January 28, 2009
You might think Kauffman Stadium is a curious park to help resurrect our Big Ballpark Review series and I'll admit that your suspicions are not unfounded. When The K opens up in 2009, it'll be showing off $250 million in renovations and the changes are expected to take the home of the Royals to a new level. There'll be new restaurants, a revamped loge level, a carousel. seating near the famed fountains and more. Team officials are hoping that fans will be receiving an all-new experience and that ther revenues will take a nice hike.
Truthfully, though, I feel confident rolling out some recommendations for Kauffman because I know the core experience will stay the same. The K was my home ballpark for three seasons and you always knew what you were getting when you went there. It's a stadium that was built in the '70s, but always felt — cramped concourses aside — much newer than that. The sightlines were always great, even if the baseball wasn't and the fanbase was always focused and knowledgeable. Kauffman is the great hidden gem in America's collection of ballparks and I expect that it's going to remain that way.
For an insider's look at visiting Kauffman Stadium, follow the jump. To submit tips on your home ballpark, e-mail 'Duk at email@example.com.
Facts and figures (More at Ballparks.com)
Address: 1 Royal Way, Kansas City, MO 64129 * (816) 921-8000
Cost: $70 million (original), $250 million (renovations)
Dimensions: Foul lines 330, power alleys 375, center field 400, backstop 60, foul-territory small
Biggest moment: On Oct. 26, the Royals beat the Cardinals, 2-1, in Game 6 of the World Series. The contest included the famous blown call by first base umpire Don Denkinger and kept the Royals alive for the first and only championship in franchise history.
Fun fact: The high-definition scoreboard is the largest in the world. (Or at least it was when it debuted on Opening Day 2008. Who can keep track of such things?)
Not-so-fun-fact: Kauffman hasn't hosted the All-Star Game since 1973.
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How to get there
"I-70 and I-435 swing right by the stadium so it’s not hard. There are about five different arteries that get you to the sports complex efficiently, but the lack of fans always make the commute efficient. There might be a boost in attendance with the new renovations but like the Kansas City Airport, Kauffman is a great in-and-out venue." — Ryan Wood
|AL EAST||NL EAST|
|N.Y. Yankees||N.Y. Mets|
|AL CENTRAL||NL CENTRAL|
|Chi. White Sox||Chi. Cubs|
|AL WEST||St. Louis|
|L.A. Angels||NL WEST|
"Parking is probably the best I've ever experienced with sporting events. There is plenty of room with Arrowhead and Kauffman sharing lots and it's really easy to come in right off the interstate, and get back out on to the interstate. My favorite part about going to Royals games is that you don't have to worry about leaving in the 7th or 8th inning to "beat traffic" because it all runs so smoothly." — Paul Jacobsen, Kansas City, Mo.
"The best way there is by car. Parking is $9 and there are normally some decent tailgates going on, don't be surprised to find a few kegs and people offering free kegstands when they realize they have no chance at floating the keg." — Wade Welch, Osawatomie, Kan.
Before/after the game
"For Kansas City barbecue, the top two tourist spots are Gates Bar-B-Q. and Arthur Bryant's. If you're going to stop at one of these places, go with Gates, but make sure you know what you want before the counter lady asks 'May I Help You?' and make sure to order a large strawberry soda with your order. If you want to experience barbecue heaven, though, try Smokin' Guns, which in a warehouse district in North Kansas City. Their hours can get a bit tricky, so doublecheck that they're open before going. It's worth the trip, though. It's one of three restaurants in the country I'd buy a plane ticket to get to and all barbecue pales in comparison. Take a picture next to all the trophies they've won for their food.
"After you're done eating, make sure to check out the Negro League Baseball Museum and the American Jazz Museum near 18th and Vine. Harry Truman's Presidential Library isn't that far away from The K, either." — 'Duk
"Going to a Royals game feels like an excuse – to leave work early, drink beer, wear a Steve Balboni jersey (as if you need an excuse), and eat barbecue. For the latter, you’ve got a ton of options in KC, but no place better than LC’s Bar-B-Q (5800 Blue Parkway). For the left two-thirds of the city, it’s on the way to the stadium, in a wooded stretch of KC’s east side great for discarding no-longer needed human bodies (I’m sorry, good barbecue comes with a side of fear). Like so many other KC barbecue joints, LC’s is all about the burnt ends: crispy and fatty, smothered in LC’s spicy sauce and served on plain ol’ white bread. For the full Kauffman experience, take LC’s to the ballpark, pull out the lawn chairs, crack a couple of Boulevards, and fire up some Tramp Stamp Bingo (everyone starts with a butterfly) as the lovely ladies of Raytown lumber into the park." — Baron Von Snakin, Leawood, Kan.
