Kansas City, Mo. On a piece of metal scaffolding beyond the left-field wall at Kauffman Stadium, construction workers bolted together a table under a sweltering midday sun, the temperature tickling triple digits and sweat pouring off their brows.
Along the baselines, groundskeepers laid stencils and began to paint All-Star game logos, while other workers hurriedly connected miles of cable, built camera platforms, hung banners and spruced up every corner of the Kansas City Royals’ home for its night in the national spotlight.
The anticipation is almost over: The All-Star game is merely a week away.
“People haven’t been here in a long time, because no postseason games have been played here since 1985,” Royals vice president Mike Swanson said Tuesday. “We want people to say, ‘Wow, they did a heck of a job and we want to go back.’ That’s what we want.”
That’s what the staff of the Royals — along with untold numbers of construction workers — has been doing since the club left town for an extended road trip last week.
There are entire sets to build for Fox, which has the television rights for Tuesday night’s All-Star game. There are bleachers to build for overflow press, and air conditioning to run to a giant, walk-in soda can in right field, where sponsor Pepsi is giving some fortunate fans an opportunity to see the festivities from a most unique vantage point.
Extra photo bays are being constructed for the roughly 75 still photographers documenting every aspect of the game. Electrical and internet cables are being run for some 500 reporters who will be covering the All-Star game on deadline for electronic and print publications.
All told, there will be 2,556 credentials issued to reporters, technicians, officials and others associated with the event, second only to the 2008 All-Star game at the old Yankee Stadium.
“When we got the game, we thought this would be one of the least-covered All-Star games,” said Swanson, pointing out that the economy was in the doldrums just a few years ago, and the Olympics and November elections will financially strap many news organizations this year.
“That has turned out to be about as far from the truth as you can get.”
This is the third time Kansas City has rolled out the red carpet for baseball’s elite.
The city hosted the game at the old Municipal Stadium in 1960, back when the Athletics were in town. The A’s moved to Oakland in 1968, and the Royals came into being the following year, and new owner Ewing Kauffman — the namesake of the stadium — was rewarded for his desire to keep the game in Kansas City by hosting the 1973 All-Star game at his newly constructed ballpark.
Kauffman Stadium recently underwent a $250 million renovation in part to lure the All-Star game back to Kansas City, and commissioner Bud Selig officially awarded the game on June 16, 2010.
Two years of whirlwind preparations are about to come to fruition.
“I’m looking forward to next week, the All-Star game and all the events we have,” Selig said during a conference call Monday. “We’re having a remarkable year on the field, and frankly off the field, as we’re going over 37 million in attendance.”
There will be no shortage of fans in the seats for the All-Star game, either. There were only a few tickets still available early this week for All-Star Sunday, which includes the Futures Game and the Legends and Celebrity Softball Game. The Home Run Derby and All-Star game are sold out.
How hot are tickets? Entire strips in the Diamond Club section behind home plate could be had through secondary markets on Tuesday afternoon for nearly $3,500 each.
The city and Major League Baseball are providing plenty of avenues for fans to get involved with the game, though, even if they don’t want to mortgage their house for tickets.
The festivities begin in earnest on Friday, when the MLB All-Star FanFest opens at Bartle Hall in downtown Kansas City, Mo. Fans will be able to get autographs from former players, participate in interactive exhibits and check out memorabilia and other baseball-themed attractions.
Hunt Auctions will be running a live auction and appraisal fair, and some of the highlights include a home run ball hit by Lou Gehrig during the 1928 World Series, and a circa-1920s bat used by Ty Cobb, both of which are expected to bring more than $100,000.
“Both the Lou Gehrig World Series Ball and the Ty Cobb bat have incredible significance with equally impressive provenance, two of the more amazing pieces I have seen in my 20 years working with vintage baseball items,” said Hunt Auctions president David Hunt.
Numerous charitable events also are planned over the weekend, including a build project with Habitat for Humanity, the renovation of youth baseball fields around Kansas City, and the MLB All-Star game Charity 5K and Fun Run through the Power and Light District.
Of course, many of those events are planned for places around the city, allowing work to finish up at Kauffman Stadium. Swanson expects the ballpark to be ready on Friday.
“I think the hardest part of hosting it, and I’ve been involved in baseball for 34 years, is you really have to put your baseball season on hold for 10 days,” said Swanson, who has worked for the Rockies, Padres and Diamondbacks, but left each stop before they hosted the All-Star game.
“It’s been a pretty intense week,” he said, “but everything has really gone pretty smoothly.”