Fan memories of Rosenblatt Stadium


by Paul Fiarkoski

The College World Series will always conjure up will always revive the nostalgia of Rosenblatt Stadium. But Rosenblatt was more than college baseball. It was also host to games played by the Omaha Royals and their Triple A opponents. Indeed, Rosenblatt was far more than baseball. Here, concerts and tractor pulls were held, as well as fireworks displays,  football games and even weddings. For some, Rosenblatt was a summer job. Others viewed the stadium as a neighborhood landmark.

Regardless of what place Rosenblatt occupies in your heart, it’s likely you have fond memories of Omaha’s legendary Diamond on the Hill. We invite all fans to share your memories here.

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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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A Rosenblatt lover’s review of TD Ameritrade Park


I am aware that dozens of writers have already made comparisons of Omaha’s new TD Ameritrade Park to the condemned Rosenblatt Stadium three miles to the south. However, I feel like I needed to write one on behalf of the people who really loved Rosenblatt Stadium. If you’re looking for the quick conclusion to my review, here it is: I liked the overall experience at Rosenblatt way better!

Need more background? Read What happened to Rosenblatt Stadium>>

My first visit to TD Ameritrade Park was the evening of day four of the 2011 College World Series. I arrived so late in the game that I didn’t bother going to the game. I parked my car at an open meter about three blocks south and wandered around the new baseball village that is reportedly owned in part by Omaha’s former mayor who was in charge at the time the decision for a new stadium was made. I was rather impressed with the layout of the “village”, although it really lacked people on that night. As I continued my stroll around the vicinity I was hit with the overwhelming feeling of “where am I?” Twenty years earlier I served a summer internship for the Omaha World-Herald in the same general area and spent quite a bit in north downtown. On this visit back to the area I did not recognize it whatsoever. I remember thinking to myself as I jumped back in my car to go meet some people in the Old Market, “why wasn’t this here when I lived in Omaha?”

I went back a few nights later for a cold one after covering the marathon Friday night game between Virginia and South Carolina and the place was crawling with drunks. About thirty minutes before every other bar in Omaha celebrates last call, I was forced to toss a quarter of my 40 of Bud Light when the testosterone fortified security personnel (off-duty Omaha Police officers) told me I, and everyone else, had to leave. Shortly after being herded out like a cow being prodded to the kill floor of a South Omaha packing plant, I thought I was going to have to duke it out with an intoxicated muscle head who tried to throw a shoulder at me just outside the village.

Parking & tailgating
Day five of the College World Series was my first day to go inside the new stadium. Before going in, I had to park in Lot D featuring the bubbling spring on the north end. I arrived 90 minutes before the game parked at the far east edge of the lot to preserve up close spots for other fans. (Clue: there were never empty spots at Rosenblatt 90 minutes before a game.) The few tailgate parties I saw paled in comparison to Rosenblatt tailgates by a long shot. There were no smokers or deep fryers; just a few coolers and propane fired tailgate grills. The most active gathering I saw was a gathering of about a dozen people around a tent near the space closest to the stadium. It was clear from the banners they flew proudly that the party’s underwriter was the advertising agency of record for College World Series Omaha, Inc.

Press box
Once inside the business end of the stadium I got a taste of what others mean when they have said the new stadium is “sterile”. I felt like I was in a hospital. I am not alone in my assessment that the press box set up was much better at Rosenblatt. I overheard one reporter say he felt like he was covering the games in a library. My particular beef with the press box at TD Ameritrade is that the glass panes are narrower than at Rosenblatt, so you have more vertical lines disrupting your view. On Day 1 of the series, a number of media members complained on Twitter about spotty wifi access in the press box. I’m sorry, but that should not happen at a brand new, state-of-the-art stadium. Even the press box at 62 year-old Rosenblatt Stadium had good wifi.

View
The next day I vowed to get out into the stadium to get a taste of the fan experience. To say the least, I was impressed. Some have said TD Ameritrade Park has a big league feel to it. I would say it doesn’t. It’s actually better. Most big league parks are so big that you don’t feel like you’re close to the action. I tested out numerous vantage points from around the main level and all the views of the field were great. I did not make it to the upper deck. While I’m on the topic of views, I much preferred the view of treetops and the valley beyond at Rosenblatt than the buildings poking up around downtown Omaha. Regarding the grass on the field I have mixed feelings. It sure looked pretty; however, since the most common question I heard about the turf was whether it was real (it is), I would have to give it a thumbs down.

