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My experience at downtown stadiums this summer

A Royals fan visit downtown San Diego and Denver.

2017 World Baseball Classic Pool F: Game 6 - United States v. Dominican Republic

This summer we took our annual family summer trip, this time heading out west to California (ending up at Disneyland!) and hitting several points on the way back, including an excursion to San Diego, a day at Sequoia National Park in California, a stop by The Arches in Utah, and a short stay in Denver. Of course, I will use any family trip as an excuse to visit more ballparks I have not yet visited, and I was able to cross two more off my list - San Diego’s Petco Park and Denver’s Coors Field.

Both are downtown stadiums, so I thought it might be relevant to share my experiences as the Royals make their push to move to downtown stadium Kansas City.

Petco Park, San Diego, California

Game attended: We came to sunny San Diego just for the day, stopping by the U.S.S. Midway Museum (which I highly recommend!) in the morning, and going to Petco Park for a Wednesday day game against the Pirates. Like most getaway days, the game moved very quickly and was done in 2 hours, 22 minutes with the Pirates holding on to win 3-2. On a very warm weekday afternoon, the announced attendance was 41,394 fans.

Where did I park?

According to Petco Park Insider, there are 30,000 parking lots within 20 minutes of Petco Park. It sits in the Gaslamp District, a popular restaurant and retail area. I bought a pass to the Tailgate Parking Lot fairly close to the stadium.

Cost: $44

Walk to ballpark: 10 minutes. It was two quick city blocks, probably about the same amount of walking if we parked in front of Arrowhead Stadium and walked to Kauffman.

How was the ballpark?

The park really feels like San Diego, so I appreciate this stadium more than some of the other more generic ballparks I have been to. Since there were not many seats available, we had to sit in the upper deck, which turned into a very bad idea as it was a very hot day. Rather than bake up there, we decided to go to the lower level in the stand in the shade. There aren’t many places to do this and the concourses are pretty narrow. We did manage to set up a spot for a few innings, but it wasn’t a great place to watch the game. They have a nice indoor team Hall of Fame and club store we checked out, and there is a nice park area beyond the outfield where you can sit on a hill and watch the game. Not surprisingly, the ballpark has insanely good tacos.

Getting out: It was a small lot, and it did take about 20 minutes to get out of just the lot since there was only one exit. There were several workers to stop and direct traffic, but it still took awhile. Once we exited the lot, it was a short 5 minute drive two blocks to the highway. It was right around the start of rush hour, so there was some heavy traffic, but only about a 5-10 minute slowdown.

Coors Field, Denver, Colorado

Game attended: We were like Padres groupies, following them on their road trip to Denver to see them defeat the Rockies 8-5 on a cool, drizzly evening on Tuesday, August 1. Despite an early 6:40 local start time on a weekday and the threat of rain, there was an announced attendance of 27,647 fans.

Where did I park?

I parked at Lot B, off Park Avenue and Blake Street. Its a long set of lots that includes a covered parking garage that I believe you have to pay more to access. But we were fine with the outdoor lots. We got there close to game time and had to park pretty far away, but I’m guessing if you get there pretty early you can park a lot closer to the ballpark.

Cost: $18 (plus fees brings it to $22.50)

Walk to ballpark: Maybe 15 minutes? Actually it took less than that, since they offer complimentary shuttles from the lot to the entrance of the ballpark. We didn’t want to fight the crowds and wait for a shuttle on the way back, so we walked and it took about 10-15 minutes with kids, although Google says this is a 15 minute walk.

How was the ballpark?

Pretty great, honestly! I think I had low expectations because I hadn’t heard much about Coors Field and its a bit older than some of the other parks of its generation, but it has held up very well. The concourses are wide and there are plenty of food options with very short lines and pretty reasonable prices. For a game that featured some drizzling, we appreciated that you could watch the game from the concourse and stay dry. Their ushers are super strict about not letting you go to your seat until there is a break in the action though!

They have a nice bar and restaurant on the second level - typically the upper deck lacks many good amenities. They also have a bleacher area in the outfield that I’m sure is fun on better weather days. My kids got a big kick out of the LED field lights that flash on and off when a home run is hit. We saw this Ryan McMahon dinger.

Getting out: I was honestly expecting more of a mess than it was, but it took us literally five minutes to get out and down the road, I think because there are so many points of exit. We drove back to the city center, and did not take the highway, so it only took us less than five minutes to get to the street and be on our way, but I can imagine highway traffic being much worse.

We did not get to experience the areas around the ballparks as much as I would have liked, although I have spent more time in the Gaslamp District in San Diego before and it is an outstanding experience. We were pressed for time in San Diego this time, and the weather kept us from enjoying LoDo in Denver much. However the downtown stadiums we attended did have a different vibe than Kauffman Stadium. They felt like more of a “cool place to be” with a younger crowd, even though the teams that play in them are having disappointing seasons.

Overall, I feel more confident that a downtown ballpark experience in Kansas City can work. Denver and San Diego have much larger populations than our downtown, and yet seem to accommodate ballpark crowds without too much trouble. There are other considerations that come with a downtown stadium in Kansas City of course, from the cost to taxpayers to the commitment to winning by the team to preserving Kauffman Stadium. But after experiencing downtown stadiums in these and other cities, I’m not persuaded that parking and traffic would be as onerous as many fans feel it would be in Kansas City.