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The Evolution of Kauffman Stadium

I’ve always had a very strange affliction for architecture, particularly sports architecture. I have an uncanny ability to waste time at ballparks.com. Some people can get lost in YouTube. Me, I get lost looking at how many suites are going to be in the Marlins new ballpark. I love ballpark intricacies. Every other sport has a uniform playing surface, but not baseball. Every stadium is different. Well, with the exception of the 70s and 80s when the cookie cutter stadiums were all the rage.

With that introduction, I thought it’d be fun to take a look at the evolution of Royals Stadium/Kauffman Stadium.

1973:

The original

I love this picture. It just shows me Royals Stadium in its purest of times. You don’t notice advertisements on any portion of the stadium with the exception of in front of the fountains. Speaking of the fountains, they’re only on one side. Left field seems barren. I always have enjoyed the open look of stadiums and while I’m somewhat of a fan of what they’ve done to Kauffman Stadium in the current renovations, I’m somewhat partial to no seats in the outfield. Obviously we’re still looking at artificial turf, which was probably the key to many of the great Royals teams who got by on speed. While the game has passed this artificial turf by, it still remains a great memory of Royals fans, right up there with the powder blue uniforms.

In 1973, the Royals also played host to their only All-Star game (until 2012). Lots happened in the original incarnation of then Royals stadium aside from the All-Star game. It saw no-hitters, post-season games including World Series games and just generally the glory days of Royals baseball. For the fans who are unhappy with the renovations at Kauffman Stadium, I’d bet good money that they’d like it a lot more if there was a better product on the field. A stadium’s charm comes a lot from the game being played on its field.

The stadium stayed mostly the same over the next 18 years with small changes. My favorite changes came in 1977, 1978, 1979, 1981, 1985 and 1986 as new flags were added to the grassy hill in left field. The big change came in 1991 when a state of the art video board was added to in the left field area over the new second set of fountains. It was the biggest video board in the United States.
Ahh, the simpler days of The K.

The picture above, of course, is after the decision of all of Major League Baseball to retire Jackie Robinson’s #42. Prior to that, the Royals had retired three numbers of a few of the greatest all-time Royals. The numbers were George Brett (5), Dick Howser (10) and Frank White (20). Those numbers were originally highlighted only in the Hall of Fame behind the seats, but were eventually placed below the scoreboard where they were visible to everybody who entered the park. Two years after the JumboTron was put in, the stadium was renamed from Royals Stadium to Kauffman Stadium in honor of great owner Ewing Kauffman.

1995 brought the very best change of all to Kauffman Stadium and that was natural grass.

Ahh finally, baseball the way it was meant to be played.

So now the most beautiful stadium in America had gotten more beautiful. Over the course of the next 13 years, the fences were moved in to favor hitters. When the team realized that their pitchers were forced to throw in a complete band box, the fences were moved back to their original distances of 330 down the lines, 385 in the alleys and 410 to dead center. It was a big park and part of the Royals identity was building a team who could play well in that size stadium.

Then in 2008, renovations on the stadium began.

This is what we were told "The New K" would look like.

The team essentially played on a baseball diamond that was surrounded by a construction site. Luckily, the brand new scoreboard had been installed (though without crown), so we were able to view the beauty of the largest scoreboard in North America* while looking at workers. From homestand to homestand, the look of the stadium would change.

*Darn Cowboys and their ridiculous 60 yard scoreboard!

The New K Developing before our very eyes.

Finally, opening day 2009 arrived and the Royals had their brand new stadium.

The opening!

Another beautiful view

And that’s where we sit today with our beautiful stadium. It is truly amazing to me how well it has held up throughout the years (with some help of course). It’s a place I’m proud to call home for my team.

Side note: I’d like to thank Nick Scott of Royals Authority for linking to my Top 10 Royals of All-Time article yesterday. I really appreciate it!

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