"Since the stadium is more or less in a suburban location by the highway, there’s not much room for entertainment outside of the game itself. And since everyone drives, that means a few hardy souls will arrive early and set up a grill in the parking lot for a tailgate. The tailgate has become a Kansas City tradition over the years (thanks mostly to the Royals fellow Sports Complex tenant, the Chiefs) so it’s not uncommon to spot people hanging out in the parking lot, drinking some beers and grilling some hot dogs or hamburgers before a game. It’s a good time, but just make sure you drop your coals in one of the specifically marked bins ('Hot coals here'). Every year there are a couple of yahoos who decide to slide their grill under their car for safekeeping. I enjoy explosions and fire just as much as the next guy, but I prefer you don’t ignite your car on fire when you’re parked a few feet away from my ride." — Craig Brown, The Royals Authority
"Uhh, Taco Bell ? There’s not much of anything around the stadium, so you’re pregame fun will have to be inside and your postgame will have to be 15 minutes away in downtown. The lack of early-arriving fans does make batting practice fun. Go to the seats down the right- and left-field lines and you’ve got a chance at getting a ball." — R.W.
"After the Royals lose, hop on I-70 and head west to Harry’s Country Club in the City Market. If you smell Axe Bodyspray, you’re in the Power and Light district. Turn around. And take tomorrow off because things are about to get sloppy. At Harry’s you’ll sit outside, slam $2 cans of Schlitz, sing along to Johnny Cash and George Jones, get coaxed into a whiskey flight, eat a fried bologna sandwich, find true love for 10 minutes, smoke a cigar, puke in the parking lot, and catch a cab home — preferably in that order." — B.V.S.
"No bar near The K is suitable for post-game drinking, so you'll have to drive a ways. Because the Royals are likely losing, beat the I-435 rush back to Johnson County and head to the Brookside and Waldo bar districts of Kansas City, Mo., along Wornall Road. They're the best in town. Charlie Hooper's Bar and Grille is in Brookside and has one of the largest beer selections in town. Get the Boulevard Pale Ale, though, which is Kansas City's own delicious brew. To close out the night, head south on Wornall to Bobby Baker's Lounge — if you like holes in the wall with character. It's a dimly lit old-style lounge, but the beer is cheap and you'll have no shortage of stories to tell the next day. Don't forget to pick up a souvenir Bobby Baker's tank top." — Amanda Hay
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What to eat
"Although Kansas City is the BBQ capital of the world — please don’t try to dispute this, it’s a fact — the stadium doesn’t have a good option. Yes, they have a Gates down the first base line, but you get less food for your money than you would if you went to the actual restaurant, so I can’t recommend it. The grilled brats and hot dogs are tasty … Especially when washed down with Kansas City’s local brew, the Boulevard Pale Ale. " — C.B.
"If there's one area that The K really needed to improve on, it's the food. Hopefully a few of the new restaurants will help the situation, but peanuts and Dippin' Dots were your only safe option back when I was a frequent visitor." — 'Duk
Where to sit
"I always prefer the Field Box and Field Plaza seats down the lines in foul territory. Kauffman Stadium, being a rare baseball-only park built in the cookie cutter era, has great sightlines so there’s not too many bad seats in the house. Plus, they’re affordable compared to most stadiums." — R.W.
"Part of the renovations include putting seats beyond the outfield fence and in front of the iconic fountains. To me, this is similar to Boston installing seats on top of the Monster a few years back where you can finally view a game from an entirely new vantage point while hanging around (or in Fenway’s case, on top of) a unique part of the stadium. The outfield box seats will cost $25. Bring your umbrella, because even if it’s sunny, when you’re in front of those fountains, you’re going to get wet." — C.B.
"The best place to buy a ticket is the Hy-Vee view level, $12 a ticket. It's in the upperdeck, but don't bother sitting there. Kauffman won't come close to selling out! You can move down behind the dugout on either side pretty easily. Where else can you sit 10 rows up from the dugout for $12?" — W.W.
"The new HD scoreboard is absolutely mind-blowing. It's reason alone to come out to The K. I'm all for Wrigley's traditional ballpark, but this scoreboard is something to see." — P.J.
"The best thing about Kaufman is that it is a beautiful park. The grass and fountains in the outfield, I-70 running behind the outfield, and the blue seats make a great view." — W.W.
"The fountains are an amazing touch and make you feel as if you’re in the coolest baseball stadium in America. It’s such a relaxing addition to the atmosphere." — R.W.
"The best thing about the Royals is that you can decide at 5:10 that you want to take in that night's game at 6:10, jump in your car, stop at Gates to pick up some "Hi, may I help you?" barbecue, fight I-435 at the Grandview Triangle in rush hour and still get to The K in time to get a decent seat at an affordable price. Plus the beers aren't as outrageously priced as at other stadiums, even the premium brands. Your money goes a lot further in Kansas City than in other, bigger markets." — A.H.
"Through the seasons, things have changed. The Astroturf was ripped out following the '93 season and replaced with natural grass. The old rainbow seating was replaced with a much more aesthetically pleasing blue a couple of years later. The fences were lowered and moved in and then raised and moved back. Those were all small potatoes compared to what's happening to the stadium now. I’m buying the hype and expect my first game at the K in 2009 to be like my first game ever at the stadium." — C.B.
Have an insider's tip for Kauffman Stadium that you didn't see listed here? E-mail it with your name and hometown to 'Duk at firstname.lastname@example.org for possible inclusion in the post.
Big League Stew's Big Ballpark Review is an occasional series and will hopefully feature all 30 MLB ballparks at some point. It is based on recommendations from you, the reader, so if you don't see your home park in the grid above, get your reviews in now at the email address above!