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Official Review by James Hilchen, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
CommunityAmerica Ballpark opened in 2003 with the birth of the Kansas City T-Bones, then of the Northern League. The T-Bones joined the American Association in 2011. The stadium was home to the Kansas City Wizards of Major League Soccer from 2008-2010. In 2010, the Wizards moved to a soccer-specific stadium with a much higher capacity just down the road. The stadium is also home to the Kansas City Community College baseball team.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Food is served in the traditional concourse style and there are a lot of options. This being Kansas City, barbecue is front and center. At the Butchers Block, behind home plate, you have a choice of pulled pork, brisket, BBQ nachos, or a Reuben for $8.00.
Wimmer's premium sausage ($7.00), grass fed burgers ($7.00), chicken sandwich ($6.00), beef hot dog ($4.00), Chicago dogs ($5.00), and pizza ($7.00, Papa John's) are other options readily available.
Popcorn, peanuts, nachos, pretzels, sunflower seeds, Cracker Jacks, kettle corn, and ice cream are all available for around $3.00 to $5.00. Coke products (Coke, Diet Coke, Coke Zero, Pibb Xtra, and Sprite) are $4.50 and bottled water is $3.50.
Mixed drinks are available at the home plate bar including margaritas, wine, single and double shots for around $7.00 depending on your choice. There are also plenty of beer choices, mostly priced at $7.25. Blue Moon, Killians, Coors Light, Miller Lite, Bud, Bud Light, Corona, Michelob Ultra, Jack Daniels Mixers, and Mike's Hard Lemonade are among the options.
The ballpark offers plenty of things to see. Immediately noticeable upon scanning the stadium is the left field wall. Known as "the little green monster," the wall stands 18 feet high while the remaining outfield walls are 10 feet. The left field "fair pole" as they call it is a mere 300 feet from home plate. Also, in left-center field is a great view down in to the visitor's bullpen.
The scoreboard is easily noticeable and sits in right-center field. A grass berm lines the entire right side beyond the outfield fence and is a great place to sit if you have kids that like to move around. Behind the berm and the walkway that goes around the stadium are the batting cages. The locker rooms are located below the cages. If you arrive early enough (gates open 90 minutes before the first pitch) you can see the players hitting in the cages up close on some days.
Beyond the right field corner is a kid's play area. The unique feature of this one is there is a kid's concession area with lower counters and lower prices so kids can get the food themselves.
The seating bowl has stadium-type seats with cup holders, and the seats are sufficiently sized. There are no bad seats as far as viewing goes and even the berm allows for a great view of the game. The seating choices are names of cuts of meat with prime (first six rows behind home plate and padded seats), choice (rows seven and back behind home plate), and select (beyond the dugout). The berm is general admission, all other seats are reserved.
The neighborhood surrounding the stadium "Village West" is unique to say the least. The stadium sits about 15 or so miles west of downtown Kansas City. If traveling from downtown, you drive through a non-developed area. Upon hitting the Kansas turnpike where I-70 and I-435 meet, the monstrous Kansas Speedway comes into view. CommunityAmerica Ballpark is located just beyond the Kansas Speedway in what can only be described as a retail wonderland. Folks who live in the area literally don't need to go anywhere else as this place has everything you can imagine. In addition to the Speedway and the ballpark, Sporting Park, home of Sporting KC of the MLS is also a block away.
There is no shortage of choices for places to eat or drink. Among the options is Arthur Bryant's BBQ, a Kansas City institution. The original Arthur Bryant's is downtown but the food at this one is great also. The combo plate was outstanding. I went with ribs and smoked turkey but there are numerous meats to choose from.
Another option is Granite City Food & Brewery. Granite City offers an on-site brewery and offers some tasty options. The northern light lager was recommended and didn't disappoint. Granite City also offers a full food menu and families are welcome.
For families with children, the T-Rex Café is located across the street from the stadium. Anyone with children into dinosaurs will want to make a visit here. The dinosaur themed restaurant offers kids a chance to see animatronic dinosaurs as well as a place to dig and try and excavate their own dinosaur bones (which costs extra). There is generally a wait, so plan accordingly.
You also have plenty of options regarding lodging. The Great Wolf Lodge offers an indoor water park for kids. Other choices include a Best Western, Hampton Inn, and Holiday Inn. This area is so compact; it can be traveled on foot without too much effort.
While in Kansas City, an absolute must is a visit to the Negro League Museum. The museum houses old uniforms, contracts, a huge autographed baseball display, and so much more. Adult admission is more than fair $10 but the experience is worth so much more. Unfortunately, pictures are not allowed.
While the stands are often full, many fans seem to be there to socialize rather than to take in a ballgame. Some cheering is done at appropriate times but overall, there is a lack of reception to events. The T-Bones have a clever promotion in which two visiting players are chosen before the game. Each time those players bat, a section is chosen. If the player strikes out, the entire section wins something, be it a sandwich, coupon, etc. Reaction to these promotions is tepid at best. Fans are friendly, polite, and easy to chat up.
Getting in and out of parking at the stadium can be challenging depending on other events in the area. The stadium sits in a huge retail area and across the street from a very busy mall. Parking for the game is free. Once inside the stadium, the concourse is wide although there are numerous kiosks/vendors behind third base and it can get crowded in that area. There is plenty of seating available for handicapped fans. The bathrooms are more than sufficient for the size of the crowds and are clean.
Tickets run anywhere from $6.50 for grass berm seating, up to $16.00 for prime seats. Prime seats are the first few rows behind home plate and sport padded seats. The best option is the select seats ($10) comprised of sections 109-114. These are just beyond first and third base. For $12 you can sit closer to home plate in a non-padded seat. With parking being free and reasonable concession prices, CommunityAmerica Ballpark offers a fun time for a reasonable price.
An extra point for the honor the T-Bones pay to the great Buck O'Neil. The team retired Mr. O'Neil's uniform number and it is inscribed on the left field wall.
The uniqueness of the left field wall is well worth seeing. One of the bullpens juts out into what would be the playing field, making for a very unique "V" design in the left field wall. The potential exists for some very strange bounces.
Cup holders are where they are needed most...in the restrooms.
This stadium being in Kansas City, behind home plate in the concourse is a big smoker. You can watch the cook smoke the meats for the barbecue dishes served at the stadium.
When people think baseball in Kansas City, they think Royals. The T-Bones are good at not trying to be the Royals. They present an entertaining game at a fun ballpark that has some uniqueness to it. If you are on a baseball trip to Kansas City, save some time for CommunityAmerica Ballpark. It's a fun time at a good price.
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1702 Village W Pkwy
Kansas City, KS 66111
1701 Village W Pkwy
Kansas City, KS 66111