PLAY BALL: Excite Ballpark, home of Minor League Baseball’s San Jose (California) Giants, is one of the stadiums where OVG Hospitality will run the food and beverage operations. (Courtesy venue)
Hospitality division revamping menus, operations
Diamond Baseball Holdings, which has amassed more than a dozen Minor League Baseball clubs in the past 18 months, has selected OVG Hospitality, the food and beverage division of VenuesNow parent company Oak View Group, to run food and beverage at five teams’ stadiums.
OVG Hospitality promises to rebrand and refresh the food and beverage offerings and to optimize operations across the DBH portfolio, beginning with the Mississippi Braves at Trustmark Park in Pearl, Mississippi; the Midland Rockhounds at Momentum Bank Ballpark in Midland, Texas; the Rome Braves at AdventHealth Stadium in Rome, Georgia; the San Jose Giants at Excite Ballpark in San Jose, California; and the Wichita Wind Surge at Riverfront Stadium in Wichita, Kansas, the companies announced this week.
Ken Gaber, president of OVG Hospitality, said the deal has been in the works since about five months ago.
“It came about through our relationship with Minor League Baseball,” he said. “Kenny Young (retired team owner, food service company owner/operator and VenuesNow Hall of Honor member) knows a lot of people and DBH was looking at how to grow the business. They’ve been on light-speed growth for the past year or so.”
Gaber said there are additional teams that DBH is looking to add to its roster and Rick Barakat, senior vice president of business strategy and development at Diamond Baseball Holdings, said in a news release that the five stadiums involved in the initial deal “mark the start of what we expect will be a productive, long-term relationship with Oak View Group.”
“In the last year and a half, DBH has acquired more than a dozen MiLB clubs, and we’re just getting started,” he said. “We brought in OVG Hospitality, with their expertise and best-in-class service, as a partner because they understand the opportunity to highlight and cultivate local traditions in each community while improving the fan experience and investing in growing the league as a whole.”
OVG Hospitality teams have already implemented technology solutions to bring faster service to the accounts and will also be revamping menus..
OVG Hospitality manages food and beverage services at more than 350 venues globally, including the spring training home of the Oakland Athletics (HoHoKam Park in Mesa, Arizona), Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies (Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Scottsdale, Arizona), and Triple-A ballparks in Albuquerque, New Mexico (Albuquerque Isotopes); Omaha, Nebraska (Omaha Storm Chasers); Norfolk, Virginia (Norfolk Tides); and Syracuse, New York (Syracuse Mets).
OVG also handles the concessions for the Double-A Biloxi Shuckers in Mississippi and the High Point Rockers in High Point, North Carolina, of the Independent Atlantic League.
“I think they have a very strong business focus for Minor League Baseball and it’s exciting to see,” Gaber said of the DBH team, which is led by Executive Chairman Pat Battle and CEO Peter Freund.
Diamond Baseball Holdings originated at Endeavor in 2021, with Freund and Battle at the helm, “to support, promote and enhance Minor League Baseball clubs affiliated with Major League Baseball through professional management, best practices, innovation, and investment,” according to the company’s boilerplate media description.
Freund, who like Battle owns minor league teams, is a partner in the New York Yankees and has deep connections to MLB. Battle, who served as chairman of the board of Learfield, also served as an advisor to Endeavor.
DBH started with nine teams: the Iowa Cubs (Triple-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs playing in the International League), Memphis Redbirds (St. Louis Cardinals, Triple-A, International League), Scranton/Wilkes Barre RailRiders (New York Yankees, Triple-A, International); Hudson Valley Renegades (Yankees, High-A, South Atlantic League); San Jose Giants (San Francisco Giants, Single-A, California League); Gwinnett Stripers (Atlanta Braves, Triple-A, International); Mississippi Braves (Braves, Double-A, Southern League); Rome Braves (Braves, High-A, South Atlantic) and the Augusta GreenJackets (Braves, Single-A, Carolina).
By the time DBH was acquired by investment firm Silver Lake Partners from Endeavor in August 2022, the list was up to 10 clubs, with the addition of the Oklahoma City Dodgers (Los Angeles Dodgers, Triple-A, (Pacific Coast League).
Since then, acquisitions have included the Wichita Wind Surge (Minnesota Twins, Double-A, Texas League), Midland RockHounds (A’s, Double-A, Texas League); Lansing Lugnuts (A’s, High-A; Midwest League) and the Salem Red Sox (Red Sox; Single-A; Carolina).
Recently, DBH acquired the St. Paul Saints (Twins, International) from actor Bill Murray, Mike Veeck and Marv Goldklang, as well as the Portland Sea Dogs (Red Sox, Double-A, Eastern League).
Just this week, it was announced that DBH is purchasing the Vancouver Canadians (Toronto Blue Jays, High-A, Northwest League), giving the company, the largest single MiLB owner/operator, the only MiLB team in Canada.
Gaber noted that MiLB is a traditional part of the communities where teams are based and were a training ground for him and his sports and entertainment industry-based siblings.
“I started in MiLB when I was 14 years old,” Gaber said of his early years with the Norfolk Navigators. “I started as a mascot.”
Gaber also worked on the grounds crew and noted that his brother, now at Live Nation, and his sister, now with Providence College Women’s Basketball, also started with the Navigators.
“I went from being the third- or fourth-tier mascot to where I am today,” he said. “It truly starts with MiLB. A lot of people cut their teeth on it. It’s great for the fans. It just brings a lot of fun to this crazy world.”
Terms of the deal with DBH were not disclosed, but Gaber said he’s certain the client in this case will see a system-wide benefit in per capita spending.
DBH Teams with stadium and location:
Mississippi Braves/Trustmark Park/Pearl, Mississippi
Midland Rockhounds/Momentum Bank Ballpark/Midland, Texas
Rome Braves/AdventHealth Stadium/Rome, Georgia
San Jose Giants/Excite Ballpark/San Jose, California
Wichita Wind Surge/Riverfront Stadium/Wichita, Kansas
St. Paul Saints/CHS Field/St. Paul, Minnesota
Memphis Redbirds/AutoZone Park/Memphis, Tennessee
Scranton/Wilkes Barre RailRiders/PNC Field/Moosic, Pennsylvania
Hudson Valley Renegades/Heritage Financial Park/Wappingers Falls, New York
Gwinnett Stripers/Coolray Field/Unincorporated Gwinnett County (suburban Atlanta), Georgia
Augusta GreenJackets/SRP Park/North Augusta, South Carolina
Oklahoma City Dodgers/Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark/Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Lansing Lugnuts/Jackson Field/Lansing, Michigan
Salem Red Sox/Hayley Toyota Field at Salem Memorial Ballpark/Salem, Virginia
Portland Sea Dogs/Hadlock Field/Portland, Maine
Vancouver Canadians/Nat Bailey Stadium/Vancouver, British Columbia
Editor’s notes: Silver Lake Partners is also an investor in VenuesNow parent company Oak View Group. This story has been updated.