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Kauffman Stadium


New (and improved) K

Soon after the new Busch Stadium opened in St. Louis in 2006, I spent a weekend exploring the mind-boggling number of fun features around the phenomenal new ballpark. As I did so, I took picture after picture. When the weekend was over, I was surprised that I had taken over 300 photos. That was certainly a record for me for a visit to a single ballpark.

Recently, that record wasn't just broken, it was smashed.

Two weeks after the the completely remodeled Kauffman Stadium opened its doors for the 2009 season, I attended games on consecutive evenings to scrutinize all of the changes the $250-million makeover made possible (note: it only cost $70 million to build in 1973). And with my trusty Olympus camera, I took 413 shots.

Yes, there's a lot to see there -- not the least of which is the best ballpark feature in the land: the famous fountains. Over 100 of the shots I took included the flowing and spraying waters beyond the outfield fences.

This article isn't the kind of in-depth review I do for a brand-new park. Kauffman's location didn't change, and the main seating bowl is still largely intact. Instead, consider this article a photo essay on the wonderful changes that now greet Royals fans when they come to the ballpark.

If you assumed all of the remodeling happened inside the park, you'd be very wrong. There are now huge metal facades on each side of the park, and the lighting used to illuminate them after dark is gorgeous (see the photo at the very top of this page). There's a new administration building holding team offices directly behind home plate, plus there are twice as many ticket windows as before (46 versus 23).

Once inside, you'll immediately be struck by the much-wider concourses. In fact, the walkways are, on average, 37 feet wide. Prior to the renovations, they averaged 24 feet.

The upper "View" level also has amazing new concourses and features, including a "canopy" over much of the walkway behind the stands.

The View level concourse also provides a new walk-in retail store and a spacious food court. Both are directly behind home plate on the upper level.

The main store is on the ground level of the new administration building, and everything about this retail space is brand new. My favorite feature is the giant crown over the cashiers.

Within the seating bowl are numerous changes: wider portals to get to the concourses, Crown seats ($240-250 per game) right behind the backstop, Diamond Club boxes ($75-85) right behind them and Diamond Club boxes (with counters, at $95-110) just behind those.

Making way for the luxury seats and wider portals reduced the K's total seating capacity from 40,775 to 38,177.

Some of Kauffman Stadium's most exciting additions are in the outfield. On the right-field side is the two-level Rivals Restaurant and Party Deck. The post-game shows on the Royals' telecasts of home games occur here.

On the left-field side is the see-through Fountain Bar, which takes the Tiki Bar phenomenon at parks in Port Charlotte and Clearwater to a new level.

Beyond the concourse that runs behind the fountains is a world devoted kids. The Little K diamond has moved from the right field side to the left, and it is much improved. You'll also find batting cages, speed pitch, base running, a merry-go-round, miniature golf and a wonderful playground, complete with very springy flooring (below). There's also a souvenir/apparel shop devoted to youngsters, an ice-cream parlor and, best of all, a modern video arcade (above right). You won't find pinball and Pacman-type machines here. No, here you can play baseball simulations on sophisticated game systems and flat-screen TVs.

Also part of the new "Outfield Experience" is the Royals Hall of Fame, which opened in July of 2009. It is indeed something to see. Not only does it feature interactive displays on the history and stars of Kansas City, it also has meeting rooms and a large patio. Check out our special photo essay that is devoted to the Royals Hall of Fame.

Other features found in the outfield include the scoreboard and statues. The board, measuring a robust 84' by 104', is 128% larger than its very low resolution predecessor. Not 28% larger, 128% (8,736 square feet compared to 3,825). The new version is essentially one huge high-resolution video screen, the largest in baseball ... but it's not its size that is phenomenal. It's how it's used. Without a doubt, it is the most informational scoreboard in the sport. Not only do you get a large photo of the batter, but also all of his stats, right down to OPS and hometown. You'll also see the batting team's entire line-up, the defensive alignment of players on the field, whom they'll be sending up in the next inning, the speed of the pitch, the time of day ... and, oh, it shows the score of the game, too.

The park's famous statues also reside in the outfield now, too. Previously, they greeted fans as they were about to enter the park's gates. Now they are beautifully displayed on the concourse just beyond the larger of the two fountain areas. Here are statues of Royal icons Dick Howser, George Brett and the acrobatic Frank White (above).

And speaking of the fountains, they are better than ever. I've said many, many times that they represent the best ballpark feature in America. Not only are they beautiful, they exist in the City Of Fountains, Kansas City. KC's nickname is well deserved, because within its city limits are more fountains than in any city not named Rome.

While the fountains still flow over the rounded edges and shoot into the air between innings, they are now much more accessible to fans. Now not only you can walk directly behind them on the new upper concourse (above left), you can walk right in front of them as well . There are now walkways between the fountains and the outfield wall (above right), and if you're standing there when the water jets are shooting high into the sky, believe me, you will get wet.

I have to tell you that after watching the fountains for years from the main seating bowl, it is really a thrill to be able to be so close to them now. The shot above, by the way, was taken from the new Dri Duck Fountain Seats, which cost only $7 apiece for most games. These seats are where the video screen was located prior to the renovation.

So from a striking new exterior, much roomier and well-equipped concourses, kids heaven in the outfield and up-close experiences with the fabulous fountains, Kauffman has gone from a wonderful park to one of the very, very best in the sport. Who says small-market teams can't make a splash -- both figuratively and literally?!