Corporatization
On the topic of the new stadium experience becoming the corporate world series as some have suggested, I have to say that it wasn’t as corporate as I expected. Even in the area surrounding the stadium, I didn’t get the overwhelming feeling of being suffocated by commercialism. In fact, I would say that by draping a huge tarp of some kind over the TD Ameritrade sign above the scoreboard, the NCAA would strike virtually all commercialism from the College World Series experience. Unlike at MLB or minor league games, where nearly every turning point in the game is sponsored by somebody, you just don’t get that at the Trade during the CWS. A few weeks prior to the CWS, I did notice during an ESPN broadcast of a Creighton-Nebraska game that the on-deck circle was emblazoned with the logo of a large Omaha bank. Still, that didn’t detract from the game. Anyone not familiar with the bank wouldn’t have even known it was a logo.

Scoreboard
The scoreboard and video reply monitor at TD Park does not stack up to the one at Rosenblatt. If it’s not smaller, it sure looks like it and it doesn’t display as much information. At Rosenblatt, you could see information not just about the current batter, but you could also see who else was in the lineup. Not so at TD. Others have told me that the lineup is displayed at TD, but it’s definitely not as present as it was at Rosenblatt. The other thing I liked seeing at Rosenblatt was the pitch speed display. I looked all over and couldn’t find the pitch speed anywhere at the new stadium. One final gripe I have about the scoreboard is that everytime I look at it, I am reminded how much money I have lost in my IRA at TD Ameritrade and how difficult their statements are to read (zing!). Remember the arched Rosenblatt sign over the scoreboard at Rosenblatt? What a classic!

Concessions
One thing that is vastly improved at TD is the concessions. Truthfully, I only bought a pretzel and a souvenir cup of Dr. Pepper but there was virtually no wait, and the ambience was much more inviting than at Rosenblatt. The people I am happiest for in the whole move to the new stadium are the concessions workers. I always felt bad for the sweaty folks working in the hot, cramped confines of the Rosenblatt concession stands. My younger sister was one of them once upon a time. I’m glad that they can now work in greater comfort. The menu boards are attractive and easy to read too. One myth about TD Ameritrade is that you can watch the game while you stand in line. I actually lost my place in line because I heard the crowd roar and ran to the railing to see what caused the ruckus. By the way, the railing around the lower reserved seats is a nice touch. I like the fact that you can set a drink on the narrow counter top or take notes if you want to.

On a personal note, I was bummed that you can no longer buy the curly fries inside the stadium. I always looked forward to the curly fries at Rosenblatt. Nor can you buy an Omaha Steaks sandwich at the stadium or have a cold “Jesus” water handed to you on the way in. These things may be available down at the corporate Baseball Village a few blocks away (I didn’t bother to find out), but not in or immediately around the stadium. Most people won’t even notice since Famous Daves BBQ sandwiches and plenty of other goodies are still available.

The statue
I can summarize what has happened to the famous Road to Omaha statue in one word: gag! They relocated it from Rosenblatt and placed it right in front of a bland, colorless, tiered concrete wall flanked by the arched stairways leading into the main stadium entrance behind home plate. In its current location, it’s virtually impossible for fans (or players) to get a picture in front of the statue without including people walking up the stairs or the tacky TD Ameritrade side in the background. I saw team pictures shot from a virtual profile angle in order to get everyone in the picture. In order to stand far enough back to get a group photo straight on, the photographer would be standing in the street. Thankfully, somebody had the good sense to plop a few bushes in behind the statue prior to the 2011 College World Series, so as to give a little color to the backdrop.

The stadium lights
I’m sure the stadium lights at TD Ameritrade are far superior in terms of candle power and efficiency or whatever metric stadium lights are evaluated by. Dozens of very luminous bulbs are stretched across a bar of metal that measure 40 to 50 feet long on all sides of the stadium. There was certainly no lack of visibility during the night games. Still, I prefer the old school lights perched high above Rosenblatt. One other thing about the lights at the Trade is that the light structure rising above the third base side of the stadium casts an odd, rapidly moving shadow on the field for an hour or so before sundown.

I may think of more attributes to cover and add them to this post at a later date. Please don’t take my word for it. You owe it to yourself to go and form your own opinions, especially those of you who have experienced Rosenblatt.

My conclusion is this: there was something infectious about Rosenblatt that made you want to come back again and again. Having spent several days at the new stadium, my feeling when I left was “Okay I saw it, so what?” I liked the overall experience at Rosenblatt way better!

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Remembering Rosenblatt Stadium – the concert venue


In the 1970s and early 80s concerts at Rosenblatt Stadium were a big deal. Many times in my early teen years, my buddies and I rode our bikes or skateboards down to the stadium during concerts. We had no plans, or means, to get into the concerts but it was just fun to be a part of all the activity taking place around the stadium. We would hang out for a while on one of the street corners just watching people as they made their way to the stadium. Once everyone was inside the stadium we would make our way back home.

