KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) More than ever before, the 2008 Kansas City Royals are rebuilding.
The whining of saws and the rat-a-tat-tat of jackhammers in a race against time will crank up at 6 a.m. all over Kauffman Stadium. When the Royals are home for night games, workmen will pack up their equipment and call it a day about four hours before the first pitch.
A special water truck will be standing by to wet down dry areas, lest the hot summer winds give fans raspy throats and red, watery eyes.
For the entire season, Kauffman will be a combination baseball stadium and major construction zone. It’s all part of a $250 million renovation that in many ways will almost completely remake the 35-year-old ballpark by the time everything is finished around July 2009.
Great pains are being taken to ensure comfort and safety, said Kevin Uhlich, the Royals’ senior vice president for business. As soon as construction is halted every game day, workers will be scurrying around seeing to it that fans will have no problem when they start filing into their seats 90 minutes before game time.
“We’ll clean everything up, make sure we’ve got a safe environment, make sure we’ve got a clean environment,” Uhlich told about 25 media representatives who donned hard hats and goggles for a tour of the stadium on April 1, one week before the home opener against the New York Yankees.
“They won’t get hit with falling mortar,” Uhlich said. “The building is safe.”
Kauffman’s reputation as one of the prettiest parks in the major leagues is going to take a major hit, at least for a year. Heaping mounds of dirt are piled up behind left and right field, and the front of the stadium has been completely ripped up.
The concession stands and restrooms on the concourses in left and right field have been demolished and replaced by temporary structures. Fans in that part of the stadium will use the Scotties Potties.
“We’ve tried to make it as accommodating as possible for our fans,” said Bob Rice, the vice president for ballpark operations and development.
When the Royals play day games, there will be no construction at all.
“It will be an ongoing construction project all the way through the season,” Rice said.
Most of the construction during the season will be outside the stadium. The face of Kauffman is already gone. The areas behind left field and right field are dug up and will be separated from the public by fencing.
The box office in the front of the building has been demolished and replaced by temporary offices on the west and east sides of the stadium.
About 2,000 seats have been lost, bringing capacity down to about 39,000.
But the infield grass is lush and green, and once inside the stadium, fans will have no trouble finding their seats. Catching their eye even more than the temporary bathrooms and heaps of dirt will be the gigantic new scoreboard in center field, which the Royals say will be the largest stationary video board in the world until the Dallas Cowboys open their new stadium in 2009.
With brilliant high-definition contrast, the Royals’ CrownVision is 105 ft. tall and 84 ft. wide. The new scoreboard that debuted this week in the Washington Nationals park is 4,500 sq. ft. The Royals’ is more than 8,800 sq. ft. and powered by nearly 3 million red, green and blue pixels.
Unlike the rest of the project, the CrownVision is completely finished.
“When you go out there and see the full color and just the size of this thing, it takes a little bit of getting used to,” Uhlich said. “The baseball purist will find enjoyment just from the amount of statistics we can put up there. We’re going to try to have something for everybody.”