Day 6: Kauffman Stadium

8/13. Game time- 7:05 PM
Attendance: 30,680
Matchup: New York Yankees vs. Kansas City Royals
Pitchers: Dustin Moseley vs. Kyle Davies
Results: KC 4, NYY 3, W – Davies (6-7), L – Moseley (2-2), S – Soria (32)
Ticket purchased: Upper Box Infield ($22)
Beer of choice: Boulevard Pale Ale ($7)
Food: BBQ Pulled Pork Dog ($6)
Travel cost: $10 in gas, $10 parking
Other: Kauffman Stadium All-Star tour ($20), Negro Leagues Baseball Museum/American Jazz Museum tours ($10)
Total spent: $95.00


The footage above was captured by my iPhone as part of the Kansas City Royals Hall of Fame’s 14-minute video introduction to baseball in Kansas City. It is splendid. It is magnificent. It manages to make no mention of Arnold Johnson. Not that it matters, the presentation rocks – in particular because the technology used is not a projector but rather a large LED display, or a scoreboard/video board in layman’s terms. The colors are so vibrant, the video so crisp, the screen so wide, that it’s a visual feast. Every team, every major league city deserves this kind of tribute. I fortuitously got this clip as it has some relevant history for A’s fans.
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No matter where I travel, I maintain a place in my heart for Kansas City. Maybe it’s the barbecue. Or the shared history with the A’s. Or the general friendliness I always encounter. Whatever it is, the city’s Kauffman Stadium has always been lauded for being a postmodern relic that has managed to stand the test of time. No need to couch the praise anymore, as Kauffman is as good as any of the new ballparks built in the last twenty years.

Every single thing a modern ballpark has is now in place. A concourse that allows fans to walk completely around the stadium? Check. Wider concourses with weather protection? Check. New press box? Check. Multiple clubs and restaurants? Check. Improved suites? Check. A museum? Check. Incredible video board? Check. It was always a comfortable place to watch a game. Now it’s comfortable and up-to-date. Sadly, a refreshed stadium is not the same thing as a new ballpark in terms of fan perception, and the revamp can’t fully cover for a crappy team, as 2009’s attendance didn’t surpass 1.8 million and 2010 looks to be a drop from that.

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Getting There

As part of the post-war sprawl trend, the Truman Sports Complex was built in the middle of nowhere. 40 years later and it’s still in the middle of nowhere. You want in, you gotta drive. Parking is $10 and there’s plenty of it. Prior to the remodeling of the ballpark, local business interests spurred an effort to bring the team downtown. That effort went nowhere as the Royals’ interest was tepid at best.

Ticketing

Back Camera

I figured that a Yankees game might be somewhat impacted. Silly me. I was able to score a $23 seat in the front row of the upper deck. The deal proved too good to be true, as the ticket seller neglected to inform me about this:

Back Camera

Then again, it started raining shortly after I took my seat, so I headed back to the concourse to get some cover from the rain coming through the area. That’s when the improvements at the stadium really started to shine. Simple things, like better traction on the steps and a weatherproof coating on the concrete, combined with a large, high roof covering the concourse made things bearable. It used to be that the only thing that helped previously was the back of the upper deck cantilevering over the concourse, which really wasn’t much protection at all.

After the 2 hour, 15 minute rain delay, it was easy to find a good seat as two-thirds of the crowd cleared out. I didn’t even stick around for the whole thing as I needed to take an early train the next day. I wiped off a seat about 22 rows up on the third base side, and that’s when the place felt familiar. The seating bowl’s signature contours are still there, and the layout hasn’t fundamentally changed other than the outfield.

I left in the middle of the 7th, rain cleared out but constant thunder and lightning in the distance. My biggest regret was not being patient enough to capture lightning on camera as it lit up the ballpark. During the rain delay, I stopped at a picnic table to tap out the Day 4 post. Several other people were there, waiting out the rain. Two young girls from Wichita asked me what I was doing, and showed them the iPad’s MLB app. They asked if I they could see some highlights from the Wichita minor league club, I replied that it’s not ready yet. As the concourse filled up, the view to the field was blocked and I could no longer see if the grounds crew was working with the tarp or not. I scooted over to make room for an elderly gentleman. I asked him about the tarp and he ignored me, or so I thought at the time.

Turns out that the man and his wife were both deaf. As he saw me showing the MLB app to the kids, he started scrawling on a scrap of paper, which he laid in front me. It read, “Cardinals 6, Cubs 3. Box Score.” I quickly tapped the STL-CHC score, and the newspaper like box score opened in front of us. I quickly gestured to him how he could navigate the app, and he started smiling. Apparently he was really looking for Adam Wainwright’s line for the game. After he was done, he explained to me that he had season ticket to the Cards and was in KC visiting family. We “talked” some more and exchanged pleasantries. Okay I lied, I have one other regret, that I wish I had let that one girl I was dating in college teach me ASL.

