Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Reason #11: The Park.

Kauffman Stadium is older than I am, and a lot better looking. Between 1970 and 1973, 4 new major league stadiums opened their doors, all of them round, symmetrical fields with artificial turf, the sort of place for which the term “stadium” was somehow more appropriate than “park” or “field”. Riverfront Stadium, Three Rivers Stadium, and Veterans Stadium have been long since retired, as has Busch Stadium (which originally opened with grass in 1966, but switched to turf a few years later.) And this doesn’t even count places like the Metrodome, which opened in 1982 and is already slated for destruction, or the dearly imploded Kingdome, or Jack Murphy Stadium, or the monstrosity that was Stade Olympique.

Only Kauffman Stadium remains. Only Kauffman Stadium, among the parks of its era, was built solely for baseball, with proper sightlines and seats pointing the right way and that enormous crown which focused all your attention towards centerfield. Once the A’s, Mets, and Yankees move into their new ballparks, Kauffman Stadium will be the fifth-oldest park in the majors.

Fenway Park: 1912
Wrigley Field: 1916
Dodger Stadium: 1962
Angel Stadium: 1966
Kauffman Stadium: 1973

Skydome...er, the Rogers Centre, which opened in the middle of the 1989 season, will rank sixth.

The bond measure which passed a few years ago all but assures it will remain the Royals’ home for another quarter-century, for good reason: it’s a terrific ballpark. It’s easy to get to, the parking lot is the biggest this side of Great America, and the fountains are one of the most distinctive flourishes for any stadium in baseball, if not all of sports. Once they ripped out the turf a decade ago, you really could not file an aesthetic complaint against the place. The one legitimate gripe was that the sports complex, set off from Kansas City proper at the confluence of two major highways, was impossible to reach on foot and was not integrated into the natural rhythms of the city at all.

But today, when more than half the teams in baseball play in a mallpark that’s less than two decades old, and almost every one of them has been wedged into an urbanized downtown setting where you can walk from the business district to your seat, then stop at a bar on the way out – Kauffman Stadium feels almost delightfully retro. The ballpark isn’t a way station between dinner on the waterfront and a nightcap at a piano bar. It’s a place you go to watch a baseball game, and it was designed for that singular purpose. I love it. And I can’t wait to see what it looks like when all the ongoing renovations – an enormous jumbotron, an even larger crown scoreboard, wider concourses, more food options, etc. – are completed by Opening Day 2009.

37 comments:

Mike said...

I still think it was a long term mistake opting for the Sprint Center rather than a downtown ballpark. I no longer live in KC, but I am hearing from my friends how promising the Power & Light district is. Too bad instead of enjoying it on a warm summer night before/after one of the 80+ Royals home games people will get to enjoy it during the ocassional concert.

Minda said...

I have read a bajillion glowing pieces about beloved Kauffman Stadium, and each of them warms my heart. I love The K; I have always loved it, and I will for...well, forever. I don't want to consider the possibility that the Royals may someday have to play somewhere else. Thanks for another reminder of a GREAT reason to be a Royals fan; the K is a stadium -- nay, a ballpark -- of which Royals fans can be proud.

jason said...

"set off from Kansas City proper at the confluence of two major highways, was impossible to reach on foot and was not integrated into the natural rhythms of the city at all."

But that IS integrated into the natural rhythms of the city -- "drive 25-40 minutes to get where you're going". The fact is that 98% of KCians never go anywhere near downtown and that will still be true, give or take rounding, after P/L district.

It's the perfect ballpark (and sports complex) for KC, period. I sincerely mean no insult.

Mike said...

Thank you, Rany, for helping to make the argument that Kauffman Stadium is, and will continue to be, among the finest ballparks in Major League Baseball. I get so upset at all the comments I read from people who feel that The K should have been abandoned in favor of something new in downtown KC. Those people just don't realize that KC already has a jewel of a venue, and I'm happy that you agree with how I feel. It's a fantastic place to sit back, enjoy a brat and a beer, and watch a game.

Isaac said...

I have heard the arguments for some time now on building a downtown ballpark and I am a staunch opponent to that idea. I have been to many stadiums over the years, some that exist and some that are long since deceased, and the K is the best I have ever been to. People in KC make the argument of it being far from the city. I live in LA and a half hour isn't far from anything. It takes me as long as two hours to get to an Angels game sometimes. The K is one of the easiest stadiums to get in and out of. Anyone who disagrees with me should try Dodger stadium sometime. It's got great parking unmatched by anything I've seen for the most part. Chavez Ravine has a ton of parking as do a few others. The bottom line is that there are a few reasons you replace a ballpark. The ballpark is a piece of crap like the cookie cutters or the domes or the ballpark is 80 years old like Comisky, Tiger stadium, Yankee Stadium, and Fenway. I do want to mention that the Big A (that's what it used to be called)in Anaheim used to be one of the cookie cutters until the earthquake of 94. They have since torn down all the outfield seats and remodeled the thing quite impressively. The best I've seen as far as a remodeling goes and I hope our job is as good. The K continues to get raving reviews from every announcer of another team that comes into town (I use the dish) and has been ranked in the top 5 in the league among fans although it is one of the oldest. Why scrap a good thing?

zappalives said...

i wonder if brevity served you well this time, rany.
i love the K, but whats great about is some of the things you didnt mention, in particular, the bluesy jazz riffs coming from the organ during stretches. at no other ballpark will you here funky goodness and a boppy organ played for your leisure at a ballgame. too bad mr. lemonade went away...

Rich said...

I try to take in a ballgame in every city where I go for business...which isn't very many these days...but I haven't found anything that compares to the K.

Shea stadium in NY is nice, but it a ride on the subway to get there...and when you sit in the upper deck, the roof gets in the way of your vision.

The Rangers play in a nice stadium...but the drive to it from Dallas or Fort Worth is nothing but traffic, and you wouldn't dare try to eat in a place around there...way too many tourists..

The K may not be in downtown...but thats ok. IT is the destination...

Rich said...

I try to take in a ballgame in every city where I go for business...which isn't very many these days...but I haven't found anything that compares to the K.

Shea stadium in NY is nice, but it a ride on the subway to get there...and when you sit in the upper deck, the roof gets in the way of your vision.

The Rangers play in a nice stadium...but the drive to it from Dallas or Fort Worth is nothing but traffic, and you wouldn't dare try to eat in a place around there...way too many tourists..

The K may not be in downtown...but thats ok. IT is the destination...

pieman said...

Rany - I have been a Royals fan from afar since 1969 up here in the State of Maine. I made one trip to KC to see the Royals and I must say it was a beautiful experience in a beautiful park. I love Fenway, but Kauffman is right there and I hope it never changes. I remember the trip fondly as I read Rob Neyer's "Feeding the Green Monster" on the trip out. The fans were exceptional and the game (while not special in outcome) will remain special for me as I am not sure if I ever will get back.

Anonymous said...

gary gygax,

may he rest in peace.

before beer and girls there was AD & D.

KA said...

Anyone know where I can get a large, crown-shaped hdtv for home?

kcghost said...

I have always loved Royals Stadium. It is just a great place. Unlike most I have aways found the scoreboard to be a cheesy affair.

As for the down town stadium thing, I haven't seen a single guy who keeps chirping about it put a single dollar of their own up for its construction.

amr said...

I'm a Twins fan who quite enjoys the Royals (especially after ditching the black). One minor correction in your article: The metrodome isn't slated for destruction. Unless the Vikings surprise a lot of us and get funding for a new suburban stadium, the Metrodome will continue to host them.

ChaimMKeller said...

The K is great - but, happily, it's been here for years, and will continue to be. I thought this series was reasons to be excited about the Royals in 2008 specifically.

That said, the fact that I'll be making my second trip to the K this summer (I live in NYC) excites me to no end about it, and I guess (though you had no way of knowing that) makes it a specifically 2008 thing for me.

AJ said...

I didn't realize it was going to be the 5th oldest in the majors in a couple of years.

They should write a book or teach a class on how to do things right when they study the late 60's and the decisions that gave birth to that place.

