Have a baseball road trip coming up? Well, in a bid to help you with your upcoming journeys, Big League Stew has solicited the help of the locals. Over the next month or so, we'll be hitting up our usual guest blogger crew to feature 10 tips for enjoying each of the 30 ballparks like the locals do. Have a suggestion in addition to the ones listed here? Make sure to list it in the comments below.
As it marks its 40th year, Kauffman Stadium has hosted more losses by the home team than any stadium deserves to have been subject to. But throughout the many long summers of its existence, it’s still one of the best and most original places in the league to take in a game.
No, Kauffman doesn’t have a downtown skyline or a river just beyond the outfield. Nestled east of downtown Kansas City off of two interstates, it instead has the cacophony of sounds from the innumerable tractor-trailers whizzing east and west on I-70 just beyond its walls.
But as life zooms on by just to the north, Kauffman is a three-hour time-warp. The fountains just beyond the outfield walls have a mesmerizing charm that’s neither cheesy nor trite. And if you’re downwind on an exceptionally muggy Midwestern night, they can serve as one hell of a misting fan too.
The stadium was renovated before the 2009 season, and the outfield concourses were added, along with other features like more premium seating, a large HD video board on the crown scoreboard and kids’ activities. Those taxpayer-funded upgrades were the carrot for MLB to bring the All-Star Game to Kauffman Stadium in 2012, a three-day period that Robinson Cano will never forget.
To get to the stadium you’ll need a car – there’s no public transportation to and from the game. (That’s Kansas City’s woeful inadequacy) But there’s also little traffic. That’s a nice side benefit of being next to two major interstates. You’ll zip on right in, especially if you get off at Raytown Road or Manchester Trafficway. And once you’re in the gates, it’s almost impossible to not enjoy yourself. Yes, even if the Royals are losing.
1, Look at the secondary market first, not second. Perhaps in anticipation of a competitive season (which is now miles away if you listen to the locals panic), the Royals introduced dynamic ticket pricing for single game tickets for the 2013 season. It’s not a new tactic; teams like the San Francisco Giants have used the model, but it’s certainly taking getting used to in Kansas City and it seems that the market still hasn’t worked itself out.
With dynamic pricing, ticket price depends on demand and the quality of the opponent. Games against “premier” teams will be listed for more than the Twins or Indians. But in a lot of cases this season, buying directly from the Royals is significantly more than going to a ticket broker like StubHub. On StubHub, lower level tickets between home plate and the dugouts have been listed for as little as $25 (lowest face value price: $44 each) and were substantially cheaper than the Royals’ ticket office for a Friday night game against the Yankees earlier in the year. For that game, yours truly saved $54 off face value on two lower level tickets.
2. Sit on the third base side. During a day game, sun angle doesn’t really matter as the entire stadium will be enveloped in sun on a sunny day. But if you’re going to a night game, grab seats on the third base side or inside of first base on the lower level if you don’t want to sit in the sun all evening. On a muggy Kansas City night, that will save you a lot of sweat.
3. Tailgate. Yeah, Kansas City’s football team may be known for tailgating more than Kansas City’s baseball team, but no matter when you head out to Kauffman, you’ll always be within a few cars of someone having a tailgate. Park early and go talk to your parking neighbors. Don’t worry, we’re very hospitable.
4. Bring your barbecue to the tailgate. Yeah, you’re from out of town and you’re not going to have a grill or tailgate fixings. No big deal. You’re probably going to want to sample some barbecue while you’re in town, so just grab it to go and make it your tailgate food. If you’re staying near the Plaza, you must get a Z-Man and fries from Oklahoma Joe’s. Or, there’s a Gates not too far from the stadium where you can get, no lie, a four-boner plate. Or go to Arthur Bryant’s. Or Jack Stack. There are no wrong options. Our own Kevin Kaduk wrote about his Kansas City barbecue preferences before last year's All-Star game
5. Want to eat in the stadium? Don’t worry, you can get barbecue at the stadium too, but it’s not nearly as good that way. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Your best bet if you’re going to eat at the ballpark is to be adventurous and try the “Pulled pork mac n’ jack sausage” or go for the “Royal bacon blue fries,” which yes, have bacon and bleu cheese on them. There’s also a burnt end cheesesteak, but that seems a little sacrilegious in the home of the best barbecue in the country.
6. Going in early? Grab a beer at Rivals. Rivals is the sports bar overlooking right field and it’s the best spot to hang out before the game and watch batting practice, provided you’re not looking to catch a homer or two. Getting there when the gates open is also your only shot at getting a seat or table unless you want to wait a long time or don’t mind standing.
7. Take a walk. Make it a point to turn a lap or two around the stadium at some point before the game or in the middle innings. Minus a few steps behind the premium seating behind the plate, you can see the entire field from the Kauffman concourse and the redesigned outfield plaza has some incredible sightlines to relax with your favorite beverage and take in an inning or two while you watch the sun set behind the stadium. Pro tip: The George Brett statue is located behind the fountains and provides an incredible spot to snap your picture when the water shoots to its full height.
8. If it’s a blowout, go to the Hall of Fame. The Royals Hall of Fame is located behind the left-field bullpen and is a great way to escape the heat or get through a long inning. It won’t take you more than 15 minutes unless you’re one of those museum-goers who reads every word of every exhibit, and the No. 5 for George Brett made out of 3,154 baseballs (his career hit total) is pretty cool. You can also see the Royals only World Series trophy.
9. Bet on the Hot Dog Race. Milwaukee has the sausages, Washington has the presidents, Kansas City has the hot dogs. The Hot Dog Race is contested either with people in costumes or on the video board, and either way is much more fun if you make a pick before the race. Pro Tip: If it’s the animated version go with either mustard or relish. Ketchup is a serious underachiever. If it’s live, do you trust your scouting instincts? Also, check the schedule. The Royals are giving away Hot Dog bobbleheads this year. Yes, seriously. Sometimes when you run out of bobblehead worthy players you have to take drastic measures.
10. Do NOT sing along to Friends in Low Places. After he played his series of consecutive shows at Kansas City’s Sprint Center and went to spring training with the Royals prior to that, Garth Brooks’ “Friends in Low Places” has become the Kauffman Stadium anthem.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking now. “It’s because the Royals are always at the bottom of the standings!” And with every loss that thought becomes more and more appropriate.
Despite the connotations, Royals fans have inexplicably embraced the song. Maybe it’s because the stadium beer truly does chase the blues away? No matter the score, don’t join in. If we wanted to escape the depression that comes with a 4-18 stretch, we wouldn’t be at the ballpark. Royals fans are tougher than that. Kauffman Stadium is better than that. And besides, it’ll be replaced by “We are the Champions” soon enough, right?
What are your favorite tips for visiting Kauffman Stadium?
Previous parks: Citi Field, Marlins Park, Great American Ball Park, Petco Park,Comerica Park, Progressive Park, AT&T Park, Rogers Centre, Wrigley Field, O.Co Coliseum, Yankee Stadium, Coors Field, Minute Maid Park, Fenway Park, PNC Park,U.S. Cellular Field, Safeco Field, Target Field, Rangers Ballpark, Camden Yards, Turner Field, Nationals Park