Wednesday, September 4, 2013

FIELDS OF DREAMS - Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri

Moving into the top three of our accessible baseball stadium reviews.  Starting with this week's entry, the top three stadiums are so close to each other that there's just very minor reasons why one is rated above the other. They are also pretty well ahead of the rest of the stadiums on our list as far as comfort, food, and game experience.  We kick off our esteemed top three with...

Kauffman Stadium, on the eastern edge of Kansas City, is home to the American League's Royals.  Built in 1973, it is the sixth oldest stadium in Major League Baseball behind Boston, Chicago (Wrigley), Los Angeles, Anaheim, and Oakland.  The Royals are owned by David Glass, a former president and CEO of Wal Mart.  The stadium hosted the All Star game for 2012.

Sitting 10.5 games behind a red-hot Detroit for 2013 puts the Royals in third place. Once home to one of the best hitters to ever play the game, the roster now consists of decent but lower-priced journeymen and youngsters. One of the nuttier people to ever sit in a broadcast booth, Rex Hudler, now provides color to the bland Steve Physioc on the teams TV broadcasts.

The stadium was given a renovation in 2007 and is one of the minority of professional sports facilities not to have a corporate name...Ewing Kauffman was the former owner of the team.

It has a signature feature, large fountains in the outfield.  Kansas City is said to have more fountains than any city other that Rome, so this is the architect's tribute to the city (funny, in driving all over the city I only saw one fountain).  It also has the third largest video screen in baseball, a high def, portrait-oriented screen with a crown on top that shoots fireworks at various points in the game like team introductions and home runs.

Click on the link to see a video from the game we attended.

Here are the stats:

Opened: 1973
Surface: Grass , bluegrass and rye, 1995 - present
             Astroturf 1973 - 1994
Construction cost: $70 million ($250 million for 2007 renovation)
Capacity: 39,000 (present)
               40,625 (1973)
               38,177 (2009)
Field Dimensions: Left field - 330 ft.; left center - 387 ft.; Center field - 410 ft.; right center - 387 ft.; Right field - 330 ft.
Home Team: Kansas City Royals (American League - MLB) 1973 - present

What a beautiful stadium.  Wheelchair access from every gate with wonderfully plentiful dispersed seating throughout at every level.  What I like about the wheelchair seating here is that it's not concentrated at the top of the levels but is also located down in the middle of each level.   The renovation makes it seem like a brand-new stadium with a retro design.  I really like this park.

The one big knock I have is that the stadium is located outside of downtown and there is no public transit to the complex.  This means driving or taking a taxi.  The parking lot is vast with a lot of disabled spots.  Parking is $10.  There is also a taxi queue after the game at gate D.

Although Kauffman used to have the dreaded "one wheelchair, one companion" policy, they seemed to have dropped that.  We had no problems getting two companion seats.  Just call the ticket office at (800) 6-ROYALS.

There are tons of great seating options here.  You can sit in a deck by the fountains, outfield cheap seats, upper deck, club level, and several field level options.  We chose the dugout box seats, a section on the lower field level right by home plate.  We were only 15 rows back from the field.

Although not "exclusive" seats like in St. Louis, this section had a hidden food court that served about 90% of the food selections of the stadium without having to troop up the stairs (or elevator) to the top of the field level.  A thoughtful touch.  These were absolutely fantastic seats, very close to the action, and only cost $43.  Most stadiums would want three figures for the same seats.  Ticket prices are now dynamic and can range from $7 for outfield bleachers or upper level to $250 to sit in the first few rows right behind home plate.

A great selection of foods from the many hot dogs and sausages available, good KC barbecue, fried chicken in left field, the best popcorn I've ever had at a ball game (Topsy's), and more.  I do have to give a knock on the funnel cake...I couldn't find anyone that could make a decent one.  A great selection of beers including lot's of microbrews on tap.  Prices were reasonable and most of the food was very good.

For the stadium alone, it would have to be maybe the second best we've seen.  Dynamic ticket pricing and no public transit are big knocks so that puts it down a notch to third.  Still, one of the best stadiums in baseball...a classic!

Copyright 2010 - Darryl Musick
Updated for 2013

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