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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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It’s over, folks. Rosenblatt Stadium is gone.


by Paul Fiarkoski

Nearly two years have passed since the last baseball game at Rosenblatt Stadium. Yet when I browse the web in search of references about Rosenblatt I’m frequently surprised to see how many people still refer to Rosenblatt in the present tense.

This morning on Twitter I saw a few references to people having a trip to Rosenblatt on their bucket list. One gent was passing through Omaha on a road trip and stopped to share a picture he had just taken from the north side of the stadium. His caption was something to the effect of “the College World Series started here yesterday.”

Hello, buddy! Is there any evidence around you that indicates the greatest show on dirt is taking place at Rosenblatt this week? I can imagine the shock and horror he fealt if the lad continued around to the south side of the stadium to snap another instagram.

It’s over, folks. Rosenblatt Stadium is gone.

I don’t fault these innocent people who missed the news. It just means they took a year or two off from following the college world series. That happens. I’ve been guilty of the same in the past. I don’t get angry anymore (at the City of Omaha), I just get sad.

Dead outfield at Rosenblatt

Rosenblatt Stadium’s dead outfield, June 2012
Photo by Lee Warren

One evening last week the Omaha Storm Chasers, Triple-A minor league team of the KC Royals, hosted a gathering at Rosenblatt for their players and staff, plus a few members of the media. Rosenblatt was their home field until 2011. As I understand it, the purpose was to give folks one last opportunity to say goodbye to the Blatt before the demolition equipment comes in July to start bringing her down. The stories and pictures that came out broke my heart, again.

The Omaha Zoo Foundation, which has assumed ownership of the stadium and the ground it’s on has opened the stadium up to the general public for people to come in and throw the ball around, share memories and hang out in the dugout. The Omaha press billed it as one last opportunity to say goodbye. Apparently the foundation is trying to sell bricks for $250 each to help raise money for the demolition and removal of debris.

Mitch Sherman wrote a piece for espn.com that was about as subjective as it gets in today’s media. It was raw, direct, accusatory. And right on the mark. “Enough. Why are they doing this, to sell bricks? Because it’s sure not conjuring any great memories,” is how Sherman assessed the enterprise.

Lee Warren, who I met at Rosenblatt in her final year of glory (2010), published an article of similar tone on Yahoo! Sports and shared a number of photos of the tour. Both described the experience as a wake for deceased family. The Associated Press even shared a piece about it.

At his retirement ceremony Jesse Cuevas, Rosenblatt’s legendary groundskeeper for the stadium’s last three decades, said it best:  “The soul of the place is gone. It’s just a carcass now.”

I was unable to make it to Omaha for the 2012 College World Series due to a recent move to Phoenix but I have to say I’m glad I missed out on the Rosenblatt wake. I hate funerals. I’m missing not being in Omaha for the CWS. But even more I miss all the good times and great vibes at Rosenblatt.

Related: What happened to Rosenblatt Stadium?

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Remembering Rosenblatt Stadium: the fence debacle of 2010


For an undisclosed reason, the City of Omaha decided 2010 was a good year to secure the entire Rosenblatt Stadium campus with a 6-foot-high chain link fence, allowing admittance only through designated entry points and disrupting traditions that fans had built over a few decades.

In years past, locals traditionally staked out their tailgating spots up to a week in advance by putting out the frame of their party tents. They would chain the frame to a tree, light pole or other stationary object, then come back when the College World Series started to install the canopy and layout the rest of their party.

Tailgating tent frames at Rosenblatt

Tent frames stake out would-be tailgating spots one week before the start of CWS 2010

Shortly after the tent frames shown here went up in 2010, there was a media blitz in Omaha telling people to come take down their tents because “maintenance crews needed to mow the grass”. Any tent frames still there the Monday leading up to the College World Series were going to be disposed of, people were warned.  One fan reportedly traveled all the way from Chicago to remove his tent.

Come Monday morning, the city did more than mow. They swiftly erected a temporary but stable six-foot high chain link fence, in effect closing off access to tailgate parties to anyone who didn’t have a reserved parking space.

