This Friday, August 24, is UNC Greensboro Fan Appreciation Night with the Greensboro Grasshoppers, with a lot in store for Spartans.
You’ll see UNCG coaches throwing out the first pitch, the Bands of Sparta pep band, plenty of Spartan giveaways, the UNCG Spartones singing the National Anthem and Chancellor Gilliam with “Take Me Out To the Ballgame” at the seventh-inning stretch.
100 free tickets will be given away to UNCG students on Friday at Elliott University Center at 5:30 p.m. The game begins at 7 p.m., pre-game activities begin at 6 p.m. and Spartan Chariots will run to and from the ball field 6:30 to 10 p.m. Discounted tickets can be purchased by UNCG students, faculty and staff through August 23 here.
While you’re at the game, line up for a hot dog.
UNCG alumnus Drew Gill ’96 is the new director of food and beverage operations. He leads 120 employees on a game day, and often does more sales in one game, or one homestand, than a restaurant could do in a month.
“I’ve always loved food,” he says. “It’s a constantly changing environment, and I like that.”
And things are in motion for food at the ball field. For the first time last year, food was brought almost entirely in-house, with the intention of creating a more welcoming environment for families and all Grasshoppers fans.
The Hoppin’ Hound Dogs food truck specialty hotdogs are now available at the stadium, as well as items for kids like peanut butter and jelly, string cheese and apple juice, and even veggie burgers. And Gill has plans – he has a test-market in the box seats for more adventurous items like coconut shrimp and beer-battered cheese sticks. One day, you may even see flatbreads or sushi at the ball field.
“But you have to be patient,” he says about the developments. “It’s a big sandwich – you have to take one bite at a time.”
Gill studied business administration and management marketing at the Bryan School of Business and Economics. He has fond memories of the marketing projects he completed as a student, as well as of his professors and his fraternity, Sigma Phi Epsilon.
“At UNCG, I wanted to learn how to be a leader,” he says.
Chris Lester and Kayne Fisher, who founded Natty Greene’s Brewing Company, were his fraternity brothers and just ahead of him school. A few years down the road, in 2004, Gill began working for Natty Greene’s downtown brewpub, serving in every role in order to develop his skills in food and beverage management – he cooked, he worked the doors, he bartended, and, at different times, was kitchen manager, floor manager, general manager and event coordinator.
“I wanted to work in every position – even washing dishes – so I could learn and teach. I knew that if I had experience with everything, I could help develop teams.”
After five years working with Natty Greene’s, Gill joined the Denny’s Restaurant Group, and then the Battleground Restaurant group. But last year, the opportunity came up to join the Grasshoppers team providing in-house concessions.
“It was something you couldn’t turn down ‒ to be able to be a food and beverage director here. It was very appealing, because I love Greensboro, and whatever we can do to benefit Greensboro and our community, I want to do that.”
Gill enjoys bringing his family to see Grasshoppers’ games, and even has his own favorite spot in the stadium ‒ the seating area near “Coronaville.”
However, you probably won’t catch him there during a game because he’ll be making the rounds between the stands, the kitchens, the party decks and the picnic areas to be sure the concessions are top-notch and fully available.
“It’s about creating a good environment where people want to come out and enjoy the game, have a great experience and keep coming back,” says Gill.
Story by Susan Kirby-Smith, University Communications
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications