Monday, April 13, 2009

Curtain Risin' On A New Age

(From "Groom's Still Waiting At The Altar," Biograph)
Royals Stadium was opened in 1973. Your humble correspondent came along in 1975. Royals Stadium and I first met in 1983. For 25 years, we got along great. Sure, there were some changes. The lovely plastic turf was ripped out years ago and replaced with real grass, an excellent upgrade. Ugly orange seats went out, more subdued blue ones came in. A Jumbotron was added, then the old scoreboard was replaced with a new hi-def video board. Through the years, the stadium became like Grandma's house: there might be a few places you couldn't go, but every inch of the rest of the place became familiar. Sure, there were some problems, some cosmetic deficiencies, some things that needed fixing up. But you always knew what to expect.
Until now.
After a 2008 season played in a construction zone, a full offseason of work, and a lot of excitement, the new stadium was revealed last Friday. Tickets were nearly impossible to get, especially for us poor folks, so The Amazing Michelle and I planned to go to the second home game of the season, last Saturday night. We packed up the digital camera and headed out. Frankly, with a pitching matchup of Horacio Ramirez vs. CC Sabathia, we were more excited to see the stadium than to see what we figured would be a rout by the Yankees. And the stadium did not disappoint.
Some changes are evident as you approach the stadium. A large glass facade stretches between the two circular ramps. The Royals' staff has their offices in this building. A large metal structure stretches along each side of the stadium, starting on the other side of each ramp. The three new structures really attract your attention, which has the pleasing result of de-emphasizing those ramps, which are not very attractive.

Inside, of course, the first thing you notice is the new, wider concourse. There are many more concession stands than before, and more bathrooms too. We arrived pretty early for Saturday's game, so even though the crowd was big, it may not have been the best test for the new concourses. I do know that big crowds before could make the interior of the stadium rather claustrophobic, and Saturday night it certainly felt roomier.

Once we got out to the seating bowl, we headed out to the new outfield area. The Royals Hall of Fame is behind the left field seats; unfortunately, it will not open until midseason. Now there are seats behind the bullpen, and of course the new seats in front of the left field fountains. We look forward to sitting there sometime this summer, as it seems probable those seats will be cooled by spray from the fountains. Of course, I imagine most Royals fans are feeling the same about those seats, so I think they'll be a tough ticket.

We proceeded around the outfield. It is now possible to walk all the way around the lower bowl. You can see Royals games from perspectives that were never available before. You can even stand behind the "batter's eye" in center field and look straight up at the massive scoreboard. You can even buy a beer back there! The eye consists of staggered sheets of green metal, so you can peek out between them and see part of the playing field.

We continued on, coming to the Party Porch in front of the right field fountains. The Party Porch has a corporate sponsor, but they're not paying me anything, so they don't get a mention here. Anyways, the Party Porch has two levels, with a bar running along the railing on each level. There are no seats, but you can stand here and watch the game, and have your food and drink in front of you on the bar. Or you can watch some of batting practice, like we did.
They built a bar and grill behind the Royals' bullpen in right field. We didn't go in, but it looked pretty nice. We climbed to the top of the stairs in right field, next to the restaurant, and headed back towards left field. The Royals built a kids' wonderland back there, with a mini golf course, a batting cage/speed pitch area, and the new Little K. Oh yeah, and a baseball-themed carousel.
We headed to our seats in the upper deck. The escalators which used to stick out from the stadium like sore thumbs have been neatly tucked away now. Almost too neatly, since we had to search for one for a few minutes. If you're into exercise, there are staircases at each end of the upper deck. But God created escalators so we could avoid exercise, so we eventually found one and rode it upstairs.
One thing I was really happy about was the increased number of concession stands in the upper deck, and the improved food choices. Before the renovations, if you wanted a specialty food, like Gates BBQ, you had to get it downstairs and lug it upstairs. Gates is gone (nooooooooooooo!) but now it appears the food choices are the same upstairs and down.

We settled into our seats and immediately noticed that the ballpark feels much more intimate than it used to. With a big crowd on hand, there were people all the way around the field. It feels like a real ballpark now, not a theater where there is a large stage in front and you never get to see behind it.

Here's a view from our seats:

It's funny, a couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine from college emailed me a panorama view of the stadium he took when we went to a game together in 1996. It was amazing to see how the place used to look, and to compare it to the new stadium.

Here's the 1996 stadium.

And here's how it looks today.

If you have a chance to see the new Kauffman Stadium, I urge you to take it. The old stadium was nice. The new improved one is gorgeous, and I know you'll enjoy it.


Michelle said...

It is so gorgeous! It is comparable to new Busch and to the Giants ballpark (I forget which corporation has the naming rights now) - on that note - I hope the K never has a corporate name!

I really enjoyed the atmosphere and it lessened the disappointment of the loss. Everyone needs to come out and see it and enjoy a great night out at the "new" K!

The Tao said...

I've been trying to keep my blogroll updated, and I can't believe I just found your blog. Keep it up. Go Royals...

GreatBiscuit said...

Wow, that's a nifty update. Doesn't even look like the same park! No I REALLY gotta head up north. Of course with Disney sucking my wallet dry this summer, it may be a season or two.