This is a weekly feature in which I (and maybe you, too, readers) detail the various reasons for hating your ballpark. This week: The Kansas City Royals' Kauffman Stadium.
Royal bastards: Kauffman Stadium is a wonderful baseball venue located southeast of downtown Kansas City, which is of course a fairly well-known suburb of Overland Park, Kan. The Royals don't deserve the place. They are a retrograde and proudly stupid franchise — one that trashes its owns fans and American culture in general for being too impatient to appreciate the stealthy genius of, say, acquiring Yuniesky Betancourt — and yet they are headquartered in a forward-looking baseball stadium that represents the last time the team did anything worth imitating. That they let the Royals play there is akin to letting a kazoo band play the Sydney Opera House.
Special K: Kauffman opened in 1973, the first year of the designated hitter and at the front end of what passes for the baseball's progressive era. The two — the DH and the K — share something of the same DNA. In those days, baseball wasn't so paralyzed by its drippy nostalgia for its own, unfortunate past; it was willing to experiment, to tinker, and if that meant a few hamhanded measures like the DH, it also gave us new stadiums, like the one in Kansas City, whose very design — AstroTurf, symmetrical outfield, etc. — shaped the style of play, mostly for the better. The baseball of the day was dynamic. Bill James has written:
I have nothing good to say about artificial turf. But the baseball of the 1970s, which was derived in part from the artificial turf that was then so popular, was a wonderful brand of baseball. On the field at one time you might have a player who was capable of hitting .350 or better, a baserunner who was capable of stealing 80 or more bases, a hitter who was capable of hitting 35 or 50 homers, and a 20-game winner who could strike out 250 or 300 batters.
No one misses AstroTurf. That's not the point. Baseball had struck a great balance in the 1970s, and that had everything to do with the game's brief willingness to try new things, be it a well-meaning but ill-conceived DH rule or an unapologetically modernist stadium in Kansas City. That spirit is long gone now, buried beneath a lot of old-timey red brick and steel and the cheap sentiment and various daddy issues of baby boomers who get nostalgic over all the wrong things.
The view from the stands (everything sic'd):
I live in KC, so I know how to deal with the pain that my team has caused for the last 24 seasons. I was born 4 years after the only World Championship, so I've only seen one winning season for the Royals in my entire life. It's just been one down hill story after the next, but there is one that is high above the others. I was about 12 when this happened, a nearly teenage kid who was still a little smaller but not as small as one would think. We were sitting in the third base side Plaza seats or whatever they've called them for a few years now. My mom's company had season tickets which she won quite a bit from since nobody ever wanted to see the Royals. Well on this particular night, fate would come my way. The foul popped up by Joe Randa was heading right for me, glove stretched out, excitement brewing, when out of nowhere, this 300+ fatass literally grabs me and throws me aside. It happened so quick, I didn't see that I was falling right into the pointed armrest eye first. My eye was swelling within seconds, intense pain, and then the fatty spoke, "Shouldn't have got in my way little fucker", as security came to take me to first aid and reprimanded the fatty. They gave me a Sweeney(BLEH) home run ball and a t-shirt for my troubles, which turned out to be not worth it in the long run. Turns out, when my left eye hit the chair, it helped by moving my cornea just a slight bit and helping advance my, at that time undiagnosed, keratoconus. Now I'm basically blind in my left eye and the ball was lost many years ago, yet I still go to see that shitty team every year, thinking maybe, just maybe, we might finish third in the division. (Calvin from KC)
Father's Day, this season. My brother's first Father's Day as a dad. It just so happens that his lady's family lives near KC. The Cardinals are playing that weekend, and there is no way in hell we are missing a chance to see Pujols. So her sisters round up 12 tickets so both of our families can go to the game. Father's Day also happened to be the hottest day of the year. Thankfully, we were under the second deck's shad the entire game. That way, it was only "my ball sweat has worked through my shorts & it isn't even time for the first pitch" hot instead of "I've lost the will to live because the sun has bored a hole in my skull" hot. Which detracted from the truly nice conditions of the new K.
