Uhlich excited about stadium renovation
Royals senior vice president-business operations chats online
Royals senior vice president-business operations Kevin Uhlich answered fans' questions during a Royals Relay chat on Tuesday. Uhlich, who oversees the Kauffman Stadium renovations, talked about the new features and amenities that will be available next season and how the Royals are improving their product on and off the field.
Kevin Uhlich: Welcome everyone. Thanks for taking time to join me here today. This is Kevin and let's get going.
rereit: What did you start out doing in baseball?
Uhlich: Well I have to be honest ... I started as a batboy for the Anaheim (Los Angeles) Angels when I was in high school back in 1976 and worked my way up the organization.
luckydog7: How did you get to be so involved in the renovations?
Uhlich: I have had a few projects that I worked on through the years. I first worked on the Spring Training complex in Mesa, Ariz., back in 1982 for the Angels. Later, I led the design of the renovation of the Tempe Spring Training complex for the Angels as well. In 1996 when the Walt Disney Company purchased the Angels, I was retained to head up the renovation of Anaheim Stadium. It was a $120 million renovation. After I left the Angels in 2003 I went to work as the executive vice president of the Washington Nationals and led the design of the new Nationals park that will open next April.
rereit: What other duties do you have for the Royals other than renovations?
Uhlich: I currently head up the business side of the organization. Dayton Moore handles everything within the white lines and I have the rest. The renovation is just one part, but it is the most time consuming at the moment.
rereit: How are the renovations coming along?
Uhlich: The renovations started the first week the season ended and it is moving along nicely. If you are local and had a chance to drive by, I think you would be shocked to see just what has happened during the past eight weeks.
trueblue72: Do you think the renovations help to bring more players to Kansas City since the facilities will be state of the art?
Uhlich: I think that this is all part of the equation. As a smaller market team, you need every piece of ammunition you can have when it comes to recruiting talent. I think that our goal is to become a model organization both on and off the field and both Dayton and I have full support of the Glass family to make that a reality. We are excited to try and accomplish that.
kcdocdo: What can we expect to see on Opening Day 2008, and what are our chances for an All-Star Game in the near future?
Uhlich: The biggest pieces that will come online, so to speak, by April will be the "World's Largest Video Display". It will stand 106' x 85' and will be in high definition. There will also be a new video board built into the left-field wall that will be 8.5' x 127' that will be used for out-of-town scores and other features.
kingroot: What are some of your favorite ballparks and what do you like about them?
Uhlich: I have seen most of them and I have to say that it is hard to find a favorite. There are usually different pieces in each park that make it a bit different, but I would have to say that a few of my favorite new parks include San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Seattle and Colorado. But I have to say that outside of the fan amenities, the park that I most like to actually watch a game from is Fenway Park. It is so unique that almost anything can happen during the course of a game.
trueblue72: What happened with the video cameras that were going to show the real-time progress of the renovations?
Uhlich: The have been installed and they are currently being tested. We had hoped to have them up by now, since the demo work that is taking place is pretty neat to watch. I would hope that they are live in a few days though.
canes2299: Did you get that idea from U.S. Cellular Field for the Miller Box -- the bar and restaurant in right field?
Uhlich: There are actually a few parks that have a concept similar to that. I think that Turner Field's Chop House was the inspiration behind ours.
trueblue72: What is being salvaged from the old crown scoreboard that will be placed in the new Royals Hall of Fame building?
Uhlich: We are preserving much of the crown. We are going to reuse portions of it in the new Hall of Fame building that we are constructing in left field.
canes2299: Regarding the fountain seats -- are the fountains still going to go off between innings on windy days? I know I wouldn't care if I got wet but some people might!
Uhlich: Bring your raincoat! We know that there will be days when the wind plays tricks on us (and you fans) but that is why we opted for putting standing room in right field, since that seems to be the biggest problem areas. We thought there would be a group of fans that might just like a bit of "mist" during those hot August nights. Sounds like you might be one of them.
kcfan2: What do you have planned for the concourse renovations?
Uhlich: Unlike the Anaheim renovation where we were limited a bit on what we could renovate, we are happy to say that we are making extreme changes on Plaza and Club Levels. These get torn down completely and replaced. The Dugout Concourse areas, as well, will be totally new. The view will have a mixture of renovated older stands and restrooms along with new food courts.
trueblue72: Will there be a tribute to Buck O'Neil and the Negro League in the new Royals Hall of Fame facility?
Uhlich: Yes. Our goal is to honor professional baseball as a whole in the showcase. There will be history on every team that made Kansas City their home. We are looking at making it interactive so that it is not just a static display where you walk around and read things. It will be a fun place to visit and learn something new each time you come.
trueblue72: Are the renovations on schedule and on budget?
Uhlich: So far, so good. We are on schedule and in fact ahead of the original schedule outlined in the development agreement. It was first thought that we would need until April of 2010 to finish everything, but we should be completed by All-Star break in 2009.
bmaupin2k3: I heard we were getting those ribbon boards that wrap around the stadium? Is that true and if so, when will we see those?
