I'm not sure what, if anything, I was hoping to find when I embarked on this, the baseball road trip of a lifetime. But while standing behind Kauffman Stadium's famous right field water spectacular, one month into my travels, staring out on to the pristine field where the Kansas City Royals were hosting the Cleveland Indians, I couldn't help but shake the feeling that I'd found what I was looking for; that I had, in some way, made it home. Because Kauffman Stadium, "The K" as she's called by the locals, took my breath away. She left me feeling that within her confines is exactly where the game of baseball was meant to be played.
The irony of the moment certainly was not lost on me. I was in Kauffman Stadium, one of the oldest parks in Major League Baseball. And I was in Kansas City, the home of the Royals; the baseball team that winning forgot. I could only shake my head, a smile on my face, in disbelief.
It was while strolling through the outfield plaza - highlighted by its waterfalls, fountains, statues, and massive centre field scoreboard - that I thought to myself: "Maybe being a Royals fan isn't so bad, after all. Sure, they're awful. So are a lot of teams. But at least they've got The K." I wondered what Toronto Blue Jays baseball would be like if we had a ballpark like Kansas City's; I wondered if more people would attend. I questioned whether an exquisite, baseball-only stadium would make it easier to endure years upon years - 16 and counting for us in Toronto, and 24 and counting for Kansas City - of postseason-free baseball.
The Water Spectacular
Kansas City, "The City of Fountains," boasts more fountains than any other city but Rome. Which actually makes Rome "The City of Fountains," but lets not get caught up in minor details. Kansas City's got fountains, a ton of them, and they're something to be proud of. I think. There was, fittingly enough, even a fountain in the lobby of my downtown hotel, the Hyatt Regency Crown Center.
I'd seen Kauffman Stadium's famous outfield water spectacular a million times, on television, in pictures, and in video games. But much like the ivy at Wrigley Field, I was very much looking forward to visiting the parks fountains and waterfalls in the flesh. And its name indeed does it justice. Measuring 322-feet wide, the water spectacular is the largest privately funded fountain in the world.
It might sound odd, waterfalls and fountains beyond the outfield walls at a baseball stadium. But they work; they spruce up the place. They are distinct. They are Kansas City. Trust me: spend a couple of innings watching the game behind the water spectacular; you'll hear the waterfalls continuously flowing, and see the fountains put on a show between innings. You'll then reach the same conclusion I've come to: the fountains are real, and they really are spectacular.
I Don't Get It
Let me get this out of the way, because I still don't quite understand it: there is no public transit option to Kauffman Stadium. The bus service, the Royals Express, has - get this - been discontinued since February 2009. And the ballpark isn't downtown. It's southeast of the city, part of Kansas City, Missouri's Truman Sports Complex, where the NFL's Chiefs play, along with the Royals. (Which means there's nothing around the ballpark. So if you're heading out early, have a cooler and grill ready to go, along with all your other tailgating necessities.) Depending on traffic, it'll take you between 10 and 20 minutes from downtown, and a cab will cost you between $20 and $25. Each way.
Kansas City, Missouri, what's the deal? It's 2010. We're living in a day and age where metropolises everywhere are increasing public transit options in hopes of getting people out of their cars. And you've cancelled the bus route to your sports complex, which hosts thousands of people at least 88 times a year? Fail.