KANSAS CITY, Mo. — What will the Royals proposed new downtown ballpark look like? Where will it go?
One Kansas City man can answer those questions better than anyone. He and his team have designed the majority of new Major League Baseball stadiums this century.
Earl Santee, Populous Founder and Global Chair, says it’s almost certain to have some sort of skyline view serving as a great backdrop. That’s something that’s become a signature element of Populous’s downtown stadiums.
“This is from Enron Field (now Minute Maid Park) Houston Astros. Drayton McLane signed it for me,” Santee said pointing to one of a dozen bats that line his Kansas City office.
Each is from a Major League stadium he’s helped design. That list has grown most recently with the additions of Target Field in Minneapolis and Truist Park in Atlanta. They are modern ballparks built around fan experiences, both around the ballparks’ concourses and surrounding entertainment and office districts.
“I go to a game now and I’m watching people experience the game more than I’m watching the game itself,” Santee said.
Santee said he learned early on from design of PNC Park in Pittsburgh, location is equally as important as the features of the park.
“Really the most interesting part about site selection is visualizing what’s possible,” he said.
Populous is now consulting with the Royals on a proposed $2 billion downtown 35,000 seat stadium and ballpark district. It’s helped survey 14 potential sites in and around downtown studying both traffic and parking.
Santee said each of those site has a minimum of 14 acres for the stadium itself, and the site selection will have a big influence on the architectural design. But he promises it will have Kansas City features in line with Kauffman Stadium’s fountains and Crown.
“We love what the opportunity may lay in front of us. The city informs what we may do with the ballpark. It tells us what it wants to be, where it wants to be, how it fits in neatly, how it integrates with the community, how it makes it feel like its more than a ballpark.”
Of all the ballparks he’s designed in other communities, last week was the first time he’d been a part of a team listening session.
“When you go through the process its tough, it’s hard. You have to make tough decisions, but every city we’ve done it in have never regretted it. In fact they’ve embraced all the new ballparks across America.”
There’s still plenty to be ironed out besides site selection, including development agreements and the public financing portion. Santee said design and construction would likely take about 4 years – give or take – depending on which site is chosen.