Uhlich: Yes. We are installing them next offseason around the Club Level. We will also have LED product on both the Hall of Fame building and public restaurant.
royalretro: I currently have view-level season tickets, just a few rows up. Should I expect those seats to be eliminated with the renovations?
Uhlich: It depends what section you have. Yes, there is some seating in the front rows that we will lose so that we can rebuild the press box. Our account executives will be in contact with you if you are affected, and we will do everything in our power to get you placed in another location that suits your needs.
kingroot: Is it tough to make a decision with lots of input? Do you have the final say?
Uhlich: Well I try not to put myself in that situation. We truly are building a team and input is critical from everyone to make this as successful as it can be. While I have some good practical experience, we are best when we all work together -- architects, construction managers and front office associates.
sleekroyal: It's great to have you here. Are there plans for the Royals to put bars in the outfield with a high roof, kind of like Wrigley?
Uhlich: Thanks, it's great to be in KC. We are looking at designing a rooftop experience into the right-field restaurant to give you that feeling of Wrigley.
kst8er: How have early season ticket sales gone so far? Ahead of last year?
Uhlich: We are. You guys have been great. We are about three-to-one ahead of last season at this point. I think that people are starting to identify with our message and just what we want to do for this franchise. After my first year, I can honestly say that the fans here are loyal beyond compare.
royalretro: I was wondering what brand of restaurant would be in Kauffman, and would it be open on non-game days?
Uhlich: Not sure yet. What would you like to see? What we see is a sports-bar feel with something that no other sports bar in KC has, and that's a view to the field!
mattiedad: I noticed that the bullpens have been destroyed. Can you describe what will be in the space now? Can you describe where the new bullpens will be located?
Uhlich: The bullpens will be turned 90 degrees, so that fans can see both the pitchers and catchers. They will be pretty much in the same places as last year. Just a bit closer to the foul lines.
david925: The concession options seem to have gotten much better over the last few years. The new steak sandwich is awesome. The Royals hot dogs are much better than Chiefs hot dogs. Can you tell us about any more new items we'll see?
Uhlich: While we are still pretty limited given the facilities that Centerplate has to work in during the 2008 season, we would expect to have a more diverse menu come '09. The new "Taste of KC" picnic area and more "show kitchens" will be prevalent at the end of the construction.
bmaupin2k3: Will the new scoreboard have those famous chasing lights that went up and around the crown like the old one?
Uhlich: I don't think so. We are looking at new ways to engage the crown which might include pyrotechnics, lasers, light cannons, fire, just to name a few things being considered. While the video board will be fully functional by Opening Day, the crown will take a few weeks longer to be finished.
ao20cf: Lots of seats were removed for the renovation. Will they all be reinstalled, or will some be left over and maybe offered for sale?
Uhlich: Some will be left over. We are planning on placing some of them on our Web site for sale. Keep checking royals.com for more information.
trueblue72: There were speakers that were suspended between the lights behind the old crown scoreboard. Had they been in use? Will there be a loss of sound in the ballpark with their removal?
Uhlich: The speaker cluster that you are referring to was abandoned when the stadium replaced the old sound system with the new distributed system. They are gone for good but the sound will not be compromised.
teahen2424: When might we see the new video board up?
Uhlich: The steel for the new structure is laying in the parking lot as we speak. They will start erection this week.
Uhlich: These are really great questions and I appreciate your feedback. We have time for just a few more.
kst8er: Will work continue during the season?
Uhlich: Work will continue during the season, but it will cease each day by 3 p.m. The areas that will be under construction will consist of the outfield plaza areas and the areas outside the seating bowl.
royalsfan21: I know two of the spiral ramps were taken down already. How many escalators are going to be added and where?
Uhlich: We are installing six new escalators. Two at each of the new grand entry areas located on the sides of the park and two directly behind home plate. In addition, we are adding four new elevators to the building.
bmaupin2k3: A lot of teams seem to have rocketing ticket prices once they get new stadiums, is that going to be the case when new Kauffman is done?
Uhlich: Our goal is to provide the very best in professional sports entertainment at a reasonable price. We recently underwent a price increase that was necessary to keep us competitive. People seem to like what we are doing on the baseball side and it takes money to enhance that operation. I think that it is fair to say that we will be looking to have price points for all fans, and price should not ever be a reason why someone can't see the Kansas City Royals in person.
steven5000: How impressed are we going to be on Opening Day?
Uhlich: I think that is a fitting question to end on. Opening Day is usually a day that fans remember regardless of the outcome or the teams that are playing. It is a special day and I really hope that while the "K" won't be completely finished, people will get a sense of just what a truly remarkable building this is and get a sense of what we are changing. I think everyone will be in awe of just how dramatic the new crown scoreboard will be, and that will just be a taste of the final product. I hope you are there with us that day. Thank you for allowing me to chat.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.