As I morosely approach my fifth decade of actuality, I look for any small place from which I can derive a modicum of contentment. One of my favorite ways to accomplish this is to offer unsolicited advice to people. This enjoyment grows exponentially when the advice also happens to be something that I cannot or will not heed myself. So, it is with some disappointment that I share these tips for your next trip to Kauffman Stadium.
I have been going to Royals games at Kauffman for as long as I can remember, which coincides with the mid-1980s. I have experienced the stadium in almost every way possible way as a spectator and attended all but one opening day since 2000. I never had season tickets or a partial plan and end up going to between 10-20 games most summers. The things that I have learned over the years help ensure that I have the best chance at maximizing my game day experience and I will highlight some of those in hopes that it can help you do the same.
Getting to the game
Someday, we may get to once again debate the merits of a downtown stadium. Until then, I am going to enjoy the fact that our baseball team plays at one of the most accessible places in major league baseball. If you just stay away from a limited number of choke points, you should never experience any sort of major delay in getting into the parking lot.
The majority of people will access the stadium coming from either the east or west on I-70 and exit on Blue Ridge Cutoff/Sports Complex. Unless you are approaching from the west during rush hour or are unlucky to encounter an accident, it is not too difficult to get to the exit (#9). As long as I don’t encounter any major slow down, I will often take this way as it is the most direct and convenient. However, if you are coming from any direction other than east, you can easily get caught in the ‘right hand lane of death’.
Right after the on ramp back to I-70, the road goes up a small incline as you approach your right hand turn onto Blue Ridge Cutoff and then to a gate for entry. Many people do not realize that there are two right hand turn only lanes at the top of the hill and that both of these lanes will ultimately feed you into gate 2. People will bunch up in the far right hand lane and traffic can back up pretty quickly in this one lane. Stay one lane over to the left and stay there all the way up the hill and you will be able to merge into the second of two right hand turn only lanes onto Blue Ridge Cutoff. Pay attention to both the stop light and the police as you make the right hand turn; most times you will be waved through the red light by the police to keep traffic moving.
The next thing you want to avoid is staying in this lane unless you are moving without impediment. Not only is there a second place where you can access gate 2 with a right hand turn, but it is a very short drive to gate 3, which is rarely backed up. Simply avoiding the ‘right hand lane of death’ and the two overcrowded entry lanes to gate 2 can save anywhere from a few minutes to half an hour, depending on the night and traffic conditions. There is nothing enjoyable about that extra time in the car, unless you are a passenger with access to plentiful drinks and have no need to relieve yourself of said drink.
Another option is to take advantage of one of the back ways and access the more infrequently used gates 4 and 5. These approaches will work for anyone coming from Lee’s Summitt or Johnson County via northbound I-435 (purple route), Brookside (red route), the Plaza (red route), midtown (blue or green route) or downtown (green route) that wants to avoid I-70.
The green route allows you to take E 31st St. and pick up Stadium Blvd by taking a right hand turn immediately after Van Brunt. The blue route provides access via E 39th St. and Leeds Tfwy to Stadium Blvd. Both of these routes take you to a 4-way stop where Manchester Tfwy and Stadium Blvd intersect; at this point you can continue forward to gate 6 or take a right turn to follow Raytown Rd over to gate 5. Note that this is a popular way to avoid the highways and can get backed up for Chiefs games; but you shouldn’t encounter trouble for the Royals.
The purple route is based on travelling I-435 from either direction and exiting on Eastern Ave. I come from north of the river, so if things look particular backed up on I-70, I will just keep going until I get to the Eastern Ave exit and come in the back way. I like this route because there is a liquor store and gas station right there if you need to pick up any last minute tailgating items. Of note is the Peachtree Buffet; if you have never dined here prior to a game, I highly recommend it. After taking a right at the bottom of the exit ramp for Eastern Ave (if you are exiting from northbound I-435), you will take an immediate left onto Eastern Ave and go up the hill and take a right on Ozark Rd. This will feed you down to Raytown road, where you can turn right and proceed to gate 4 (my choice), turn left and go to gate 5 (in which case you may as well have stayed on I-435 one more exit) or ditch the game entirely and play a game of handball at one of the area’s few courts that will be directly in front of you.
The red route is one of my favorites, because it takes you right by LC’s BBQ, where you take a slight left from Blue Pkwy to pick up Sni-a-bar Rd. The line at LC’s can get long leading up to game time, but the food is tasty and it’s worth the trip for the atmosphere alone if you have never been. Sni-a-bar winds around and intersects with Eastern Ave, from which you can follow the purple route.
My method for purchasing tickets works best with small groups or if you are going by yourself and you can tolerate the anxiety of not having tickets in hand until right before game time. This is not agreeable to a lot of people and the savings may not be worth it if stressing about tickets is going to ruin your tailgating experience leading up to first pitch. This method also isn’t for people that are taking a vacation to Kansas City and for whom this may be the only game they attend during the season. Ultimately, if you follow this method for getting tickets, there will likely be a game (WS game 7 in 2014 for me) where it backfires and you can be stuck without tickets. This is a risk I am willing to take, however, in order to consistently save significant money on my tickets.
I very rarely purchase advanced tickets and the closest I have ever been to buying a season ticket plan was in 2003 when I was mortified at the thought of not being guaranteed a seat to witness Lima Time in the post season. Every year the Royals call in attempt to sell me a ticket package and every year my reply is consistent. I am not going to buy a season plan when i can readily access discounted tickets from secondary market websites 30 minutes before game time. Other than opening day and a handful of weekend games, there is going to be a large number of tickets available from these sites where you are buying tickets from another fan instead of a private for profit company. The fees on these sites vary and can be quite substantial, but most games will offer a variety of seating options with below face value prices (even with fees) that frequently decline as first pitch approaches. You can purchase your ticket(s) 30 minutes before game time and download it to your smartphone. You then scan the bar code from your phone screen at the entrance gate like you would any paper ticket, and they will print you a paper ticket for you as you enter the stadium.
