Ewing Kauffman Steps Up To the Plate
A model baseball franchise, the Royals developed talented young players into major league stars. Their brand of baseball made Kansas City perennial playoff contenders, winning two American League pennants and the World Series in 1985. Moreover, the team boosted civic pride and generated several billion dollars of economic activity for the city.
During his time as owner, Kauffman's entrepreneurial spirit and competitive nature fueled the team. He brought innovative ideas to the game. He created the Royal Lancers, a team of boosters, who each sold at least 75 season tickets the first year. He looked at unique statistics to measure a player's contribution. He established the Royals Baseball Academy where elite athletes would hone baseball skills. Kansas City native and Royals Hall of Fame second baseman Frank White, is the Academy's most famous graduate.
Kauffman never demanded taxpayer subsidies in return for keeping this tremendous economic asset in Kansas City. Quite the contrary. He spent much of his personal fortune to improve the quality of his baseball team and give fans a spectacular stadium and championship caliber organization.
Ewing Kauffman made history by arranging to bequeath his baseball team to charity. The groundbreaking and complex succession plan withstood a two-year review by the Internal Revenue Service before it was approved.
Kauffman was ahead of his time when he began issuing warnings in the early 1990s about the lack of competitive balance in baseball.
“All small markets will get hit hard if we don't get some form of revenue
sharing or a salary cap. If we don't, some teams are going to go under,” he said.
Kauffman worried that, after his death, the Royals would not be able to stay competitive and remain in Kansas City. He came up with the succession plan and donated nearly $100 million to keep the Royals afloat after his death.
Kauffman donated the Kansas City Royals to the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation, with two provisos. The foundation had to sell the team to someone who would keep it in Kansas City, and the proceeds from the sale had to go to local charities.
At a time when other cities were building cookie-cutter, multipurpose sports facilities Ewing Kauffman went against the trend to build Royals Stadium, a spectacular home for the team that was decades ahead of its time. Fans in one of the sport's smallest markets responded by filling the stadium, topping the magic two-million attendance mark a total of ten times and seven seasons in a row.
Opened as Royals Stadium on April 10, 1973 as part of the Harry Truman Sports Complex in Kansas City, the stadium is recognized throughout baseball as one of the game's most beautiful ballparks. Designed by Kivett & Myers, a pioneering sports stadium architectural firm in Kansas City, the Royals' home incorporated the best of Dodger Stadium and Angel Stadium, with 40,793 seats, all facing second base and arranged in three tiers. The stadium's prominent features include water fountains beyond the outfield fence and a 10-story high scoreboard shaped like the Royals crest, topped by a gold crown. The 322-foot wide water spectacular is the largest privately funded fountain in the world. The stadium featured an artificial surface, and Royals management begins to build a team around speed and pitching. In 1995 a grass field replaced the artificial turf surface.
Ewing Kauffman made his last public appearance at the stadium on May 23, 1993, when he was inducted into the Royals Hall of Fame. The facility was officially renamed in honor of Ewing M. Kauffman in a ceremony at the stadium on July 2, 1993.
In 2007 the Royals announced that Kauffman Stadium would be extensively renovated by for the 2009 season. This included a high definition scoreboard, fountain view terraces, widened concourses on all three levels and an outfield concourse that allows fans to walk 360 degrees around the stadium.
Kauffman Stadium Trivia
- Kauffman Stadium is the only stadium in the American League named in honor of a person.
- Kauffman Stadium was the sole baseball-only facility built in the majors between 1962 and 1991.
- Academy Award Winning Actor Chris Cooper, who grew up in Kansas City, attended the University of Missouri, and narrated the documentary of Ewing Kauffman's life story, was on the construction crew that built Kauffman Stadium.
- Fountains beyond the outfield fence are on display before and after the game and in-between innings, while the waterfalls are constantly flowing.
- A construction strike delayed the opening of the Stadium and Kauffman added money to make sure it would open in time for the 1973 season and the 1973 All Star game.
- Kauffman Stadium is the sixth oldest stadium in Major League Baseball.