KANSAS CITY — The distinctive crowned scoreboard that’s towered behind center field since Kauffman Stadium opened in 1973 will tower much taller.
It will also be easier to buy a hot dog, and fans will sit nearer the field to eat it. Once a vast renovation project is completed by 2010, Kauffman will have more restroom facilities and concession stands than any other major league ballpark, planners said Monday.
There also will be much wider concourses, a food court, a restaurant and a hall of fame, a conference center, a state-of-the-art high definition video board and more escalators, elevators and stairs.
There will also be a giant barbecue pit behind right field called “Taste of KC” that should spread tempting aromas all over the park.
“Thousands of people will be hanging out there wanting to partake in what Kansas City does best,” one official said Monday while unveiling final plans for the $250 million project.
Paid for almost entirely by a three-eighths cent sales tax approved 14 months ago by voters in Jackson County, the vast renovation will begin in October. If all goes as scheduled, everything will be finished by opening day of 2010.
“Our focus was to make the quintessential baseball fan experience,” said Earl Santee of the stadium architectural firm HOK. “We’ve touched every level, for everyone.”
Another $250 million raised by the sales tax will go toward renovating the Kansas City Chiefs’ Arrowhead Stadium across the parking lot. Final plans for Arrowhead have not been announced.
One feature that will remain virtually untouched at the baseball stadium will be the fountains behind the outfield fences. That’s one thing every focus group the Royals consulted, including 10-year-olds, insisted upon, Santee said. Also staying is the crown on the scoreboard.
Gone will be the pavilion added several years ago behind the outfield, something that never proved popular with fans anyway.
But the biggest change by far will be in the outfield. Where only green grass has grown before, there will be fan seating in front of the fountains in left and right field.
Spectators will also be able to view the game from behind the fountains as they walk along the concourse connecting left and right field, another innovation.
The conference center, hall of fame and kids area will be behind left field. A casual dining restaurant will sit behind right field along with the barbecue pit.
Total seating capacity in the 34-year-old stadium will be reduced to about 39,000, down by almost 2,000.
“But we took about 2,000 of the worst seats and made them the 2,000 best seats by putting more seats down by the field, by the outfield,” Santee said.
Fans will be closer to the action everywhere.
“Behind home plate, (seats) will be a little bit closer. Down in left field and right field we’re going to bring the seats a little but tighter toward the foul pole. And they will be lower. We will be closer to the game itself,” Santee said.
The bullpens in left and right field will run east and west instead of north and south as they’ve always done.
By opening day of 2008, builders plan to complete the new bullpens, plus expanded premium seating near home plate.
By opening day of 2009, there will be the dugout concourse and expanded concourses, the new scoreboard, new pressbox, fountain view seats and terraces and the expanded view level concourse and food court.
The Jumbotron that now sits in left field will be gone, its duties absorbed by the new, bigger-crowned scoreboard.
“It’s going to be almost 50 percent bigger,” said Kevin Uhlich, the Royals senior vice president-business operations. “It will be considerably higher.
“The actual video piece we have now is 30 feet high by 40 feet. Now it will be almost 100 feet high by 84 feet wide, with high definition. The total scoreboard will be almost as high as the light standard.”
Mike Sanders, Jackson County Executive, said at the news conference that the contribution toward the project by the Royals, owned by David Glass, had expanded by almost $6 million to nearly $31 million. But Uhlich said that was a misstatement and that the Glass family’s contribution would remain $25 million.