My favorite place to sit is in the lower part of the upper deck in between the dugouts. These would be approximately sections 412 on the 3rd base side through 428 on the 1st base side. If you have anything in the double letter sections (AA, BB, etc.) you are in the wrong place, these will mostly be rows A through M. These sections are located on each side of the press box and your view will be similar to the one the Glass family enjoys from their private box. You can often find these tickets up to right before game time for a very reasonable price. I believe these are already the best value for a seat in the stadium and become an amazing deal when you can get them below face value, at which they are often available. Here is an example of availability on Stubhub for tonight’s game against Minnesota that provides plenty of options for tickets (including fees - I narrowed down to sections 416 and 418 in the graphic below) for around $11:
If you take the time to examine what is available, I guarantee you will almost always save money by getting your tickets by this method regardless of where you want to sit. Even when I have no intent on going to the game, I like monitor how prices and availability change leading up to game time so that I can keep on top of current supply and demand trends. At least once a year, I will come across a Crown Club ticket available for under $200; if you go to games by yourself and are flexible, you can easily pick up a ticket to the Crown Club for less than $250 on many occasions. Included in your Crown Club ticket is unlimited premium liquors and beer, a 5-star pre-game buffet, unlimited ball park fare (hot dogs, peanuts, ice cream, etc.) and in-seat food and drink service. If you have the ability to eat and drink like I do (okay, I can’t eat a lot, but am quite skilled in the other area), $200 for the Crown Club experience becomes worth it and pretty easy to rationalize.
Inside the Stadium
One of the most overlooked rules at the K is that you can bring in your own food items as long as it fits in a soft-sided 16x16x8 container. There isn’t an airport carry-on thing where they measure what is holding your food; I think they just want to keep people from bringing in trash bags full of popcorn or other things that are difficult to search. You are always allowed to bring up to a 1 liter sealed bottle of water regardless of whether it’s 44 degrees at game time or 117. If you have a family of 4, you can each have your own 16x16x8 container and 1 liter bottle of water; the combinations of food choices that you can bring with you to the ball park are infinite and should keep you from having to worry or complain about stadium food prices ever again.
Another great feature about Kauffman is that there are very few places from which you are restricted entry or access. This can be incredibly useful when it is a sold out game on Saturday night and you are fighting crowds for concessions and restrooms on the Hy-vee level. If you are in the upper deck, it is a very short trip down to the club level (section 300s) that is not restricted from general access. Going down here will almost always result in a significantly shorter line for everything and is a nice change of pace when the other concourses are crowded. If you are in the lower level, make sure you take advantage of the concessions and bathrooms underneath the stands as you will usually find shorter lines and less congestion here. The entries to these areas is about even with the dugout on each side and right where the two areas of the lower level are separated with a walkway.
If you enjoy beer (if you drink Bud Light, you are a beer drinker, you do not enjoy beer so this part isn’t for you) then it is likely worth while for you to make the trip to Craft and Draft at least once during the game, if not every time you want to get a beer. You do not have to have tickets to get into the area, and people stand there all the time to watch the game. They have really good beers on tap, and the price for all premium beers are basically the same. This means that if you take a little extra time, you can be rewarded with a tasty Tank 7 for the same price as you’re going to pay for a Leinenkeuegel from another stand. This may not mean much to you, but for some of us, this small loophole enables us to recoup a small bit of value from an overpriced beer, which adds up over the course of a game.
Your kids are going to drag you to the outfield experience at some point during the game, so be prepared. Individual tokens are not very cost efficient ($2 each) and many of the games don’t take long to complete. If you are going to spend at least 30 minutes out there with your kids, it usually pays to invest in the unlimited wristband for $10 unless the lines are incredibly long. They have batting cages, speed pitch, home to first sprint, a carousel, miniature golf and of course, the Little K. Each of these take 1-2 tokens and you can earn back the value from the wristband pretty quickly.
If it is your first experience at Kauffman with your offspring, be sure to go to the Guest Services located on the lower level near the official team store. In addition to great little known perks like the fact that they will store your stroller for free, they will give your young one a whole package to commemorate their first visit. You get a certificate, some type of magazine for the current season and a couple other small trinkets to help remember the trip later in life after your beautiful seedlings have turned into miserable teenagers and have ruined your life. Be sure to go in the first couple of innings, it takes them a minute to print the certificate and availability can depend on what other things they may have to take care of at the moment.
Also, if you have kids, the Blue Crew should be a no-brainer. For about $25 your kid gets a box that contains a shirt/jersey, hat and coupon book that includes 2 Hy-vee seats for a non-premium game. There are coupons for tokens at the outfield experience and other places in the stadium; you easily get $60 in value for $25. Buy these early in the season, as they sold out for the 2016 season.
Leaving the Game
Don’t leave the game early.....ever, it’s just not worth it. Take it from the guy that left the 2004 opening day game only to miss the Mendy Lopez/Carlos Beltran miracle. Or that left the 2014 Wild Card game in the middle of the 7th inning and didn’t realize we won until waking up the next day. Just suck it up and deal with the traffic.
I hope that if you took the time to read this, you have learned something new that can aid in your Kauffman experience. This is just from my personal experiences and I know many of you attend many more games than I. If you have a great tip that you don’t mind sharing with the rest of us, please post it in the comments below.