Saturday, February 16, 2008

Kauffman Stadium Remains a Gem

New stadiums are trendy. They're the place to be seen. They're where the "in crowd" hangs, even if many of those people aren't true fans, and couldn't care less about the team on the field.

Within the past decade-plus, new stadiums have been built in Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, San Francisco, Houston, Washington, D.C., Seattle, and Cincinnati -- and they're currently building two new venues (one for the Yankees, one for the Mets) in New York City, and another in Minneapolis.

So it's not surprising that many Kansas City fans have suggested that a new stadium also should be built for the Royals. Most seem to want it downtown. They like the trendy aspect of that. They don't want to have to travel all the way out to the Truman Sports Complex, even though the Royals' Kauffman Stadium is one of the most unique and picturesque settings in all of professional baseball.

And these "fans" aren't content with the renovations that will transform Kansas City's beautiful stadium, making it more fan-friendly, and keeping it among the game's best. Yes, it already is among the best, but it will be even better when the work is completed.

I just don't understand how people could want something new in Kansas City. I've been to stadiums all over the country -- Wrigley Field, Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, the old Tiger Stadium, the old Busch Stadium, the Metrodome (yuck), and Chase Field in Arizona, among others -- and if I could pick one place to spend an afternoon or evening watching baseball, I'd park my rear end in a lower-level seat at "The K." Yes, I'm serious, and I swear I'd feel that way even if I wasn't a Royals fan.

There's nothing like the water fountains in the outfield, the huge Crown scoreboard, and the incredibly manicured grass, considered one of the game's best playing surfaces because of the work of people like George Toma in the past, and now Trevor Vance. Kauffman Stadium is a jewel of a ballpark. It should be appreciated.

Sure, it has its down sides, too. There's really nothing around the place for people to do before or after games, but honestly, isn't going to the game enough? And, as it is right now, it doesn't compare well to newer parks with more for fans to choose from in the concourse areas. But that's what these renovations will address, and when they're completed, Kauffman will once again seem new and fresh -- and maybe even trendy.

Beginning this season, a new high-definition video board -- 105 feet tall by 84 feet wide -- will be in use. It will be the largest scoreboard of its kind in the world. That's cool, if I may say so. And the changes scheduled to be completed in time for the 2009 season will finish things off and make Kauffman Stadium seem like brand new.

The All-Star Game will be returning to Kansas City in the near future, and the Royals are working their way back toward annual respectability. Things are exciting again, and Kauffman will once again be the place to be seen, and a place where great baseball is played.

So, sit back and enjoy the games at The K, because there aren't many better places to watch a game. And enough with the whining about something new.

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