Growing up in Sacramento, California, my family had access to three baseball parks to get our baseball fix (baseball was the biggest sport in our household): Raley Field in West Sacramento, home of the Triple-A Sacramento Rivercats; Oracle (then Pac Bell) Park in San Francisco, home of the San Francisco Giants; and the Oakland Coliseum, home of the Oakland Athletics.
My family often went to Rivercats and Giant games mostly because a.) the Rivercats were closest (even if it was Minor League baseball); and b.) the Giants were my family’s MLB team. In addition to being the team my family cheered for primarily, the Giants also had a great park in the heart of the city that was easy to visit through the BART.
Now, on occasion my family would go to A’s games at the Coliseum. Unlike Oracle Park, it wasn’t a sexy venue by any means. It was a concrete monstrosity, and the only “attraction” around it was a mediocre Italian restaurant across the highway. However, while Oracle Park had all the bells and whistles as a stadium (Garlic Fries and Crazy Crab Sandwiches were some of our favorites) and area (the SOMA area around the stadium was a lot more fun to hang out around once I got to be of drinking age), there was something special about the Coliseum. It was just a great place to watch a baseball game. I remember watching a Giants-A’s game with my Dad, and not only got tickets about 30 bucks cheaper than the rate at Oracle, but it was also a great environment where the stadium was split in half when it came to fans wearing black and orange or green and gold.
Furthermore, I remember about five years ago attending my friends wedding in Oakland, and for the Wedding rehearsal dinner, we went to the Coliseum to watch the Royals take on the A’s. Remember, this was 2015, the year the Royals won the World Series, and it was awesome to see my newly “embraced” team (I moved to Kansas City in 2013) play in a park I secretly liked and grew up around.
By modern standards, the Coliseum is the antithesis of what every baseball team wants from their stadium. The trend these days is for baseball stadiums to be in the downtown of their respective city, with the idea that daily baseball games can bring not just increased revenue into the stadium, but into the surrounding businesses (such as bars and restaurants) around the stadium as well. The Giants were a prime example of a downtown stadium leading to massive economic success, but they were far from the only case of a MLB team rejuvenating a downtown econoy (Baltimore, San Diego, and even St. Louis are some examples).
And now, it seems like Kansas City may want to get into the “downtown” baseball stadium business and be more like Oracle Park than the Coliseum, which Kauffman Stadium is closer to in profile:
Honestly, I get the thinking (though the closure of the Star building is bittersweet for me as a newspaper junkie). It seems unlikely that a NHL or NBA team will move to the T-Mobile Center (or whatever the hell it is called) anytime soon (though there is a possibility of the Raptors doing a temporary move to KC during this pandemic-affected season). So if KC could somehow build a baseball stadium in the downtown area, I am sure that would be enticing to many of the Power and Light and Crossroads bars and restaurant owners who would be eager to cash in on that MLB fan traffic that would come from a downtown baseball stadium.
And this isn’t the first time either that a new stadium has been floated under new owner John Sherman:
However, while the idea of a downtown stadium sounds lucrative, Sherman should keep Kauffman Stadium where it is for now and years to come.
Because at the end of the day, Kauffman Stadium is just a gem of a stadium, even if it may be closer in style to the Coliseum in Oakland than Oracle Park in San Francisco.
There’s something unique about Kauffman Stadium in comparison to many other ballparks in Major League Baseball. I have been to nearly a dozen MLB ballparks across the nation and it still strikes me to this day how unique Kauffman is compared to the other ballparks I have visited.
Mostly because Kauffman Stadium is all about the tailgate and the parking lot atmosphere.
It’s about pounding Boulevard beers, and playing yard games like cornhole (or bags, whatever you want to call it) and washers while waiting to head to the stadium just in time for first pitch. It’s about grilling hot dogs and burgers or chowing on BBQ brisket or burnt end sandwiches from LC’s BBQ, which is located just outside of the stadium. No Kauffman tailgate experience is the same. Some are glorious. Some are meh. Some are horrifying (it’s crazy to see how the young Royals fans can lose their stuff on UV vodka).
And unfortunately, Royals fans just wouldn’t get that from a downtown stadium. A downtown stadium would just sterilize the Royals baseball game day environment. There’s something uniquely Kansas City and Midwest about a Royals game at Kauffman Stadium. A game at the K, including the tailgate, traffic, and all, amplifies what it’s like to live in a Midwestern city, especially a mid-seized one like Kansas City. It’s not overly exciting, and it can be more laid back than it needs to be at times, but despite it’s simplicity, a game at Kauffman Stadium is a complete and enriching experience for the most passionate of baseball fans from the time one arrives to the parking lot to the time one leaves.
That just couldn’t be duplicated through a pre-game bar scene at Power and Light before a 7:15 Friday night game at a downtown stadium. Going to a Royals game is not like going to a concert at T-Mobile Center. I would rather be drinking a six-pack of Boulevard Wheat I bought at a local Gomer’s than a 12 dollar Coors Light at the courtyard bar of KC Live.
And honestly, I know most hardcore Royals fans would agree with me on that idea as well.
I do know the decision to move Kauffman to downtown would be something a decade or two in the making. It’s not a plan that would come to fruition and soon, which makes sense considering that Kauffman Stadium was just recently renovated in 2009 and hosted the All Star Game recently in 2012. If the Royals did move downtown, it would be a long while before that would become a reality in Kansas City.
Even if a new downtown Royal stadium was a long-term plan 20-ish or so years down the line, Royals ownership should still avoid the idea. Kauffman Stadium can draw huge crowds when the teams are good, and even then, the Royals are not the Rays or Marlins when the team is bad. Royals fans are a loyal bunch, and they appreciate Kauffman for what it is. Creating a downtown stadium would not only change the culture of the stadium, but it would perhaps suck the soul of the hardcore and loyal fanbase as well. Losing that group, even if it is relatively small, isn’t worth it, especially considering how Royals fans have stuck with this club since the rebuilding process began in 2018.
I know it’s tempting for Royals fans. it’s tempting to think about what a downtown stadium could do for this city. It’s possible to dream about a downtown baseball stadium area that would rival, if not surpass, our Eastern Missouri rivals.
That being said, Kauffman needs to stay. It needs to say not just for years, but decades.
Because Kauffman Stadium is not just the epitome of what is Royals baseball.
It is the epitome of everything that is good and special in Kansas City as well.