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Populous founder explains why Royals proposed downtown stadium doesn’t face downtown skyline

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Posted at 11:00 AM, Aug 23, 2023

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The renderings for a proposed new downtown stadium in the East Village of Kansas City, Missouri, shocked some Kansas City Royals fans who expected the field to be oriented with the downtown skyline in center field.

Populous, which presented renderings for two possible sites for a new Royals stadium Tuesday afternoon, incorporated St. Louis' iconic Gateway Arch into the view when it designed the new Busch Stadium.

But Populous’ design for a downtown ballpark in Kansas City doesn’t highlight any of the unique architecture downtown.

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Instead, the proposal features a south-southeast orientation for the field, which looks back to a jumble of interstates and highways at the southeast corner of the Downtown Loop.

Why doesn’t the field look back toward City Hall, the downtown courthouse, Bartle Hall and the Kauffman Center, taking advantage of the familiar sights that dominate the downtown vista?

“The direct answer is the sun sets in the west and downtown Kansas City, the higher part of downtown Kansas City, sits to the west of the ballpark site,” Populous Global Chair and Founder Earl Santee said during Tuesday’s press conference inside Kauffman Stadium’s Hall of Fame.

Even with buildings dotting the skyline if the stadium faced west-southwest, Santee said “we still would have issues. Batters don’t necessarily like the sun in their eyes when they’re trying to hit a fastball.”

Santee said the “iconic, sweeping” crescent-moon canopy that tops the stadium’s main seating bowl would be designed to provide the requisite shade inside the stadium.

“The other interesting thing about the East Village site, it slopes from the 8th Street side to the 11th Street side 35 feet,” Santee said. “That gives us kind of a natural bowl to put the ballpark in and we’re taking advantage of that.”

VIDEO: Royals renderings of possible downtown stadium

Santee acknowledged that “most of you baseball fans might question” the south-southeast orientation of the field. Home plate at Kauffman Stadium, the Royals’ current home, faces north-northeast.

“For us, it’s pretty normal,” Santee said. “If you went to (Atlanta’s) Truist Park, it’s also south to southeast.”

He added that it’s a common orientation for ballparks “in the middle part of the country” when Populous designs stadiums.

Santee said he’s designed more than 20 major-league ballparks across the country and “more than half have a south-to-southeast orientation.”

“Typically, we try to find the best viewshed into outside the ballpark,” Santee said. “For us, it was these orientations.”

The placement of the main entry, which appears to be around East 9th and Cherry streets, also was a critical consideration in determining the field’s orientation.

The other possible site for a new stadium in North Kansas City also has a south-southeast field orientation.

“They’re both oriented in a way that would take advantage of the existing and new development that would occur around it,” Santee said.

The plans for the 27-acre East Village site calls for new corporate office space to be built to the southeast of the stadium. Once completed, it would dominate the center-field view.