Note: April 10, 2023 will mark the 50th anniversary of the first game at Royals/Kauffman Stadium. Each week, I will look at one memorable moment in stadium history, with the top moment revealed on April 10, 2023. Missed an entry? You can find past ones here.
You might think 36 is a bit young for a facelift, but Kauffman Stadium got one at that tender age. In 2006, Jackson County voters approved a sales tax increase to help fix up Kauffman and Arrowhead Stadiums. The Royals kicked in $25 million of the $250 million slated for their stadium, which really isn’t much but I suppose we can congratulate them on clearing the low bar (i.e, not one solitary dime) that most MLB teams have set when it comes to paying for their new playgrounds.
Anyway, that’s a different discussion. The work on the stadium started, and fans spent much of the 2007 and 2008 seasons staring at construction sites beyond the outfield walls, which was sometimes preferable to watching the 69- and 75-win teams on the field. We did get a preview of sorts of the improvements; the Crown Vision scoreboard was ready for Opening Day 2008. But everything else had to wait for April 10 (there’s that date again!), 2009.
Construction crews were still scrambling to finish their work in the weeks leading up to the game, but they did an admirable job to pull it off. As fans walked through the wider concourses to their seats, they could choose from more food and drink options at updated concession stands. They could shop at new merchandise stands and take advantage of improved (and additional) restrooms.
Once in their seats, though, fans could see the full array of improvements. A Hall of Fame building, a sports bar/restaurant, seats in front of the water spectaculars, and the Outfield Experience were all new areas to be explored.
This took some getting used to. Not to be an old man about it, but when I was a kid, those areas out behind the grass berms seemed so dark and mysterious. You couldn’t go back there. They were barely lit during night games, so you couldn’t see back there. It just seemed like a vast expanse of blackness, all the way up to the interstate. Now, though, this was a ballpark. A beautiful ballpark, complete with a shiny new crown on that big scoreboard after it had been absent for a year.
Unfortunately, we were still watching the same team playing there. The Royals managed just four hits against the Yankees’ Andy Pettitte, losing 4-1. While Kansas City did get out to an 18-11 start that season, they ultimately wound up with a disappointing 65-97 mark. At least there was plenty of stuff to do in the new, old stadium now.