Great column

Anonymous said...

I am a die hard, displaced Royals fan living in Dallas. The K is much easier to get to the "The Ballpark in Arlington". From Downtown Dallas, it takes a minimum of 45 minutes to get to the field. There is not enough close parking, and it is a zoo to leave. As is the case for most baseball fans in DFW, it takes a good hour to get home from the games, which usually means getting home around midnight from games.

The ballpark here is nice, however it does not match the beauty of "The K".

I am split in my thoughts about a "Downtown Stadium". I think there are some legitimate benefits, but there is an equal amount of draw backs. The bottom line is that if the Royals can produce a winning product, the fans will come. Let's hope that Dayton Moore's plan will bring a brand of baseball that will wake the "Sleeping Giant" (fans!) in Kansas City. There is nothing better than a packed K.

-jry

Anonymous said...

Jason -- I'm sure you still think that the world is flat too. Wake up buddy, people realize that maybe neighborhoods in Overland Park and Olathe that look exactly the same as every other suburb in America maybe aren't quite as cool or fun or entertaining as a downtown setting. And if only 2% of KC is going downtown these days, man we've got some good population growth!

Jason, as many say to umpires at the good ol' K, pull your head out of your butt because you're missing something great

Anonymous said...

Great post Rany - and I totally agree. I love the K and love taking my kids there.

On another note, I found a great Rob and Rany type format (not as good of course) at www.beetleanddubya.blogspot.com

They talk some Royals, as well as Tigers and Chiefs.

jason said...

anonymous 3:48-

I love the way you assume things about people based on their comments. In fact I have lived in NYC for nearly 20 years (you know, a REAL city), so you don't need to convince me that there are places better than Overland Park.

But I have friends and family in the area (both city and 'burbs) and visit regularly. In fact I was downtown a couple of months ago. Had a good look at all the new stuff that's been going up Visited a new bar near the Sprint Center. It was...nice. Spacious. Plenty of tables available, and the staff wasn't very busy so refills came quickly. Do you get my drift? NOT MANY PEOPLE THERE.

In other words, dear, if you have convinced yourself that downtown is bustling or vibrant or resembles an actual urban core in anyway -- or that it is regularly visited by more than an extremely SMALL proportion of people in the metro area -- then you are quite delusional indeed.

The people aren't downtown, they're driving on I-435. Leave the K where it is.

Chris said...

I've gone to the K many times a year for the last 30 years (I was in diapers for the first few!). I love that seeing a baseball game there is the sole attraction. I think it would detract from the game if there were people there who only wanted to see a few innings and then go shopping or whatever. I was really against moving the stadium downtown because I hate going downtown. I avoid it if at all possible. Most of the people I know never go downtown. But if the stadium were downtown, I would go there to see the Royals. I wouldn't stick around very long afterwards, though. I'm really glad it is where it is to for the next quarter century. GO ROYALS!!!

Anonymous said...

I grew up in KC but live in DC now. We are paying big $$ for a new downtown stadium. The biggest concern is lack of parking - an issue that Royals fans have no clue about (consider yourself lucky). And while I can take the Metro to the stadium, I will be smashed in small trains with about 10,000 other people, some drunk, some stinky, to ride home. Metro works great about 75% of the time, the rest of the time you are stuck underground in tunnels for long periods of time. How I long for the KC days when I strolled to my car after the game, sat comfortably in an air-conditioned car and listened to the game wrap-up on the radio as I drove home. My other pet peave - People here don't show up for the games till they are half-way over (Wizards, Nats, Capitols) cause they are all in the neighborhood bars and restaurants. Royals fans have it great.

Adrian said...

I moved from KC four years ago and one of the things I miss the most is the K. I had made attending opening day something of a ritual. It truly is a jewel.

Jason has it right, there are more roadways, per capita, in KC than any other American city. Sprawl is one of its defining characteristics. The park in KC is fine where it is. I will make a point to get back there after the renovations are complete.

