Thanks to foodservice air curtains as part of a $10 million renovation at McKechnie Field, the only flies near concessions are those of the foul ball nature.

McKechnie in Bredenton, FL, is the spring training site of the Pittsburgh Pirates major league club and summer home of the team’s Class A Bradenton Marauders farm team. The stadium recently installed 2,000 more seats, created a 360-degree perimeter walkway, and expanded the concessions area behind the first base grandstands by 100%.

The foodservice expansion was designed and specified by Tracy Taraski, FCSI, manager of design services at The Bigelow Companies Inc. It includes a “fly-free zone” on the employee side of the 20 point-of-sale counter where air curtains create an airflow that flying insects can’t penetrate. The new rectangular 3,500-sq-ft concession building, fully-equipped kitchen, and air curtains are providing more selection, greater customer capacity, and enhanced sanitation as part of the 26-year-old TBC’s specification.

The 22 air curtains, manufactured by Berner International, were the preferred alternative to screens, both of which are options in recently updated city health codes to enhance sanitation in open-air concessions. Screens on McKechnie’s original concession stand had obstructed and cut visibility into the cooking area by more than half, according to Trevor Gooby, the Pirates’ senior director of Florida Operations.

“We definitely didn’t want screens, so the air curtains allowed us to have large open windows where customers invitingly see menu boards, the quality cooking equipment, and cleanliness of our foodservice operation,” said Gooby.

Taraski also designed air curtain brackets that were custom fabricated to project the air curtains far enough from the window frame to allow clearance of metal roll-up security barriers. The air curtains were installed by the Bradenton branch of Clark Food Service Equipment, who was represented by Berner Florida manufacturer’s representative firm, The Veitch Group.

“We’re seeing more health departments during the last 10 years requiring equipment like air curtains in outdoor stadium concessions to keep flying insects away from food prep and service areas,” said Taraski, whose company has specified foodservice projects for clients such as MLB Kansas City Royals’ Kauffman Stadium; Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ; and NBA Orlando Magic’s Amway Center.

Each of the four 19-ft concession windows have four 5-ft air curtains from Berner’s K-Zone Series. They are designed specifically to save energy, provide employee comfort, and eliminate flying insect infiltration at doors, windows, and walk-in cooler entrances in foodservice operations. Air curtains disperse a factory-engineered airstream that’s engineered for volume, velocity, and uniformity (VVU), an airflow quality that is critical in properly sealing the opening from air, dust, and flying insect infiltration.

Taraski ordered optional variable-speed rheostats for adjusting airflow. Ultimately, the facility’s management fine-tuned the units to approximately 30% of their 1,656-cfm capacity. The quieter speed is strong enough to stop flying insects but soft enough to allow conversations and prevent popcorn or paper money passing through the air stream from disruption. 

TBC also specified all other foodservice equipment for the first base concessions area, along with a small outfield commissary and Tiki bar.

While some consultants like to start from scratch, TBC saved the ballpark approximately $15,000 by reusing some existing foodservice equipment from areas closed for consolidation.

The bulk of the foodservice specification includes heated displays by Hatco Corp., refrigeration systems by Randell Products, walk-in coolers by Penn Refrigeration Service Corp., roller grills by Nemco/Connolly Food Equipment Ltd., and exhaust equipment by Avtec Products. 

Taraski sometimes specifies strip curtains or air curtains on walk-in cooler entrances, but not at McKechnie because the commissary area’s refrigeration equipment was in a cool basement level, remotely located from doorways where heat infiltration is minimal. 

 “We really like the air curtain concept for our concessions,” said Gooby. “Flying insects have not been a problem, and the operational sound levels are low enough to allow normal conversations between customers and employees.”