After ending their two decade contract, the Tampa Bay Rays filed a sweeping lawsuit against Centerplate last December, claiming the concessionaire “surreptitiously cut corners,” “concealed performance issues” and “underpaid” the team.
It was an acrimonious ending to a 20-year relationship that began with the expansion team’s first season and ended in 2017 when Sports Illustrated called out Tropicana Field for having the worst food safety rating in all of baseball. But it wasn’t just Centerplate’s 105 “critical” health violations in 2017 alone that humiliated the team, Rays lawyers say in a suit — it was a video of the company’s former CEO Des Hague.
In 2014, footage of Hague mistreating a one-year-old Doberman inside of a British Columbia elevator caused an uproar, and Hague was eventually forced to resign from his post. The scandal is now resurfacing with Ray’s lawyers arguing “the damage that Centerplate’s former CEO has caused to the Rays’ national brand and reputation” justify an “award of damages to the Rays.”
“The Rays received unfavorable local and national media coverage and fan complaints because of their relationship with Centerplate, and the Rays lost revenue from fans who declined to attend or purchase concessions in protest,” a Feb. 16 response to Centerplate’s motion to dismiss the case reads.
So far, Centerplate has been dismissive of the Ray’s lawsuit, with attorney Christine E. Skoczylas calling the suit “corporate blackmail” and alleging on the eve of the contract expiring “the Rays threatened Centerplate with a draft complaint as a shakedown and gave Centerplate 48 hours to bow to their demands before filing this lawsuit.” Skoczylas is asking a Florida federal judge to dismiss the case, arguing that many of the allegations are over a decade-old and fall outside of the statute of limitations.