Following are the reactions of a few Rosenblatt Stadium fans on Facebook when news of the fence broke:

“They fenced in the ENTIRE lot … no more ability to leave your tailgate up in the grassy areas. You have to have a parking pass and set up/break down every night. And you can’t “walk” beer into a tailgate … it has to come in via car. Absolute travesty.”  Marc Pena

“I like some of it. I always wandered how the same people always got the grass spots. You should have to pack up and leave every night. There isn’t going to be any tailgating at the one downtown so probably just getting you ready for what is to come.” Jeff Sila

“The last year at Rosenblatt for CWS. Fans and supporters have come to love the place, the atmosphere, the operations as they are — good, bad, quirky or whatever. So the city decides to make this adjustment and change the experience for the last year. I don’t get it. The cries of “efficiency” fall on deaf ears when I consider other areas of city responsibilities.” Mark Kirchhoff 

“Sure you can put them [awnings] out, if you are somehow lucky enough to get told to park by a median, then you have to take them down and start over the next day. Grrrrrr!!!!!” Kelly Secord Cheshier

“The neighborhood might be ready, but the tailgaters are ticked that the city won’t let them put up their tents on the grounds any longer.” Sean Weide

The party went on, but the festivities paled in comparison to prior years. What I experienced during College World Series 2010 were folks sort of going through the motions as I detailed in my blog entry, The Ten Day Funeral.

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News of Rosenblatt demolition opens floodgates of memories, emotions


Nearly a year has passed since I exited Rosenblatt Stadium for the last time. They say time heals all wounds. It does. But sometimes memories open the wounds back up. Today on my news alert I saw the headline of an article entitled “Breakdown of the Blatt begins”. I clicked through to the article and it hit me again, that desperate feeling you get when you see a picture of a loved one who has passed and nothing you do or say will bring them back.

At the top of the article was a picture of the paver bricks being pulled up from the entrance to the front gate and stacked on pallets. The article revealed that the bricks will be offered for sale to help raise the $3 million needed for demolition. The seats will be sold at somepoint too, I found out.

Demolition of Rosenblatt Stadium began with removal of entryway paving bricks June 5, 2011. Photo by Rebecca Gratz/The World-Herald.

Talk about a double-edged sword. Yes it would be nice to have a brick, or a seat, from Rosenblatt. But do I want to help pay for the demolition of the ballpark? I’ll need some time to think about that one.

Evidently I wasn’t alone in my feelings of sadness that the article brought on. Shortly after I posted a link to the article on Facebook and Twitter, other fans of Rosenblatt echoed the thoughts I was feeling:

  • I’ll never forget the memories that I made at the Blatt. The games I saw, the people I met and the folks who live in the neighborhood. I’m so glad I experienced it.
  • How terribly SAD! It will be missed. 😦
  • Glad I got some pics of Rosenblatt last fall! I grew up going to games in that stadium. The pictures of the bricks being pulled out make me sad.
  • What a tragedy!! So many memories…..all traded in for corporate profits. Sad!
  • Will never forget the wonderful memories & friendships made over the years at & around Rosenblatt! The CWS will never be the same 😦

No chance of an encore
Recent flooding near downtown Omaha has some people speculating that the City of Omaha might have to reopen Rosenblatt if the new stadium gets flooded. Officials are saying there’s no chance of that happening. While I don’t want to see Omaha get flooded, part of me thinks that a flood would be the ultimate sign that the stadium decision was wrong.

Moving on
In a couple of weeks I’m driving back to Omaha for the 2011 College World Series at the new stadium. I have been assured by many people whose opinions I trust that things will be much better for the CWS and the City of Omaha. I’m hoping to leave Omaha this time with a real sense of closure, once and for all.

The next few months will be rough for a lot of us as we remember all of the “lasts” at Rosenblatt last year. We’ll be presented with more reminders that her end is for real. We’ll smile, we’ll cry and we’ll swear as the wounds we have endured will be reopened. A few years from now we will just remember.

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I have seen the future of event broadcasting and it’s very social


On Saturday, November 27 2010 I logged on to the United Football League’s YouTube webcast of the league’s Championship Game from Omaha’s Rosenblatt Stadium. I was not prepared for what I experienced and I don’t know how to begin describing it, so I’ll just throw random thoughts at you.

