What happened to Rosenblatt Stadium?

Every day more people are asking, “What happened to Rosenblatt Stadium“? In this blog I will answer that question and a few others that have been coming up.

Photo by Paul Fiarkoski

What happened to Rosenblatt Stadium?
In the Spring of 2009, after much debate and posturing, it was announced that the City of Omaha would be building a new stadium (TD Ameritrade Park) in downtown Omaha. The new stadium is scheduled to open on April 15, 2011. It will be the site of the NCAA College World Series (CWS) for at least the next 25 years, thanks to a contract extension that city leaders say would not have happened without the new stadium.

Why was a new stadium needed?
The real answer to this question remains a mystery. Different answers are offered by different people depending on their experience with Rosenblatt and their knowledge of the situation.

City of Omaha officials have offered all sorts of rationale as to why a new stadium is needed, with the mainstay answer being, “If Omaha doesn’t build a new stadium, we could lose the College World Series.”

Officials from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) are on record as saying they never threatened to move the College World Series out of Omaha if a new stadium was not built.

Folks at College World Series Omaha, Inc. say Rosenblatt is too small. (Note: the new stadium adds only 900 more seats.)

People with Rosenblatt’s primary tenant for decades, the Omaha Royals, said the new stadium would be too big for them.

What was wrong with Rosenblatt Stadium?
According to most who attended events at Rosenblatt in her final year, there was nothing wrong with the “old” stadium. One consistent gripe was that the concourses got pretty crowded at the beginning and end of near-capacity games. Rosenblatt had all the charm and mystique of Fenway Park or Wrigley Field and plenty more life left in her. The stadium rarely sold out – maybe five to eight games each year during the CWS. The new stadium will hold about 900 more people and will have all the conveniences Americans desire these days – more club level seating, wider seats, cup holders, tv monitors at the concession stands and in the bathrooms.

Who will play at the new stadium?
It is certain that Creighton University will play it’s regularly scheduled home baseball games at the new stadium. Additionally, the top eight teams that make it to the College World Series each year will play there for at least the next twenty-five years. In 2011 and later years, the Omaha Nighthawks United Football League team will play their regular season home games at the new stadium. It’s likely that the new stadium will also be used for concerts and other such events too.

Rather than play in the new stadium, Omaha’s Triple A minor league team decided to build their own $26 million stadium (Werner Park) in the suburb of Papillion to the south and west of Omaha.

What will be done with Rosenblatt Stadium?
The United Football League Championship game on November 27, 2010 was the last scheduled sporting event at Rosenblatt. There has been talk of some additional events to celebrate Rosenblatt’s legacy in 2011, but nothing is firm as of this writing.

Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo (site of the big glass dome beyond Rosenblatt’s right field) has been given the land on which Rosenblatt sits in exchange for all current debt of the stadium. The zoo will ultimately decide on what happens with the structure. All indications are that in the near term the stadium will be demolished to make way for more parking spaces.

Home plate is already on display at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY and the zoo released plans in 2010 that would preserve a small scale version of the stadium leaving first base line and the foul pole intact. It will be a sort of gathering spot for families visiting the zoo. Longer term, there has been talk that a panda exhibit will be located in the spot where legends of the game once played.

Stadium Comparison

Rosenblatt Stadium TD Ameritrade Park
Total Seating Capacity 23,100 24,000
Outfield Dimensions (in feet) LF – 335, LCF – 375 Same
C – 408, RC – 375, RF – 335 Same
Home Plate to First Row Seats 60 Feet 52 Feet
Average Concourse Width 20 Feet 32 Feet – Infield
30 Feet – Outfield
Leg Room Between Rows Varies From 30 to 36 Inches All 36 Inches
Number of Elevators 2 4
Total Cost $25 million* $ 128 million
CWS ticket prices (GA) $ 7 $ 8
CWS ticket prices (reserved) $ 22 $ 28

*estimate, includes initial build cost plus improvements over the years; not adjusted for inflation.

Read more about my love affair with Rosenblatt in a blog I wrote called The Road Back to Omaha. Share your memories and photos with other fans on the Rosenblatt Stadium fan page on Facebook or by clicking “Leave a comment” below.

