Target Field bumps against the neediest part of the city, but the ballpark’s concession manager has been busing in workers from out-of-state to sell hot dogs, peanuts and cotton candy at home games.
“The bottom line is we have jobs available,” said Matt Hoy, Twins senior vice president for operations. “We just can’t get the people.”
Despite having spent thousands on advertising this year, Delaware North Sportservice, which manages the ballpark concessions and vendors, can’t find enough workers. Pay starts at $12.30 an hour for the union jobs covered by Unite Here Local 17, the Twin Cities hospitality union.
For the next two Thursdays, Delaware North Sportservice will conduct job fairs at the ballpark from 2 to 7 p.m. Needed for the season are food workers, in-seat vendors, stand attendants, servers, bussers and dishwashers. Shifts generally run 6 to 9 hours — straddling the games. Employees can choose which games they want to work.
But Delaware North district manager Pete Spike said he’s been struggling to fill openings since the labor pool started running dry last summer. To plug holes in 2015, Delaware North supplemented the staff with day laborers but has since scrapped that practice because of uneven performance and issues with pay.
Nancy Goldman, president of Local 17, doesn’t fault Delaware North for bringing in workers. She said restaurants and hotels all over town are desperate for workers, including for many jobs that are full-time, with health care and vacations. “We have a good contract for our workers at the ballpark, one of the better ones in the country,” Goldman said.
Hitting the appropriate staffing of the concessions operation at Target Field is a complicated brew of personnel availability, game schedules, fan attendance and weather. A month in advance, employees say which games they want to work. Then Spike determines where he needs other workers.
Part of the calculation is the volunteers from nonprofits who get a percentage of concession sales for their organizations. About half the staffers come from the nonprofits.
Between the nonprofits and the paid staff, Spike said he currently has a pool of about 700 workers. He’d love to get that number up by another 100 or 150, he said, acknowledging that the seasonal nature of the work makes it “a lot harder to find the folks to take care of the fans.” Most workers use jobs during baseball season to supplement their full-time work.
Target Field, he points out, is essentially the “largest bar and grill in Minnesota.”
So since opening day last Monday, Delaware North has busing in trained employees from their operations in Chicago, Green Bay and Milwaukee. He’s brought in about 150 workers at various times throughout the week and still had some in town for Monday night’s game.
Nobody wants local labor more than Spike, because it costs roughly 50 percent more to import workers, covering their transportation, hotel rooms and expenses, he said.
Busing in workers isn’t unheard of. Delaware North does so for big events, including the 2014 All-Star Game, and when crowds are expected — like opening day and $1 hot dog night.
Minnesota Ballpark Authority (MBA) Executive Director Dan Kenney, who oversees the stadium on behalf of the state, said Delaware North had spoken to the MBA and the Twins about the issues last year and had worked hard to staff up. The aim during the offseason was, “let’s really focus on trying to hire more people who are Delaware North workers and hopefully we will keep them for the whole season,” Kenney said.
“The bottom line is if you show up and look earnest, 90 percent of the time, they say, ‘We want to hire you,’ ” Kenney said. But then a sizable percentage of people don’t return for training.
Nine hours of training is required, covering food safety and laws regarding alcohol sales.
Goldman is sympathetic to Spike’s problem and has seen the extensive outreach he’s done. “A lot of people today just don’t want to go to work down there,” she said. “I don’t know what the issue is.”
SMG, which operates the new Vikings stadium at the other end of downtown, has a three-day job fair planned starting next Tuesday. They’ve also put out word welcoming all applicants. Many of those jobs, however, will be year-round ones with benefits, Goldman noted.
The entrance to the Target Field job fair is on the south side of building at the intersection of 7th Street and Twins Way, near the west end of Parking Ramp A.
Information is available at SportserviceTargetField.com or through Michael Dykema at 612-659-3974.