New roster additions and a some World Series championship rings might be the most anticipated changes to the Royals this offseason, but players and fans alike are appreciating renovations made to the facilities in Surprise this spring, too
The team’s home away from Kansas City got major updates, both in the clubhouse and the stands. Outfielder Alex Gordon was quick to compliment the upgrades, but said he’s still getting to used to them after some time in camp.
“The new additions have been amazing,” Gordon said. “I’ve been here for 11 years and it’s kind of different, I don’t know where to go.”
The team and the city of Surprise reportedly combined to spend more than $20 million for a new kitchen, locker room and coach’s locker rooms. On top of being more comfortable, there are practical upgrades in new hydrotherapy pools to help with player recovery.
Veteran infielder Clint Barmes said the new hot and cold pools are his favorite part of the facility.
“I try not to visit that as often as I can, but it’s kind of part of the gig,” Barmes said. “When you’re out here and you’re on your feet as often as we are, more than likely you’re going to be visiting there.”
Fans making the trip west also have a new place to rest and recover: 8,000 new seats were installed at Surprise Stadium. For fans like William Smart, who has come to Arizona from Ionia, Mo., to see the Royals the last two years, those seats are appreciated, if a little unnecessary.
“The seats were OK last year, but I’m sure they’re better this year,” Smart said.
For Barmes, a spring training home with the latest bells and whistles is much appreciated. Barmes was in the Rockies organization from 2000 through 2010, when the Rockies trained at Hi Corbett Field in Tucson — a facility that opened in 1937.
“This is definitely one of the nicer ones (in the Cactus League),” Barmes said. “Especially for me, being in Hi Corbett for 10 years down in Tucson. I enjoyed my time down there, but it was in one of the oldest stadiums.”
Now, Barmes said the nearly 70-years-newer Surprise Stadium gives him an environment to get his body ready for the season. And it’s not just the case for the big-leaguers — the renovations are a bigger step up for the minor-league camp invitees, Gordon added.
“Anything you could possibly need, they’ve got it here,” Barmes said. “It’s a very nice setup. It allows us to get our work done and also be pretty comfortable sitting in here at our lockers.”
Still, Gordon’s words should assure fans that they don’t need to have any Troy Tulowitzki-like concerns about the Royals getting too comfortable with their state-of-the-art facilities. In typical Royals fashion, he said that even the new renovations to the clubhouse are just more motivation to keep succeeding on the diamond.
“With winning comes things like this,” Gordon said. “Hopefully we can keep winning and we can keep getting new additions.”
Jayson Chesler is a senior at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.