Anyhoo, between the 3rd & 4th innings, my brother & I sneak out back for a smoke. We walk back to the chain link fence & are standing next to a smoker's pole that has smoke pouring out of the top of it. Not only that, but the combination of still lit butts & opressively direct sunlight are melting the pole at the base, and there are visible flames coming out of a growing breach in the bottom. I, being a good citizen, go to pour some of my water on the open fire. But do you know who didn't like that? The fatass, lazy security broad who was standing 90 feet away, doing nothing to barricade an unwitting public to said open flame other than yelling from 90 feet away. I told her there was a fire going on there. She said, "I know". I asked her if something should be done about. She said she'd called it in, but it wasn't her job to deal with it. Apparently, the SECURITY sash on her back was placed there like a Kick Me sign when she wasn't looking.
After the cigarette break, my brother & I make it to the standing room section on the deck just in time to see Pujols bounce a grand slam off the Royals Hall of Fame. While high fiving, we are informed a meth addicted Royals fan that he has proof Pujols is juicing & that we will be sorry when the truth comes out. I'm sure that he hid that proof in the engine block that is subbing for his coffee table, the block that he takes apart & reassembles for days at a time in his better meth binges. Good times were had by all. (Casey)
There is still nothing but meth and hookers in Independence: The new Kauffman, or as our local media has dubbed it "the cougar" (30 year old with a face lift, get it?) is truly a testimate to the citizens and culture of Kansas City; bland, white, and little brat friendly.
When the initiative to renovate the stadiums was put out to the public, much of the opposition was centered around building a new downtown stadium. KC was pumping millions into gentrifying its downtown area. There was a new arena going in and the accompanying White Power and Light (so called by locals because of its discriminatory dress codes) entertainment district. Why not add downtown baseball? No no no, such an idea would be far too progressive for a town like Kansas City. Instead, we'll dump more money into the baron shithole of an area that currently houses the Truman Sports Complex. Want some pregame entertainment? You've got three choices, Taco Bell, Denny's and the recently boarded up Shady Lady.
Leave no square inch unadvertised: Few stadiums embrace the corporate sellout mentality quite like the new K. "But they didn't sell the stadium naming rights," you may say. I would much rather watch a game at Arthur Bryant's Stadium than risk an epileptic seizure from the barrage of flashy advertisements we see at the ballpark. We have the Bud Light Part Deck, the Miller Lite Fountain Bar, the John Deer Little K, the Dri Duck Fountain seats, the Cool Crest Putting Diamond, and the Pepsi Party Poarch, and that's just in the outfield.
Eat shit, Garth Brooks: We country bumpkins love us some country western, and we especially love ole' Garth. We love him so much that he played nine straight shows to open our new Sprint Center. Still, do we really need a Garth Brooks sing along at every baseball game? One of the Royals between inning entertainment dealies is a follow the bouncing ball sing along to Friends in Low Places. I love the idea of stadium karaoke and karaoke in general (Bobby Brown's My Perogative being hands down the greatest karaoke song) but can't we mix it up a little? Most fans come to more than one game a year and Garth was lame on night one.
Buck Nights: Think of the kind of crowd that is drawn to dollar dog, dollar soda night. "Hey kids, you don't need to worry about goin to bed hungry tonight, we're going to Buck Night." On Buck Nights you will see fewer teeth, more Stars and Bars on trucks, more jorts, more single teen moms, fewer sleeves and hear more "Whooohs!" and "Git-R-Dones" than any other nights of the year.
No rolling roof: Big fuck you to Johnson County and their soulless suburban prick residents who killed any chance of us getting a rolling roof. Have no soul? Then you'll love Overland Park, KS home of the country's whitest whities.
Lack of local food: We in KC love to eat, that's why were fat. We have good local bbq and sausage. Why said bbq and sausage is nowhere to be found in the stadium is a fucking travesty. Ollie Gates would be turning over in his grave, if he was dead.
RIP urinal troughs: Why the fuck anyone would ever get rid of troughs in the men's room? No matter how many dudes are up at the trough you know you can always fit at least one more. Well no more. No no we have the pussy individual urinals with the little dividing wall between them. I know us white guys are insecure about dongs and compensate with our automatic weapons and big-as-all-outdoors pickup trucks, but seriously, do we need to worry about meat gazers while at a baseball game? "But I can't pee in public, I get nervous," then stay the fuck home and be sure as hell you don't procreate. (Brian D.)