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Rosenblatt Stadium held 8 of 10 largest College World Series crowds in history

By Paul Fiarkoski

Top ten largest College World Series crowds in history:

  1. 30,553  – North Carolina vs.  LSU, 6-20-08 (Rosenblatt)**
  2. 30,335  – North Carolina vs. Cal St. Fullerton & Oregon St. vs. Rice, 6-21-06 (Rosenblatt)*
  3. 29,921  –  North Carolina vs. Rice & Oregon St. vs.  UC Irvine, 6-21-06 (Rosenblatt)*
  4. 29,034  –  North Carolina vs. Louisville & UC Irvine vs. Arizona St., 6-19-07 (Rosenblatt)*
  5. 28,216 –  Texas vs. Georgia & South Carolina vs. Cal St. Fullerton, 6-23-04 (Rosenblatt)*
  6. 27,452  – Arizona St. vs.  Florida & Texas vs.  Baylor, 6-22-05 (Rosenblatt)*
  7. 27,127 – UCLA 8, Mississippi St. 0 No. 14 (Ch. 2) 6-25-13  (TD Ameritrade)**
  8. 27,122  -Indiana vs. Louisville, 6-15-13 (TD Ameritrade)
  9. 26,941 –  Baylor vs.  Oregon St.  & Texas vs. Tulane, 6-20-05 (Rosenblatt)*
  10. 26,887 – Oregon St. vs.  North Carolina, 6-23-07 (Rosenblatt)

*Doubleheader  **Stadium record

The largest single-game crowd at Rosenblatt (30,553 on June 20, 2008)  exceeded the largest crowd to date at TD Ameritrade (27,127 on June 15, 2013) by a 12.6% margin. The largest crowd at TD Ameritrade Park to date comes in at #7 on the all-time attendance list.

Why does this matter?

When talk of replacing Rosenblatt Stadium began to swirl in Omaha around 2007, the need for more seating was routinely cited as justification for a new stadium. At the end of the fifth year of play at TD Ameritrade Park, it would appear that perhaps the demand for more seating was overstated.

Looks like the City of Omaha could have saved its taxpayers about $130 million.

Source: ncaa.org as of June 22, 2015

A statistical comparison of Rosenblatt Stadium to TD Ameritrade Park.

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Last blast at the Blatt: Awesome Rosenblatt Stadium fireworks July 3, 2010

by Paul Fiarkoski

Many thanks to Omaha videographer Mike Machian for capturing the final Independence Day fireworks spectacular at Rosenblatt Stadium,
July 3, 2010.

If you like this post, you will also like Remembering the fireworks at Rosenblatt Stadium.

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Longing for the glory days of the College World Series

by Paul Fiarkoski

Those of us who were fortunate enough to experience the college world series at Rosenblatt stadium still remember, and long for, the glory days. Check out the slideshow and descriptions below.

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Home runs: lots of them.
An average of two per game in each of the last ten years of the CWS at the Blatt. That meant lots of runs each game, and lots of excitement. Some people refer to it as the Gorilla Ball era.

Tailgating: An all-day affair.
Fans from all over the country, especially Louisianna, used to fill the air with the aroma of hardwood smoke and deep-friers at the crack of dawn in order to serve up the goods for pre-game, post-game and post-post-game celebrations. According to lore, adult beverages were consumed too.

Old-school organist: Lambert Bartak.
Mostly impromptu, always upbeat, the tunes pumped out of Bartak’s organ became a trademark of Rosenblatt Stadium. He is reportedly the only organist to be booted from a game by an umpire. His crime? Playing the Mickey Mouse club tune as the umps discussed a call. Lambert joined Johnny Rosenblatt in heaven in 2013.

Foul ball girls: Cute, fit, entertaining.
Whenever a ball was foul tipped up behind homeplate, one of these teenaged dolls would quickly scoot out and face the backstop, and the crowd, to catch it, almost always to a rousing applause from the crowd. When they dropped one, good-natured boos would result.

Flamingos: Bagged and tagged. An annual tradition at the Blatt. Tailgaters kicked off the series with 8 plastic flamingos – one for each team in the tournament. When a team was sent home, the corresponding bird was covered with a black pillow case-like bag.

Free enterprise: Locals turned entrepreneurs. The residents around Rosenblatt were notorious for adding to the atmosphere. Sure, they’d ask for a few bucks so you could park in their yard or cold drinks. But in return you got what you paid for plus great hospitality and a story or two. Greg Pivovar earned celebrity status for giving away beer to patrons of his Stadium View sports memorabilia shop.

Zesto: A cool treat worth waiting for.
Sure, there’s a Zesto replica store downtown but the real Zesto ice cream and burger joint known around the country was just across from the CWS Fan Zone to the south of the stadium. It closed for good in 2013 after suffering a dropoff in business and costly frozen pipe damage.

Epcot Jr.: The glass dome beyond right field.
For many TV viewers the Desert Dome at the adjacent zoo was a mystery. When it was first built, my favorite Omaha radio show hosts, Otis 12 and Diver Dan, referred to it as Epcot, Jr.

A rainbow of color: Bands of beautiful seats
The view was most striking via aerial shots from any outfield vantage point, but anyone who wandered into a sparsely populated Rosenblatt couldn’t help being awed by the glorious bands of blue, yellow and red colored seats that added to the carnival-like atmosphere.

The Rosenblatt Roar: Distinctive sound of success.
You didn’t even have to be in the stadium to know when something big happened on the field, usually one of the aforementioned home runs. The crowd would let you know with a roar that reverberated perfectly from the mostly steel construct. It could be hear from nearly a mile away.