Concessions

Seems like all over the Midwest ballparks are doing the gourmet dog thing. It’s a good way to charge an extra two bucks for a dog, a suppose. I figured I should try it once, and it was okay, not worth $6 but okay nonetheless. It was washed down with a Boulevard Pale Ale, KC’s most famous craft brewer. Strangely, the Pale Ale that cost $7 on the main concourse cost $7.50 on the upper concourse.

Circulation

Back Camera

The tour enters the ballpark at the main level. Behind home plate on the main level there is the Diamond Club, which despite its name is not the most exclusive club in the park. That honor would go to the BATS Club for the 100 or so seats directly behind the plate. Branding has gone way up since the last time I was here, over 10 years ago.

Now there’s proper room for escalators and those familiar circular ramps. Even with 20,000 people fleeing for the main concourse during the rain delay, it never felt cramped. The team administration building is physically separate from the rest of the ballpark, linked by a series of footbridges at each level. In doing this they allowed more natural light and air into the space. Very smart move.

The outfield area, which was once off limits, is now vast and spacious. There are special bars, a team store, frozen custard stand, fried chicken stand, play areas, and even a couple of mini golf holes. The piece de resistance is the Hall of Fame, which is tucked into the LF corner. It’s really lovely, covers over 50 years of baseball history without sounding bitter, and when coupled with a trip to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum near downtown, makes for a really fun and educational day trip that also happens to include a major league game. If you go to KC, do all three. You’ll get the video, you’ll get a sense of justice, you’ll feel good about humanity.

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Other Observations

  • Billy Butler was in the cage behind the dugout and taking extra BP. It must’ve worked because he hit the winning home run that night.
  • As impressed as I was by the Cowboys Stadium video boards, the single huge board at Kauffman rates nearly as high. The vertical orientation allows for an uncompromising combination of video and text information. It proved extremely useful during the rain delay as well, because it has plenty of space to support two simultaneous video feeds: the Red Sox-Rangers game and Chiefs-Falcons exhibition.
  • The bad seat I had was due in part to the way the new press box cut into the original upper deck. I’ve incorporated such a feature into some of my sketches. Now I know what to watch for.
  • Maybe BBQ is old hat in KC, maybe not. Whatever the case, it wouldn’t hurt to have one of the well known pit masters have a stand of their own in the ballpark, whether it’s Arthur Bryant’s or Gates. I had an Arthur Bryant’s “sandwich” before the game, and it heaven wrapped in butcher paper.
  • The team offers four different grades or levels of tours, based mostly on access. The cheapest tour offers basic info and access. The tour I took at $20 provided a free Kauffman Stadium hat, team magazine, and a longer running time. The most expensive tour allows fans on the field to watch batting practice.

Wrap-up

Kauffman Stadium rocks in many ways, even if the team doesn’t. If you’re planning a ballpark trip or even have already been there prior to the remodel, it’s worth going. It’s not garish or overstated, it’s family friendly, and it’s a great educational opportunity when coupled with the Negro Leagues Museum or even the American Jazz Museum, which is in the same building. This is my first true endorsement on the trip, and it’s a full one.
Back Camera

9 thoughts on “Day 6: Kauffman Stadium

  1. KC and Seattle are the two stadiums at the top of my list to see

  2. Sounds like a great park. Kauffman and Safeco are at the top of my list to visit.

  3. Interesting that the Royals had no interest in coming downtown. It’s a reminder that in many markets your average baseball stadium-goers are families in the suburbs. It’s going to be interesting to see if MLB returns to more of a retail model as large corporations are forced to scale back. That alone may say a lot about the A’s future.

    • Interesting that the Royals had no interest in coming downtown. It’s a reminder that in many markets your average baseball stadium-goers are families in the suburbs. It’s going to be interesting to see if MLB returns to more of a retail model as large corporations are forced to scale back. That alone may say a lot about the A’s future.

      Rob! It’s you! I think we would both agree that the KC Metro is nowhere near Silicon Valley (or the Bay Area in general) when it comes to corporate support. Also, if the Royals had shared, say, Arrowhead Stadium with the Chiefs, they’d be playing in downtown KC right now. The true reason they didn’t relocate to a downtown locale is because Kaufmann was (miraculously) designed as an excellent ballpark from the get go. Not sure what page it’s on, but if you go to the Skyscrapercity blog/never built stadiums, you’ll see renderings of the proposed downtown KC ballpark for the Royals (interesting stuff).

  4. That KC HOF video is fantastic. I want that for the A’s.

  5. Not news but the newspapers need to write something about the t-rights during this lull.

  6. The (crappy) team with this beautiful taxpayer-paid ballpark is drawing about 3K per game more than the A’s, also a crappy team, but in a crappy ballpark. Then I see that the teams in the oldest parks in MLB (Cubs, Red Sox) are drawing 20K more than the A’s, while the team in the third oldest park (Dodgers) is drawing 24K more per game. None of those parks was paid for by taxpayers. Then one looks at some really beautiful taxpayer parks such as Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Cleveland, where the teams are barely better in attendance than the A’s, or in the case of Cleveland, actually behind, and you start thinking that on-field performance matters. But then you look at Tampa Bay, with a great team but a really crappy ballpark and you start wondering. Would that terrific Tampa Bay team fill up the Coliseum? Or, importantly, do well in San Jose?