There are only a few times when the crowd at The K pushes at least 25,000 ... when the Red Sox or Yankees come to town, when Grienke pitches or, of course, opening day.
But Opening Day, falling right around the Final Four as it does, always becomes a pissing match between fans of KC's two favorite college teams, the Chickenhawks and the Tiggers.
So, instead of actually enjoying the one day of the year that our beloved Royals are NOT solidly in last place, the KU idiots and MU morons spend the entire game proudly flaunting their school colors and drunkingly screaming at one another.
The best KU/MU opening day experience came the year that the ol' Hawks went tumbling in the first round thanks to Bucknell. Pretty funny, yeah, but MU wasn't even in the tourney that year, so a proud Tiger fan decides to show up in his brand-new, bright orange Bucknell shirt that he bought online.
He graciously accepted the mixture of applause and boos when he first grabbed his seat a few rows in front of me. The longer the game went on, however, the more drunk and more brave he became.
By the seventh inning he was standing in his seat, flipping the double-bird to the Free-Staters in the section, while unsuccessfully trying to avoid the hot dogs, beers and leftover portions of Gates BBQ that were being hurled in his direction.
Oh yeah, and the Royals lost. (Ryan A.)
Growing up in Kansas City during the 80s, my earliest memories of major league ball include vivid images of George Brett, Willie Wilson and Frank White presiding over then Royals Stadium's bright green astroturf.
Last week myself and 10,000 other fans (nearly all of us with free tickeds, I presume) watched Kansas City's most expensive baseball team to date get pounded by the Minnesota Twins, who have become the model small market franchise.
While waiting in line last week, I was handed free upper deck tickets, a coupon for a buy one ticket get one free, and then was upgraded with one box seat ticket. Kansas Citians love a good deal, which probably explains how we inherited an owner that wouldn't trade value (Joe Randa) for high-priced talent.
All summer, Kansas Citians have flocked to the "K" to see our newly renovated stadium. Taxpayers spent more than $200 million to add much needed amenities like ribbon scoreboards, a sports bar in right field that has a $100 per table minimum, and diaper changing stations in every bathroom.
Somehow the renovation -handled by local sports architecture firm HOK - managed to add bathrooms but increase wait times for urinals. They accomplished this by removing horse-trough urinals with individual urinals. Very slick.
But that's not all.
The team apparently tried to hike up the rent on Gates Barbecue, which for year has had a small version of its famous restaurants (HI MAY I HELP YOU). Gates said no thanks, and now we get Aramark's version of mediocre, bland barbecue.
Thank goodness the K never had a sampling of Kansas City's other claim to fame, jazz, or the new K probably would have replaced Charlie Parker and Count Basie with Kenny G.
A portion of the remodel included expanding upper deck openings. Not sure what that accomplished, but the upper deck now vaguely resembles a portion of the Oakland-Almeda County Colisuem. Thanks for that.
Since then, they've replaced the turf with grass (good move), replaced Bo Jackson and Danny Tartabull with David DeJesus and Mike Jacobs, and turned what once was a model franchise into an organization rated somewhere between Triple-A and the majors.
When I was 11, I got to meet Bret Saberhagen at a local Hy-Vee grocery store. Sabes let me and my little brother sit in his Jaguar, and asked us if we liked baseball.
I can only imagine what 10-year-old fans around town say when they meet Kyle Farnsworth coming out of Price Chopper and settling into his Hummer, laughing about the $4 million contract he's playing with this year.
In the end, maybe it's better to stand in line for batting cages, miniature golf or the new hall of fame exhibit.