On the UFL’s YouTube channel I was able to choose from about seven different camera angles at any time during the broadcast. I was able to not only see what was going on in the huddle and the sidelienes, but I could also hear conversations amongst the coaches and players. Directly below the video pane was a feed of comments, questions and shout-outs from fans who were watching literally from around the world. The feed was pulling content from the UFL’s Facebook wall, tweets on Twitter with the designated hash tag, comments posted directly via YouTube and texted via MMS. By the way, the game was also broadcasted on Versus network sans all the social media elements.

During what would ordinarily be commercial breaks was an announcer in the booth addressing select comments and questions from fans. Of course I was thrilled that he actually read one of my tweets about two minutes after I posted it.

I see great potential for this sort of application for all sorts of events such as conventions, awards ceremonies, town halls, etc. The whole thing just blew me away. Am I alone in thinking that we are on the cusp of an complete media revolution?

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Rosenblatt Stadium’s ten day funeral (2010)


A couple days before the last College World Series began at Rosenblatt, I read a post on the Rosenblatt Stadium Facebook fan page that from my perspective could not ring any more true. It read, “2009 was the last year of the College World Series at Rosenblatt; 2010 will be a 10-day funeral.”

That’s the feeling I get here this week, like I’m at a funeral. Just as if people were coming for a wake, people are talking about Rosenblatt with nothing but respect, choosing their words carefully, so as not to disrespect the departed.

You can feel it in the way people conduct themselves on the streets, at the tailgates, in the stands. There is something noticeably different about the feeling in the air at this year’s College World Series. On 13th street, you get the sense people are just going through the motions. They’re wandering around looking at things, mostly memorabilia, but they’re not excited about it. The vendors I have talked to indicate there’s a lot of browsing, but not as much buying as they’re used to. The exception is with anything that can remind them of Rosenblatt. People are snapping that stuff up: t-shirts, books, posters, photos, stadium replicas … even dirt from the infield. Which leads me to wonder if the reason that the City of Omaha secured the stadium grounds with a chain-link fence this year was to prevent looting. My only other hypothesis was that the pupose of the fence was to funnel more people past all the paid sponsors. No matter the reason, it deserves “bonehead move of the year.”

In the parking lot, the lucky ones who have cracked the code on finding a tailgate spot within the tightly secured compound seem to be doing it for the sake of nostalgia. It’s definitely not the party atmosphere we felt in 2009. Granted, LSU is not here this year but still, it’s just different. Last year there were meat smokers and grills galore (the smell alone would get your blood flowing). This year, the trend is toward meat and cheese trays. What? When I ask people about their plans for next year, their faces lose all excitement.

Father and son, Jason and Mike Dale, pose at their tailgate party in 2010.

The Dale family has built a family tradition of tailgating at the College World Series, they’ve been doing it the same way for the past 26 years. This year the chain-link fence saga changed everything. They were able to secure a spot on the grassy area across College World Series Blvd. from Rosenblatt’s main parking lot. They even printed t-shirts this year to commemorate the event. Mike Dale, the patriarch, admits his health is declining and doesn’t know how much longer he’ll be able to carry on the tradition. So, he’s making sure his son Jason is prepared to continue his legacy when the new stadium opens downtown. Mike goes on to share that they have no idea what the situation will be like downtown. They’re prepared to rent out a meeting room at a hotel if that’s what it takes. Double-what?

Jim Monaghan (left) with his brother at the 2010 CWS.

In the stands, many of the traditions carry on. Beach balls bounce around the general-admission sections as in years past, with periodic chants that left field (or right field) sucks. But even in the stands, you get the somber feeling that its over. I spoke briefly in the stands with Jim Monaghan, who shared (with no lack of emotion) how torn up he is about losing the season-ticket seats he has occupied for 30 years. He’ll try out the new stadium, but he’s less than thrilled about it, especially considering his two season tickets in 2011 will cost him $3,300. His seats this year, in a comparable location, were $550.

Something new that fans are being exposed to this year are clips on the scoreboard screen from the NCAA’s new “documentary” about the College World Series. I’ve watched and re-watched The Long Home Run and have concluded it’s less about cherishing the memories of Rosenblatt Stadium and more about the NCAA trying to heal the wounds inflicted on the people of Omaha, local residents who love their stadium so much. Nevertheless, it is a program I think all sports fans should watch.

