wanted to make it look like you're walking down the street," said Craig Nelson, the Mud Hens' assistant general manager for food and beverage.
Some of the old favorite concession stands — the team prefers to call them restaurants — are back where they have always been, though with a new layout and decor. Gilhooley's Sports Bar and Grill is still just north of the main entrance, but it is now more closely associated with legendary broadcaster Frank Gilhooley (including a picture of him as a toddler being held by Babe Ruth), and it has been given more of a retro feel.
"Gilhooley's takes us for a walk into the past," said communications director Andi Roman.
Hen & Hound, the stadium's version of a British pub — albeit one with foot-long hot dogs and brats — is perhaps the least-changed eatery. But it and the other stand that opened last year, the Frozhen ice cream parlor, are buffed and brightened with a fresh coat of paint.
The other stands are all new, from the concept to the name to some of the things they serve.
El Burrito Misterio, for instance, is the stadium's version of a Mexican cantina, complete with a corrugated metal exterior and a caricature of a lucha libre wrestler for its logo. Burritos, tacos, quesadillas, taco salad, and nachos are all available there, along with Mexican bottled beers.
As its name indicates, Suds & Wieners will specialize in hot dogs and beer, including one dish called a Sudzie Wiener, which is a brat that has been cooked in beer. Other hot dog and sausages will be offered, too, along with turkey wraps, popcorn, peanuts, and the like. This stand's logo is a happy-looking hot dog hoisting a mug of beer.
The team name is reflected in the Italian stand, Mudzarella's, where pizza will be served, and meatball subs, Italian sausage, and caprese salads (tomato, mozzarella cheese, and basil). Meanwhile, the funnel cake stand, Farr Out Funnels, pays nomenclatural tribute to one of Toledo's favorite sons, Jamie Farr.
Pub 315 gets its name from its location, directly above the 315 sign down the right field line. That means it is just a long pop fly, 315 feet, from home plate. Between dodging home run balls, patrons will be able to sample frozen and mixed drinks and a wide selection of craft beers from the United States and beyond.
Ticket holders on the Club Level will also be able to dine at the BirdCage, which offers chairs and tables as well as a selection of foods that are just a bit more sophisticated, such as paninis and fried vegetables with a wasabi ranch dipping sauce.
According to Nelson, all the work done in sprucing up the food stands was performed by local contractors, including developing the names and designing the facades. Lesniewicz Associates in Perrysburg did this branding work, and chief creative officer Terrence Lesniewicz said they took their inspiration from all over. The pastel colored Victorian-house facade on the Farr Out Funnels stand, for instance, is specifically based on the brightly painted houses of the Haight-Ashbury district in San Francisco.
Rodney Frysinger, president of Lesniewicz Associates, said, "We wanted to give them each a unique personality that just happens to be at a ballpark."
Contact Daniel Neman at: