KANSAS CITY -- Though nowhere near as extensive as the renovations that led to the transformation of Kauffman Stadium three years ago, some changes around the ballpark ahead of this weekend's All-Star festivities might come with as much anticipation.
Royals vice president of communications Mike Swanson showed members of the media around the park on Tuesday afternoon. Much of the work being done around the stadium is to accommodate the massive amount of media members that will be coming in to cover the All-Star Game and everything that surrounds it.
The largest and most notable structures will be the auxiliary media seating areas, which are being constructed on the concourse in both left and right field. High-rise seating structures that resemble the bleachers at a local high school football field will provide good views of the action for the (coincidental, yet baseball-appropriate) 162 media members that will fit on each side of the field. Large monitors will be mounted on posts so that media members sitting outside will have the same replay benefits as those up in the press box.
The press box is another sight to behold. Normal seating for 68 media members has been adjusted to fit 96, and the large area usually reserved for press dining has been outfitted with dozens of tables and chairs for overflow press.
Swanson said that when the game was awarded to Kansas City two years ago, the thinking was that with a sluggish economy and the London Olympic Games right around the corner, media demand would be down. Instead, this season's Midsummer Classic -- in terms of the number of media credentials, which is 2,556 -- will be second only to the 2008 game at Yankee Stadium in the amount of media coverage.
Space for all the media is coming at a premium, and it has also spread to the players' area of the facility. Photographers will be working out of one of the Royals' batting tunnels, where tables and chairs have been set up, and electric and Internet has been wired in. Also, some heavy lifting was done to clear the weights out of the Royals' weight room, which will act as the interview room for the game.
"You have to invent space to put on something like this," Swanson said. "You can't put new rooms in a ballpark."
Swanson helped touring media imagine where FOX, MLB Network and ESPN will erect their sets in the outfield starting on Thursday. FOX will set up in left field, just to the right of the Royals Hall of Fame.
FOX broadcaster Joe Buck will be doing his pregame broadcast from the set before being ushered up to the broadcast booth for player introductions in just 4 1/2 minutes. Swanson described the route and the process. He said he drove it the other day in a golf cart. It took two minutes and 12 seconds. It looks like Buck will be able to make it.
But the preparations don't just deal with accommodating the media. The field has to look nice, too. The painting of the All-Star Game logos was under way Tuesday afternoon down each base line. Members of the Royals' grounds crew were hard at work preparing new sod and the carefully painted logos. Even George Toma, the longtime yet semi-retired Royals groundskeeper who was just elected to the Royals Hall of Fame, was out working, prepping the field for one the game's greatest stages.
Fans that routinely get a glimpse of Kauffman Stadium will notice the major difference to the park almost instantly: There's a gigantic pop can out in right-center field. The Pepsi Party Porch has been joined by the Pepsi Fan Can, an air conditioned can that will seat 10 MLB contest winners.
The walls of the stadium can't even hold all the All-Star excitement. The parking lot in between Kauffman Stadium and Arrowhead Stadium, where the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs play, is the construction site of a large tent, where the All-Star Gala will be held Monday night following the Home Run Derby.
In addition to construction and grounds work, everyone was busy prepping, with the videoboard operators testing out the introductions for players in the SiriusXM Futures Game and the Taco Bell Legends & Celebrity Softball Game, which will both be played Sunday.
The first All-Star event at Kauffman Stadium, the Futures Game, will be played at 4 p.m. CT on Sunday. Swanson said the Royals hope to have construction finished by Friday.
Vinnie Duber is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.