I came across this little op-ed piece on ESPN.com’s Playbook about Wrigley Field being the grossest sports stadium in the four major North American sports leagues, sharing a little bit of humor and some sad reminders of the failures of the on-field product:
You have to wonder about the stadium. Like a pet fish that gets sick from old, feculent water, you have to wonder if Wrigley Field, pungent with the stank of defeat and seven-dollar Old Style, is haunting these Cubs teams, if the ghosts of 104 years of crappiness are mouth-breathing on the players’ necks, moaning, “You guys are gonna suck so baddddd, and why shouldn’t youuu??? No one has any expectatttttions.”
But what’s even more fascinating about the article is there is actually some objective evidence from an independent organization demonstrating this fact.
UFE.com – standing for “Urine Feces Everywhere” – is an organization that took the time to visit all 30 Major League Baseball parks and conducted studies on cleanliness of anywhere a person would visit and/or touch. Bathrooms, turnstiles, seats, vendors and their equipment, all were evaluated. And the Cubbies took home the top prize in something they’d rather not celebrate.
Absolutely disgusting. At this point, I’m not going to pile on with more words of disdain for what is already known. I will, however, share similar articles and opinions from various outlets:
I’m not piling on because there’s no need – the problem is known. What isn’t known? The solution!
And that’s where I come in. It’s very easy to say how it got to be this bad for consumers and vendors alike (they have to touch everything too) – it’s a whole lot cheaper to ignore the problem or to make health inspection occurrences convenient for the club and the inspector. The fans will keep continuing to come to the ballpark.
What teams really should be doing includes implementation of some Lean thinking. Without being prescriptive and without knowing every single piece of problematic evidence found by fans, workers, or the UFE team, here are some strategies teams should consider.
- TPM strategies: Total Productive Maintenance includes an element of autonomous management on behalf of the users of a process or piece of equipment. Users maintain cleanliness levels to the absolute basic condition – anything outside of basic condition is an anomaly that must be fixed immediately – but they also maintain performance through inspection of equipment and improvements/lubrication/routine maintenance as necessary.
- Visual standards and proper training: Sports organizations are of the opinion that they can hire anyone off the street to properly run a concession stand with little training. Yes, that’s correct, pretty much anyone can operate a grill and cook meat, and complete value-adding activities. However, what about the other non-cooking functions like cleaning and storage and operation and safety? It takes proper training and organization to make a stadium function optimally – you create the optimal condition and train others to maintain conditions to that optimal level.
- Root cause analysis: This is probably the one that has to come first, but it’s also simple to kick off. Figure out why the stadium is so filthy and dig down to the genuine causes. Use the five-whys approach. What should the optimal condition be and ask why the stadium isn’t there. Why are folks not washing their hands? Why are operators undertrained? Why are facilities hard to clean? Dig into those reasons to find what needs to be fixed to alleviate issues.
Is it hard? No! It takes a little time and some resources, but the Cubs have six months (October-March) to figure it out before Opening Day 2013.
Full disclosure: the Chicago Cubs are far and away my favorite Major League Baseball team and have been ever since I was a child in northern Indiana. My bias lies in trying to show clubs how to do things right, whether I am a fan of those clubs or not. In fact, my work has made me essentially agnostic when it comes to my fandom.