A HAWKER IN EX-AISLEBANNED BY THE FIREBIRDS, THE RED LICORICE MAN AWAITS THE CALL TO THE BIGS
Unexplored so far in the domed Major League Baseball stadium debate: the vendor angle.
"I think it's great for the Valley," says the Red (pronounced "Rrrreeeedddd") Licorice Man, a fixture in the aisles at most local sporting events. "I think it'll put people to work."
Red, a mild-mannered municipal bureaucrat by day who likes to keep personal details--such as his real name--out of the newspaper, makes his customers stand, shake and shout to get their sleeves of goo rope, which he ties into knots to fling across the rows.
To some fans, especially younger fans, Red's presence can turn an otherwise mundane Cardinals, Roadrunners or Sun Devils game into a memorable outing. He also works the spring-training baseball parks and local parades. For Suns games, Red switches to cotton candy, because America West Arena has been declared a red-licorice-free zone.
Reached by telephone on an off-day last week, Red addressed several key stadium-related issues, including design plans and fan makeup. The wide-ranging interview also touched on controversy--the long-standing Red Licorice Man ban at the Phoenix Firebirds' Scottsdale ballpark.
Red advises the architects of the new structure, which backers hope to build in downtown Phoenix to house an expansion big-league baseball team, to consider "easy accessibilty" for vendors, and "comfortable steps."
Also, don't overdo it with fixed concession stands, he says, adding, "They put too many stands in, consistently. One concession stand, one line, people get mad and come to us, we get our commission."
Stadium designers should take care when deciding the placement of vendor refilling stations, he says.
America West Arena has refill stations in one location on each level, Red said, a problem for fans with seats on the opposite side of the arena. "If you're sitting directly opposite on a busy event, your chances of being served by a vendor are very slim," he says. "You can't get over there and still have product. You sell out a lot quicker."
Fortunately, baseball parks are generally triangular in layout, and product-depletion problems are avoided by placing refill stations in the general vicinity of home plate. "The easiest way for a vendor to work is to be close to home plate, and work from there out," says Red. "If they have a concession stand by home plate on all the levels, and they fan em out from there, that works for us."
Red, who two seasons ago was banned from working Firebirds games by team management--Your shtick doesn't go with this ball field," he claims he was told--fully expects to work the new ballpark. "I would hope so," he says. "I would want to."
But there may be complications. Key members of Firebirds management, including owner Martin Stone and president Larry Yount, are part of the cabal of interests being aligned by Suns honcho Jerry Colangelo to bring the majors to town.
Though Red happily works Colangelo's basketball arena, as well as San Francisco Giants spring-training games in Scottsdale, he wonders what influence the Firebirds faction will have over vending policy at the new stadium.
Without providing his reasoning, Yount admits he made a "management decision" to keep Red from working in Scottsdale. As for the Red Licorice Man policy at the new ballpark, Yount says, "That's going to be something between the owners of the new ball club and him." Says Red: "I'll do anything to get baseball in here. Not just because of the extra dates, but I like baseball.
"Basketball has great fans. And they spend their money, no problem. But it's a different type of thing. Football is rowdy, they're rough-and-tumble people. You knock into a hockey fan by accident, and they're ready to kill ya.
"But picture a vendor with a bucket of beer. I've sold beer in the past, so I know. You got a bucket of beer, you go to a baseball game, you can set it down, leave the bucket there and go get change and come back, and one of two things happens. Either the beer is all there and everybody's in line waiting for you, or the beer is all gone and the exact amount of money you're supposed to have is sitting in the cup for you. "That's the only sport you can do that.
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