What's more sad than seeing the stadium of your childhood become an outdoor outlet mall? Turning your attention to a team that hasn't been able to get Zack Greinke 18 wins. (Wagon from Lee's Summit, Missouri)
I was at a game at Kauffman Stadium about 4 years ago where my friend and I were actually kicked out of seats that were in the last row of the upper deck. Some power-hungry, female usher came up and asked to see our tickets. After we showed them to her, she told us that we had $7 tickets, and that we were sitting in $12 seats. Never mind the fact that there was only 1 other person sitting within 100 feet of us. I asked her what harm we were doing sitting in those seats, seeing as how the stadium was 3/4 empty. She told us that if we didn't get up, she would call security. Angrily, I stood up, and as I walked past her, I told her that maybe the stadium wouldn't be 3/4 empty if the Royals didn't treat their fans like this (okay, so maybe the quality of the team had something to do with it too, but let's overlook that for now). Later on, we watched as the same usher kicked a couple of little kids out of seats near where we had been. It's people like her that deserve to die of a vicious venereal disease. But other than that, the game was good. (Sam S.)
So whenever the Minnesota Twins play at Kaufmann Stadium, Twins fans like to make the seven hour drive down to KC and pretty much make it a home series for the Twins, as the Twins fans ALWAYS outnumber the Royals fans by at least 3 to 1 inside the stadium. Being a fan of all things Minnesota, I have to assume that this our way of getting revenge for years of Wisconsin Badgers and Iowa Hawkeyes fans outnumbering Gophers fans 3 to 1 at every home football game at the Metrodome (which in and of itself is the worst stadium in professional sports, but I digress).
So I'm at a Twins-Royals game a couple of years ago. And three drunken Royals fans (because you pretty much have to be drunk to endure Royals baseball) behind me decide to berate a girl a few rows down that happened to be wearing a Joe Mauer t-shirt. So after enduring being called adjectives describing vaginas, lesbians and promiscuous for about 30 minutes, she finally gets security. The idiots have the audacity to wonder why they are about to be thrown out of the stadium. As they are being escorted out of the section, one of them yells…."I hope your bridge collapses on the way home". Oh yeah, this was 6 days after the 35W bridge collapsed in downtown Minneapolis, killing 13 people. Stay classy Kansas City…… (Sir_Loin)
I attended a Royals game in 2006 or 2007 in which, after a brief rain shower in the early innings, my two friends and I comprised three-fifths of the attendees in section 146. And section 144. And section 142. And section 140.
By a strange coincidence, I also knew the other two attendees. Big-time Major League Baseball at its best. (Pete Gaines)
Maybe this belongs more in the FAILgate category, but it did happen @ "The K," so here goes:
I peel my unemployed, hungover ass off of a friend's couch at about 10:30 on a sunny day the summer after I graduate college to my buddy coming back thru the door with a huge box under his arm. He had just bought a new remote control airplane. I don't know where...I don't ask. While he's putting this thing together, I try ripping on him for not having a place to fly this thing. Where?? The park?? Too many shit-eating skateboarding 12 year olds. The street?? We're in the middle of the Johnson County burbs, and we're bound to fly this thing into a tree upon maiden flight. Without saying a word, my buddy proceeds to turn on the TV, and land the Time Warner Cable Guide on "MLB Baseball."
Want miles of uninhabited asphalt?? Go to a Royals Game. Kauffman Stadium and Arrowhead Stadium share a parking lot on about 3,000 acres of prime real estate next to two intersecting highways (I-70 and I-435). Unfortunately, these are the only two highways on which there has been no construction since the Eisenhower administration, which is bad if you are trying to pack 95,000 into the lot for a Chiefs taligate. Quite a lot easier when you're talking about 12,000 (announced attendance) for a Royals game.
The plan is simple: grab another buddy, a dirty 30 of Busch, and head out to the stadia. We brought the radio, and were going to listen to the pre-game and first couple of innings before heading in and buying the cheap, cheap GA tickets (fortunately, the Royals recognize how putiridly awful the team is, and have kindly kept some of the lowest ticket prices in the league).
Well, the plan goes a little two well. The remote control airplane is aweomely entertaining to three drunk guys, and before we know it, it's the third inning, and the Royals (being the Royals) are down 8-1. We look at each other, say "fuckit" and proceed to kill the 30, crash the plane into a Mercedes with JOCO license plates, and cruise out of the lot without ever having come within 200 yards of the stadium.
Royals Baseball: Catch the Fever!! (Chris L.)
Photo via photosb's Flickr account.
Next up: The Philadelphia Phillies' Citizens Bank Park. Got any horrible experiences to share? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.