Besides, there are other means to draw people downtown. A little known fact about Kansas City is that a river runs through it! The city leadership has hid that fact. If they really wanted to draw people downtown, they could figure out how to incorporate the river into the city landscape. Have you ever been to San Antonio?

Jay said...

Read an article in the KC Star (Thursday I believe) where they talked to Torri Hunter. When they were trying to get him to come here, David Glass showed him what all they had planned for the "K" and Torii said he was actually amazed by what he was seeing. Between that and the money offered made Torii rethink his comments made in the past about coming to KC.

So, for what it's worth, count Torii Hunter as one who gives the renovations a big thumbs up.

xlibro said...

I haven't lived in KC for 18 years now, but I still miss the K. I have gotten back for at least one ball game the last few years, and even sat in the midst of some Red Sox fans last year when I caught Dice-K's 1st start. While it was clear nothing would ever replace Fenway in their hearts, they had some really nice things to say about the ballpark. nice to hear from outsiders what most of us have known all along.

Anonymous said...

--"there are more roadways, per capita, in KC than any other American city. Sprawl is one of its defining characteristics."

Are there still more miles of boulevard than any city except Paris in KC? And more fountains than Rome (including the ones outside of banks).

glen said...

Everyone else here seems to be most concerned about the pretty fountains, marble urinals, the quick drive home and the compliments from visiting announcers about KC's quaint little park. Yes, it's the envy of fans and teams everywhere who play in crowded, inconvenient and rowdy stadiums filled to the brim with rabid fans in September. Those poor bastards -- they don't know the upsides of countless rows of empty $20 club level seats.

Sorry, but dancing on the grave of a downtown stadium doesn't erase the fact it was the only realistic shot KC had to somehow transform the franchise. Maybe it would have, maybe not, but we DO know that the K is a proven failure as an attraction for a bad team, which the Royals will probably be more often than not. And Rany's analysis notwithstanding, MLB.com revenue won't save them, especially when the Yankees' new stadium restores the gargantuan imbalance. Luxury box sales alone in the new Steinbrenner Death Star could provide the Yankees $300 million in cash each year. Then add 53,000 season tickets, concessions, naming rights, parking, a bigger Yes Network contract...in a year, the Yankees will be a $1 billion revenue team among a tribe of 30 now making $6 billion.

Meanwhile, the Royals are building a River-Kwai-bridge vanity project that might give us the extra millions to re-up Miguel Olivo.

The Royals and Jackson County authorities don't deserve applause for cutting off any serious study of a downtown stadium a few years ago, and it's a decision the franchise and its fans will probably regret even more than the pass made on a National League invitation 10 years ago.

deaconjones said...

Both arguments have some merit. I love the K and its location. But the downtown concept seems to work other places, and it is great for the Sprint Center.

The poster who said nobody goes to the Sprint Center or Power & Light District should have visited the area during the ongoing Big XII Basketball tourney. Wow. Amazing.

The Pretty People From the Burbs go downtown now for the same reason they go to the Chiefs games: b/c it is "trendy." And if the Glass Wealth-Building Empire ever chooses to build a winning team, the K will be "trendy" too.

Chris said...

Glen, I am going to have to disagree with you. The stadium by itself is not the attraction; it's just an added bonus. If the team is good, the stadium renovated or not, downtown or not, will be full. A downtown stadium may have temporarily elevated attendance, but if the team still sucked, the increased attendance would drop off quickly. And building a downtown stadium is not what would have turned this team around. Better scouting/drafting, spending some money on FAs, programs in Latin America and Asia, etc... are what's going to turn this team around.

Isaac said...

As many downtown stadium proponents have said, sure, a new stadium would increase attendance. What they fail to mention along with that is that attendance is not the major money maker for a team and that if a team stinks (look at the Pirates) that attendance will be back to normal within a couple few years. It's winning that brings in the fans and not a new stadium. For a downtown stadium to effect the income of the downtown area, people have to actually attend the games.

Anonymous said...

