Uhlich chats with Royals fans
Senior VP of business operations discusses renovations
Royals senior vice president of business operations Kevin Uhlich fielded questions from fans Tuesday during a Royals Relay Chat about the progress of the renovations at "The K" and the upcoming 2009 Royals FanFest.
Kevin Uhlich: Hello everyone. Thank you for participating in the chat today. I look forward to answering all of your questions.
bjdein: In 2008, the new HD video board was awe inspiring for all the fans who visited The K. What aspect of the renovations do you anticipate will be the most impressive feature to the fans in 2009?
Uhlich: We're most excited about the amenities which fans will find in the outfield and the View Level. The Outfield Experience will be second to none in baseball with all the interactive games and experiences for fans of all ages. The View Level, with a complete overhaul, will not even resemble the experience of last year with the additional concessions, restrooms, merchandise store and concourse space.
bjdein: What is planned in terms of a re-opening celebration? And when can we expect another renovations album to be posted?
Uhlich: Next year is a very special year, with not only the grand re-opening of The K but also the 40th anniversary season. Plans are currently under way to incorporate both of these milestones in Royals history and it should be a very exciting season. We are planning another round of photography to take place over the next week, and we will share those photos on royals.com as soon as we are able to put them together.
co-dizzle: I am so excited for Opening Day next year and I love the renovations. However, I would have loved to see the fences moved in a bit -- helps the team out and allows for more seating. Why was that not part of the renovations?
Uhlich: Thank you for your excitement regarding the renovations, but as for the relocation of the fences, we decided to keep them in their current locations after many conversations with [GM Dayton Moore] and the baseball operations group. We are very comfortable in building our ballclub around our current dimensions, and so the decision was made to stay where we are. Remember, moving fences in works for the visiting team as well as the home team.
josh_frost: Will the new K bring any more attention to Kansas City in the baseball world? All-Star Games, maybe?
Uhlich: We believe that the renovation will make national news after our grand re-opening and the media from around the country get a chance to experience firsthand. This is more than just a renovation, it is truly building a new stadium around an existing seating bowl. It will be very difficult for even our most longtime fans to recognize any part of the old stadium being carried over into the new. As for the All-Star Game, we are in continual communication with the Commissioner and we believe we will be selected.
holiestcow: What qualifies as a success next season at The K? Is it fan reaction, attendance goals, player preference or something else?
Uhlich: All of the points you raise are a good barometer for us to measure the success of the renovation. If I personally had to pick one, it would have to be the fan reaction, because in the end that is what our game is about. I know how special Kauffman Stadium is to our existing fan base, and we will be extremely happy if our fans feel that we only added positively to the game experience.
irish05: Will any new concessions be offered throughout the ballpark?
Uhlich: We are currently in talks with numerous branded food providers which are nationally known, and so I would say that by Opening Day our fans will find some new branded concepts. We have also changed our food service provider from Centerplate to Aramark, and we are excited to be working with such a highly acclaimed food service provider. We are confident that their expertise will allow us to provide great quality and service to our fans next season.
bduck08: What new types of features will the crown on the scoreboard have?
Uhlich: This is a good question, and we had many meetings to discuss what the new crown should look like. In the end, we decided to keep it in a more simple state so that it does not conflict with everything we have going on with the new video board. It will be impressive, as it stands almost three stories high and the only lighting which we are installing will be incorporated into the four balls at the top of the crown. We are planning on using the platform located on the roof of the video board to shoot fireworks from, and the video board and crown will continue to be the most dominant icon for Kauffman Stadium.
steven5000: Any word on what the restaurant inside The K will be called?
Uhlich: The restaurant will be named Rivals and will be your classical sports bar. Inside the restaurant, fans can watch numerous flat-screen monitors, one being as large as 93 inches, of not only our game but other Major League games going on around the country. The food will consist of big burgers, chicken sandwiches, buffalo wings etc. The most unique part of the restaurant will be the large open-air party deck on the roof, which will be available for groups to book in advance.
co-dizzle: As far as the standing-room-only in right-field goes, will tickets only be available to buy at the game or can we buy them in advance?
Uhlich: Our current thinking is that the standing-room area located behind the right-field fence will be open to any fan during the event who wants to enjoy it without having to purchase any additional tickets. The only time that we traditionally sell standing-room tickets will be once we have sold out all of our seating inventory. Our hope is that all fans will enjoy the 360-degree walk around the Plaza Level and spend a moment in the standing-room platforms to enjoy the view from the outfield.
JTROYALS: Kevin, thanks for the great work. Please tell us what to expect in this year's FanFest. Will there be a question-and-answer session with the baseball operations department?
Uhlich: We will once again be holding FanFest on Saturday, Jan. 17, and Sunday, Jan. 18, at the Overland Park Convention Center. However, this year, we have expanded beyond the exhibit halls to the entire top floor of the facility. We have already announced the return of the annual Baseball Awards Dinner, which will take place Friday, Jan. 16, at the Sheraton Hotel connected to the Overland Park Convention Center. Please check for updated details on royals.com.
dennyfan: Will the Royals Hall of Fame in left field be complete by the home opener? If not, when can we expect it to be open and what are some of the main exhibits we can expect to see?
Uhlich: Unfortunately, the only piece of the renovation which will not be open on Opening Day will be the upper level of the Hall of Fame. This 7,000 square-foot interactive museum is under design, and baseball fans will truly enjoy the experience once complete. Our expected completion should be around July 1, but we are trying to move that earlier if at all possible. The museum has a dugout theater showing an eight-minute movie of the history of baseball in Kansas City, a timeline of exhibits telling the Royals story and a wing that will be dedicated to George Brett, Frank White, the 1985 World Series, and our current Hall of Fame inductees.
royalsmh: Do you know when you will be installing the new crown?
Uhlich: We expect it to be installed in the first two weeks of January.
revive__85: I know the Little K was taken out due to renovations in 2008. Will it return in 2009? Are there any other kid-friendly features being added?
Uhlich: The Little K will return next season in left field. It is slightly larger than the old Little K and we expect to use it more for community events and clinics in the future. It is part of a kids outfield experience which will include two video batting tunnels, one video pitching tunnel, a carousel theme to the Royals, a children's playground, a home-to-first race where you can race our fastest player to home plate, a kids interactive water fountain for those warm summer nights, a five-hole miniature golf course and Sony Playstation Arcade.
steven5000: Will Lot A be fully open in 2009, or is it still used for construction for both stadiums?
Uhlich: Unfortunately, a portion of Lot A will still be used by the construction companies as they close out their punch list during the summer. We will try to reduce their space as much as possible, but fans will still see some trailers through the end of the season. We are planning on having all of the parking lots surrounding our stadium resurfaced prior to Opening Day.
bjdein: What sort of pricing can we expect for the new seating areas (fountain seats, etc)?
Uhlich: We are very sensitive to the economic times we are in and we have made the best decisions we thought possible to offer a wide variety of seat locations and amenities for our fans. The Outfield Fountain Pavilion Seats will be sold on game day only and will be a reserved general-admission seat for $7.
i70ws: How much extra seating will "The K" have for Opening Day?
Uhlich: The capacity prior to renovation was around 41,000 and it will be smaller once the renovation is complete. Our goal was to have approximately 39,000 seats, and we are very close to achieving that number.
Uhlich: Thanks for all the great questions. I have time for just a few more.
bjdein: Can we expect to see more screens like the one that lined the left-field fence next year? If so, where, and what about the scoreboards on the concourses behind first and third base?
Uhlich: We are installing a video board in the right-field wall that will be a mirror image to the one we had last season in left field. In addition, we will be installing new LED ribbon boards on the facia of the Loge Level from Press Box to foul pole on both the first- and third-base lines. In addition, we are also installing new LED ribbon boards on the faces of the Hall of Fame building and Rivals Sportsbar building.
scottjhawk: Can you tell us more about the Diamond Seats and Diamond Boxes as well as the Diamond Club?
Uhlich: The Diamond Club is located directly behind home plate and will offer food and beverage in a club atmosphere in an air-conditioned environment. On beautiful evenings we have the ability to retract the glass panels on the field side so that fans can enjoy the sounds of the ballpark. Fans using this space can either have waiter/waitress service to not only their seats in the seating bowl but to the terraced-dining platforms located inside the club. The exterior seats below the cross aisle will sell for $55 and will have a fully padded seat bottom. The Diamond Club Boxes located above the cross aisle will have a patio feel complete with a drink rail and custom teak padded chairs. The Diamond Club Box Seats sell for $70, which includes $20 of value loaded into the ticket and can be redeemed at any concession or merchandise location within Kauffman Stadium and used the same as cash.
bduck08: With all the renovations going on the I-70 side of the stadium, will drivers still be able to see the field from the interstate?
Uhlich: It will be a little bit more difficult because of the outfield canopy, which is being installed over all of the concession and restroom buildings. The new Crown Vision video board has not helped retain those view corridors, either. Fans still will have some sightlines. However, it probably will not be as open as it was prior to the construction.
steven5000: Have you borrowed any renovation ideas directly from any other ballparks, or was the goal to be unique?
Uhlich: While you will see concepts here that will resemble concepts in other parks, our goal was always to try and enhance those concepts and take them to a higher level. Case in point the Diamond Club. The Diamond Club was first used in the Anaheim renovation in 1998, and there are teams that have tried to incorporate that concept into their new ballparks since then. The drawback in Anaheim was that the restaurant was on one level and views from inside the restaurant were compromised. In our Diamond Club concept, the entire club is terraced, offering the very best views from every table in the club.
lgroyal: How many games will be shown on FOX Sports-KC next season?
Uhlich: At a minimum, you will see 140 regular-season games broadcast on FOX-Kansas City, with two exhibition games from Spring Training. Our goal with FOX is to grow the amount of high-definition broadcasts. With last year as our baseline with 88 games and while we do not have an exact number for 2009, we would expect it to be more than last season.
Uhlich: Thank you to everyone for submitting your questions. This a very exciting time for our ballclub both on and off the field, and we look forward to an exciting 2009. We hope that you will have a chance to experience it in person next season.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.