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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All that’s left of Rosenblatt Stadium


RosenblattInfieldZoo1

Family matters drew me back to Omaha for the Fourth of July holiday in 2017, so I paid a visit to the Infield at the Zoo memorial at the original site of Rosenblatt Stadium. Below are a few pics and thoughts from my visit. (Click pics for larger view.)

Back story: What happened to Rosenblatt Stadium?

Immediately evident is the high level of creativity and planning that went into the memorial. It’s a scaled down, family-friendly wiffle ball field that gives current and future generations a taste of the Rosenblatt experience.

When I arrived with my wife and her brother, we were the only ones there. Without question, the most prominent feature of the memorial is the massive arched Rosenblatt sign that once hovered behind the left field bleachers. It’s now propped considerably lower on a brick wall that stands roughly where the baseline between second and third bases laid.

Rosenblatt-Arch-sign-plaque

Aluminum bleachers from the infamous general admission sections now serve as benches in simulated dugouts. As I took a seat on the first base dugout bench, I envisioned tiny tots running the bases after a trip to the adjacent Henry Doorly Zoo. I could also imagine twentysomethings gathering after work for a few innings of pickup wiffle ball while hydrating with adult beverages.

A few minutes before we left, a family lined the third base dugout bench, broke out their sack lunches and soaked in the vibes as they ate. My hunch is they were taking a lunch break from their day at the zoo.

Rosenblatt’s home plate is on display at the Baseball Hall of Fame museum in Cooperstown, NY so a replica now sits where the original was. The bases for the wiffle ball diamond are much closer to home plate than the standard 90 feet for college and pro games that were played here.

A nice touch of the new park’s design are three concrete “base bags” that rest atop yard-high brick columns where first, second and third bases would have been. Both foul poles remain exactly where they stood for decades at the end of the third and first base lines.

Visitors to the memorial can relax behind the “outfield” in one of the 100 or so colorful seats held back when the stadium was demolished in 2012.

Sadly, the infield turf appeared to be suffering from neglect. The grass was a very pale shade of green and a variety of broadleaf weeds had filled the cavities of sparsely turfed areas. Such condition would have never been allowed during the tenure of Rosenblatt’s veteran groundskeeper Jesse Cuevas.

Having seen the situation first hand, it is apparent that the primary reason Rosenblatt Stadium no longer exists is that the Henry Doorly – Nebraska’s top attraction by far – needed more space for parking. By noon on the Monday I went, visitors’ cars were already bulging out of expanded parking area that now includes the former Rosenblatt grounds. I estimated that the zoo was taking in a minimum of $50 per car in admission fees alone. Multiply that by a thousand new parking spaces (conservatively) and we’re talking increased revenues of $50,000+ per day. Tack on money spent for food, souvenirs and attractions inside the zoo and the numbers tell the rest of the story.

Parting thoughts: Its better than nothing. If you’ve read other posts in this blog, you know I was a huge fan of Rosenblatt Stadium and was a vocal proponent for keeping it around. I’ve been to the new stadium and still feel Rosenblatt was better. I am also a businessman and understand how strategic decisons are made. We all face disappointments in life that we have to move on from. I’m moving on. Visiting the Infield at the Zoo did not bring me joy. It didn’t cause pain either. I guess if Rosenblatt Stadium is no longer there, all that’s left is better than nothing.

By Paul Fiarkoski

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Remembering Rosenblatt guru Steve Pivovar


As I meandered around the Infield at the Zoo monument at the sight where Rosenblatt Stadium once stood, I came across a plaque that touched my heart more than any other feature on display.

The plaque reads:

Steve Pivovar was a sports writer for the Omaha World-Herald for 45 years. He was a loyal son of South Omaha and covered many sports at the World-Herald, but his passion was baseball and he was a good friend and guardian of the College World Series and Rosenblatt Stadium. Known for his old-school work ethic, he covered 500 consecutive CWS games and his spirit lives on here with the players and coaches he followed. 1952 – 2016


Here are some excerpts from Pivovar’s obituary in the Omaha World-Herald:

  • Pivovar’s commitment is best illustrated in his dispatches from Rosenblatt Stadium. He covered approximately 1,700 games at the stadium, writing about the CWS and Omaha Royals.
  • “Maybe it was South Omaha roots, but Pivovar didn’t believe in shortcuts. You earned your way. You showed up early and stayed late,” said Eric Olson of the Associated Press.
  • In 2010, Pivovar penned “Rosenblatt Stadium, Omaha’s Diamond on the Hill,” a World-Herald book that became a collector’s item for CWS junkies.

Read Steve Pivovar’s complete obituary on omaha.com>>

I met Steve in the Rosenblatt Stadium press box in 2010 during my blogfest of the last College World Series held at the Blatt. We had exchanged pleasantries a few times via social media and we shared a brotherhood in being S.O.B.s (South Omaha Boys). Like Steve, I had also worked for the Omaha World-Herald; as a newspaper carrier in my youth, then as an advertising intern in college.

During the epic Oklahoma – South Carolina rain delay I introduced myself to Steve and asked if he would autograph a copy of his book I had purchased. He obliged, but only after escorting me from his front row seat of the press section up to a small room that housed packets of team stats and other info. He said he didn’t like to do “that sort of thing” in the working area. Here was a legendary journalist exercising a great act of humility in the midst of his peers.

Even though Steve had literally written the book on Rosenblatt memories, he thanked me for the work I was doing and encouraged me to keep it up. I became an instant fan of Steve and his work. I continued to follow his stories up until his health would no longer allow him to work. Today, I am honored to have met Steve and worked in his presence. I still pick up the book and thumb through it from time to time.

Rest in peace, good man. Rest in peace.

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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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