So, having 100k people within a few blocks of a stadium, and many within walking distance, wouldn't increase average attendance? After the initial spike of attendance wore off, we'd still likely have a light rail with a stadium stop, more than 100k people who would want to entertain clients or catch a game after work, and lots of places for conventioners/visitors to eat and shop. How many out-of-towners even know how to get to the stadium? The only non-KC people who go to games are here for that specific purpose, and Kaufman has little to do with that. I know for a fact that I would go to 15-20 more games a year if the stadium were downtown, and not 45 minutes from my house on the Kansas side. The K is great, a beautiful, imaginative structure in a sea of concrete with a view of the former Adam's Mark and a backed up highway. The K is built for weekend games. A downtown stadium is built for weekday games, of which there are twice as many during the year (and people will still come downtown on the weekends).

Glen said...

The Pirates actually have slightly improved attendance by a few hundred thousand people a year compared to the late '90s. The Brewers are taking in an extra 10,000 more a game over the old County Statdium days. Both dropped off from the first-year novelty gain, yes, but haven't dropped down into net-wash territory, either. The new stadiums have helped. Maybe the K will, too, but it's been renovated before with no signficant boost in support.

Again, I didn't say the Royals would have had it made in a downtown location.But I said they've made their bed with a location that's proven to be inadequate for a small-market franchise that cannot depend on perpetual contention. Since the taxpayers dropped $260 million in this rehab project, why didn't the Royals and KC take a more serious look at demographics and what the Royals will need for 2015, 2020 and so on.

Instead, the Glasses made the laughable excuse they were catering to the overwhelming demands of a few hundred emails and phone calls to keep the Royals at the K. (I'm sure the same number probably asked the Royals to trade for A-Rod last year - which shows the wisdom of the crowd isn't always realistic).

The downtown stadium idea at least held open the possibility that a somewhat better future was available to them.

Antonio said...

For all of the Kansans that complain about the location, it would be a heck of a lot easier to build a downtown stadium (which is only 10-15 minutes closer--time that would be eaten by bringing that many more people to the crowded downtown [can you say stop and stop and go traffic?]) if Johnson and Wyandotte Counties would have agreed to the bi-state tax proposals!

Anonymous said...

Downtown stadiums actually help traffic flow. If people stay downtown for the game, then you are taking commuters off the road until off-peak hours. Also, the flow of traffic to the game is in the opposite direction of rush hour, so really isn't a problem. The biggest problem is with people who haven't been downtown for years and have no idea how to get anywhere because they can't read the signs or navigate a one-way street.

Anonymous said...

I-70 currently gets slammed during well-attended Royals games on the weeknights (I know that well-attended weeknight games in KC are a rarity). I-70 is taking people from the regular terrible crawl of traffic from I-70 and 435 and making you pay a ridiculous parking fee to walk a mile to the stadium through a sweltering parking lot. I fail to see the beauty in that. Why isn't it better to pay your same parking fee or find free parking, enjoy a beer across the street, and walk through a scenic downtown to the game? Everyone who talks about how easy it is to get to the K only goes on the weekends or the sub 15k attendance weeknights. [Insert racially charged and horribly misinformed suburbanite white flight comment here].

Frank Drackman said...

At age 10 I attended my first major league game at Kauffmans predecessor, Municipal Stadium. From looking at old pics it was sort of a dump, but it seemed like a World Series at Yankee Stadium to me. Unfortunately, we moved the next year so I've only seen Kauffman on the rare Royals game on ESPN.

Tufnel said...

When 2025 comes around, I will be pulling for downtown baseball all over again.

It was a mistake to put it out there, and it was a mistake to keep it there.

I wish they could pick up the stadium and move it.

Anonymous said...

I love having the K out by the interstate and not downtown. I've been to stadiums that are downtown and it's a hassle. For fans who love the Royals and simply love going to games, the K is better off where it should be. The casual fan who decides to go to a game becuase the park is near their workplace downtown...who cares about them? I'd rather have good fans who care about the team because they are WINNING. Winning brings in crowds. Not location. Not stadiums. Nor anything else.

Green bay anyone?

By the way, if they ever rename Kauffman Stadium to anything other than Kauffman Ballpark or Kauffman Field I'll go ballistic.

Jon