Fans are making their own documentaries by taking more pictures and video than I can recall ever seeing. They’re capturing every detail from every angle. Since when is it so important to have pictures of the ticket booth at a stadium? People are snapping pictures of signs, concession stands, seats, ushers, foul poles, the press box and, of course, themselves. For a snapshot in front of the infamous CWS statue, the wait in line is averaging about 10 minutes on game days.

The 10-day funeral will conclude either June 29 or 30, with the final dogpile at Rosenblatt. Shortly thereafter, fans, players, coaches, media and staff will form a procession out of the South Omaha neighborhood that has been to good to them (and Rosenblatt) for so long.

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The Road Back to Omaha


It has been said that people tend to return to their roots. A couple weeks from now I will be returning to my roots for an experience of a lifetime: helping cover the final College World Series baseball tournament at Omaha’s Rosenblatt Stadium.

What’s remarkable about this journey is that I didn’t plan it. There is no way I could have. In a way, it just happened. When this journey ends I will surely have feelings of bitterness, yet I’m counting on the memories to be sweet. I doubt you need me to tell you about how it came to be that the stadium where the championship team of college baseball has been decided for 60 straight years will meet its fate. My own story is similar.

Growing up in South Omaha
The son of a twenty year military veteran, I began to put down roots in South Omaha at the age of seven when my dad retired from the Air Force. The home I was raised in sits on 24th and D Streets, about three-quarters of a mile west of the main entrance to Rosenblatt. From the bedroom I inhabited, my view was over neighboring rooftops and a distinct valley dense with trees. Protruding from the treetops across the narrow valley were Rosenblatt’s stadium lights.

I could always tell if something was going on at “the Blatt” just by peering across the horizon. If it was a concert, I could hear it. Baseball games were evident by the long pauses between announcements and cheering. Fireworks were unmistakable and always inspiring to watch.

My exposure to Omaha politics
Like so many kids who grow up in South Omaha, I moved west when I outgrew Mom and Dad’s house – all the way to 35th Street (still in South O). That’s where I bought my first home – eleven blocks west and about five blocks south of my childhood home. Shortly afterward, in 1994, I learned first-hand about the city’s power of eminent domain to take property from individuals and turn it over to businesses. Where my starter home once sat, now sits a parking lot for the employees of a meat packing plant – a mainstay industry in South Omaha.

Although it was an entirely different mayor and city council than was behind the decision to demolish Rosenblatt, I learned in 1994 the same thing advocates for saving Rosenblatt learned in 2008: you can’t fight city hall. Well, you can, but it does no good.

With my settlement from the City of Omaha in the bank, I picked up and moved even further west and further south. This time to neighboring Sarpy County, just like the Omaha Royals (the MiLB tenant of Rosenblatt) will in 2011. Some have bagged on the Royals for not moving downtown to the new $130 million tax-payer funded stadium, but I don’t blame them for making a decision that wouldn’t support the city’s decisions. I know how bad it stings to be forced out of your home, especially when you have been a good citizen and member of the community.

Save Rosenblatt
New adventures lured me from the Omaha area to Colorado in 1996, where I have lived ever since. Years passed without me missing Omaha one bit. Then, on a trip back to visit family in the Rosenblatt neighborhood for Easter, 2007 a yard sign caught my attention: “Save Rosenblatt”. Nostalgia hit me like a ton of bricks. “Nobody is foolish enough to destroy Omaha’s crown jewel,” I assured myself. Or were they?

Save Rosenblatt sign from the unsuccessful 2007 campaign

And so the story goes, big money trumps tradition. The city wins (what they won I don’t know), Rosenblatt fans lose. Thanks for playing. Heartache began to set in for fans of the stadium and the world series of college baseball.

For me, the road back to Omaha in June 2010 will leave a great big check mark on my proverbial bucket list. I will experience the championship series in a way few will ever get to: from the perch of the press box, attending as many games as I can handle, taking notes, taking pictures and sharing the whole experience with anyone who wishes to follow it.

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