Dingerville: The urban RV park.
It began in the 80s when a few fans from down south opted to bring their own lodging to Omaha for the CWS. They parked em on a grassy median just south of the stadium. The City of Omaha adapted to demand for a few years by installing pad and electrical hookups, then pulled the plug for good in the 90s.

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They paved paradise and put up a parking lot

Rosenblatt Stadium

They paved paradise and put up a parking lot in place of Rosenblatt Stadium. Photo by Drew Fann

by Paul Fiarkoski

Drew Fann is a true fan of the Blatt. He snapped the picture above on a visit to Omaha in 2014 and posted it on Twitter. The image captures the essence of the song Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell that begins with the lyrics, “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”

The song continues:

Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
Till it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

Is that not the Rosenblatt Stadium story?

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College World Series home run stats for past decade #cws

There has been a lot of talk in 2013 about how well-hit balls that would be home runs in many other ballparks around the country are not making it out of TD Ameritrade Park. Fans are calling for moving the outfield in to return the glory days of “the long ball”.

Below is a breakdown of home runs during the College World Series (CWS) over the last ten years followed by a few factors that seem to  have led to a reduction in home run numbers.

Year Home runs Games Avg per game
2012 10 15 0.67
2011 9 14 0.64
2010 32 16 2.00
2009 45 15 3.00
2008 38 16 2.38
2007 37 15 2.47
2006 20 16 1.25
2005 24 15 1.60
2004 17 15 1.13
2003 32 16 2.00

Important notes:

  1. The NCAA standardized BBCOR bats for all teams in 2010 – the last yearof the CWS  at Rosenblatt Stadium.
  2. The CWS was first played at TD Ameritrade Park in 2011.
  3. The distance from home plate to the outfield walls is identical at TD Ameritrade as at Rosenblatt.
  4. Batters face southeast at TD Ameritrade and faced northeast at Rosenblatt. Summertime winds in Omaha tend to prevail from the south.

Source: ncaa.org

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A comparison of Rosenblatt Stadium and TD Ameritrade Park by the numbers

by Paul Fiarkoski

The iconic Rosenblatt Stadium hosted the College World Series in Omaha from 1950 to 2010. In 2011, the series moved to TD Ameritrade Park in downtown Omaha where it is still played today. How the stadiums compare

Rosenblatt Stadium TD Ameritrade Park
Total Seating Capacity 23,100 24,000
Outfield Dimensions (in feet) LF – 335, LCF – 375 Same
C – 408, RC – 375, RF – 335 Same
Home Plate to First Row Seats 60 Feet 52 Feet
Average Concourse Width 20 Feet 32 Feet – Infield 30 Feet – Outfield
Leg Room Between Rows Varies From 30 to 36 Inches All 36 Inches
Number of Elevators 2 4
Total Cost $25 million* $ 128 million
CWS ticket prices (GA) $ 7 $ 8
CWS ticket prices (reserved) $ 22 $ 28

*Estimates as of 2011 open of TD Ameritrade Park. Includes initial build cost plus improvements over the years; not adjusted for inflation.


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Rosenblatt Stadium: The baseball icon is gone

Rosenblatt Stadium Pressbox

By Paul Fiarkoski

Aug. 22, 2012 – A peculiar noise disrupted the morning air for residents of the fabled South Omaha neighborhood that had been the home of Rosenblatt Stadium and the College World Series for more than sixty years.

Minutes before 7 a.m. local time, the detonation of strategically placed explosives brought down the royal blue structure that hovered for decades over the stadium grandstand. Through that structure passed many a noteworthy personality over the years. Beneath it sat countless loyal fans of the game (and the stadium) seeking shelter from foul balls and the hot Nebraska sun.

Yesterday residents in the area immediately surrounding Rosenblatt Stadium received notices that they would hear an explosion shortly after sunrise. Today, down came crumbling the pointed A-Frame perch of broadcasters and journalists (and one special organist) over the years that left no doubt to passersby that here sat the real-life field of dreams.

Our nightmare is over. It happened like clockwork, just as the flyer advertised. I couldn’t hear it but I felt it clear out here in my Phoenix home. I felt the heartbreak with a twist of nausea all over again as my Twitter feed and Facebook wall promptly filled up with comments, videos and retweets of the gruesome sight. If this blog was called Forget Rosenblatt, I would probably share the images with you. For those of you who can handle the gory scene, search Google or YouTube.

Rosenblatt Stadium is gone for good. Okay – not for good, but forever.

Who knows? Maybe this will be a good thing for those who have had trouble letting go. What if this means we won’t have to bear our wounds being reopened each time a new image of a deteriorating Rosenblatt is posted online? Time will tell.

Farewell Rosenblatt! Thanks for the memories.

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