    I was born and raised in L.A. and was a Dodger fan from the time they moved to the coast—thus my screen name—but while living in the Bay Area, I adopted the A’s as my American League team. To be honest, if they hook up in the World Series, I’m for the Dodgers. The point here is that L.A. is baseball country. The Dodgers thrived from Day One. And the Angels, who came later, have also thrived. The Giants always struggled. So did the A’s. It’s my sense that the SF Bay Area is about football. Oakland foolishly spent money it didn’t have to lure the Raiders back from L.A. A little town like Santa Clara has now (foolishly, IMO) somehow decided that they can handle paying some serious money to host the 49ers. Maybe they get lucky and they get the Raiders, too.

    ITSM that certain towns are baseball towns and others are football towns. It’s also my belief that the Bay Area is oriented towards football, to the point where two MLB teams may not be able to draw that magic 3M attendance, despite the population. L.A. is a baseball town. In addition to the Dodgers, look how well the Angels do. But then there were the Chargers, who started in L.A., but couldn’t gain any traction so they moved to San Diego. And then the Rams. The Rams were consistently good, but they left town. Not enough people cared. Broke my heart. I loved the L.A. Rams. But not the St Louis Rams. And now the Rams are talking about leaving St Louis. Maybe for L.A., which doesn’t really care all that much. Why would the Rams leave? St Louis is a baseball town. The Cardinals own it.

    I’ve said before that I believe the only hope for the A’s staying in the Bay Area is San Jose. Oakland (and the surrounding areas) has proven that it is not a baseball town. I remember World Series games in Oakland not being sold out. Despite the pleas of the Oakland crowd on the site, the fact is Oakland is not a baseball town. If I were Lew Wolff, I wouldn’t spend a nickel on a park in Oakland. But is San Jose a baseball town? Who knows? We should keep in mind that when the Giants moved into Phone Company park, they had a good team, led by the Balco poster child and also went to the World Series soon thereafter. What’s the A’s three year horizon? Not good, IMO. The Giants moved into their new park as a contender. Can anybody say the same about the A’s in 2014? They’re mediocre now and they’ll have three more years of being mediocre. It’s not as if there will be a lot of excitement about a new MLB team moving to town, no matter how bad it may be. Everybody in the target audience will know all about the A’s.

    I hate to say it, but if I were Lew Wolff, I wouldn’t really care all that much if San Jose kept screwing around about committing to a new ball park. I’d just keep putting a team out on the field in Oakland, keep on sucking up revenue sharing $$ from MLB and wait until the economy improves. Then, I’d stick some stupid politicians in Charlotte, San Antonio, Portland, or wherever, for the cost of a new ballpark. Even in these bad times, they’ll do it. They’ll come up with a study that shows the wonderful economic benefits for the taxpayers if they pony up $500M for the wonders of MLB. And somehow or other, the voters will go for it. They always go for it.

    Oh, and I always thought the Santa Clara County fairgrounds area was the best place for a ballpark. Then you wouldn’t have to deal with shoehorning a park with a woefully small number of seats into what’s essentially an inadequate space. The desire to be downtown is understood, but a privately financed park of only 32K attendance is going to require seriously high ticket prices. I hope all of you San Jose folk will be able to afford to go to games. And that’s yet another rub: if only corporate dudes can afford to go to games, why would the local baseball fan care about the A’s presence if he can’t get in the ball park without telling his kids to go without lunch for a week?

  7. @Old Blue

    San Jose is the “richest big city” (Over 500k in population) in the United States when it comes to per capita and disposable income.

    Oakland is not safe hence it drives away families and casual fans. But not in the South Bay, if the Sharks (hockey for crying out loud) can be successful then why not baseball?

    San Jose has the wealth, corporate base, and population to have a team thrive for years and years. San Jose fans would adore the A’s like they do with the Sharks. Plus with a safe downtown location where local bars/restaurants are already built for the Sharks it is a no-brainer.

    Ticket prices would be about the same as the Giants and people out here with the great evening summertime weather would pay it…Including myself and I work in Tech along and live out here as we have $$ to spend.

    But why drive to Oakland/SF consistently as it is too far and in Oakland’s case in a shit hole of a location from the South Bay? It is too tiring to drive 2 hours round trip or more to watch baseball on a weekday night. The Warriors are the only exception because of lack of options in the market hence why they draw well in a shitty location and even when they suck.

    Location of the stadium is everything and San Jose has that. If Oakland did and Lew Wolff could make money on it he would have it built now.

    That is why Lew Wolff is willing to pay the entire 461 million dollar ballpark in San Jose because he has a safe downtown location, corporate wealth, and an affluent population.

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