Summer concerts at Rosenblatt were especially good for people watching as a pubescent male who attended a Catholic grade school because that was about the only opportunity to get glimpses of busty, tanned gals in halter tops. We often dreamed about the day we would be able to make it into a concert and how we would dance around with all the girls.

The Beach Boys
Finally, my shot came one summer in the early 80s. The Beach Boys were coming to Rosenblatt and my brother, nine years my senior, offered to take me along with his friends. I would have been twelve or thirteen at the time. I remember many things about that first concert experience and few of them had to do with the music. In particular, this was my first exposure to people openly consuming large amounts of alcohol and it was my first time ever smelling marijuana. I remember thinking how all of it made people just a little bit crazy.

Here’s what I mean by crazy. While standing in line to use one of the portable jons that had been arranged in a row to the north of the third base line stands a hairy, buff shirtless guy walked by with a Beach Boys button pinned right into his chest! He seemed not to care, or even know, that a trickle of blood was matting the fur on his front side.

Moments later, just as my turn to relieve myself approached, a couple of guys came up from behind one of the portables and dumped it over with someone inside – and the door facing down! You would have thought the Tazmanian devil was trapped in that bivvy the way it rocked back and forth as the lad trapped inside tried to free himself. The rest of us stood around in stunned amazement with a blanket look of “what do we do?”

Certainly, nobody in our group dared to help raise the portable back to an upright position with all the profanity-laced threats coming from within. There was no telling what this guy was going to do once he got out. So we did the only logical thing and split.

For big concerts like this that weren’t affiliated with a baseball game, they would set the stage up on the warning track along the wall in right centerfield. Concert goers would spread blankets out all over the outfield turf and party it up for an hour or two in anticipation of the show starting.

I’m not sure who thinks to bring beach balls to Rosenblatt events, but it seems there were always plenty on hand even back in the 80s. Waiting for your turn to volley the rainbow colored sphere is a great way to keep your mind off the anticipation of the opening number.

As soon as the mic checks began, fans would jump up and begin crowding toward the stage. Thankfully, my brother and his friends had the good sense to hang toward the back of the crowd for the Beach Boys concert.

The Police
My next most memorable concert at Rosenblatt was in 1982. The Police were on tour after the release of their Ghost in the Machine album. While most of my friends were into bands like Lynrd Skynrd, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC and other hard rock groups, I had become quite a fan of the Police.

I talked one friend into going to the concert with me, then saved up money from my paper route to buy a ticket. As with the Beach Boys concert, I only have vivid memories of a couple elements of the night. One was the walk to the stadium with my buddy. It was so hot we were sweating like crazy when we got there.

I also remember being upset that we didn’t get there early enough to get anywhere near the stage. We endured the opening band and intermission, beach ball volleys, sound check, etc. before the Police came out.

Finally, the pinnacle moment of my summer had arrived. The Police – live and in person! That didn’t last long. About three songs into the set some joker tossed a bottle in the midst of the band and the Police were done. My final glimpse of the band was the Police zipping away in limos behind the right field wall.

I couldn’t believe what was happening right before my eyes. The moment I had been waiting for all summer vanished just like that. I still haven’t forgiven the bonehead who launched the bottle on stage.

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So many coincidences, so little time


It wasn’t long after the decision to build a new stadium in downtown Omaha  was finalized before people close to the situation started to complain of cronyism amongst city officials and business leaders.

Some of the potential investigative leads are so juicy, I’m convinced they would make for a best-selling book in the Omaha market.

Since I don’t have time to chase down all the leads and weave them into a story let me just point out some of the facts and let you draw your own conclusions.

Facts surrounding City of Omaha management and TD Ameritrade Park that seem a little more than coincidental:

  • Construction of TD Ameritrade Park was completed in 2011 at a cost of $131 million that was mostly finance by bonds issue by the City of Omaha to be repaid with revenues from a special tax applied to hotels restaurants in Omaha.
  • Mike Fahey, Omaha’s mayor at the time the new stadium was approved, is a graduate of Creighton University. The site of the new stadium is just east of the Creighton University campus. The new stadium is Creighton’s home field.
  • Fahey is also the part-owner of the Old Mattress Factory Restaurant and Bar located in vert close proximity to the new stadium and would stand to benefit financially from large crowd being diverted to the area.
  • Omaha residents were so upset with the decisions of Mayor Fahey regarding the stadium, among other controversial topics, that a group organized an unsuccessful recall effort in 2008.  Although he was eligible to run for another term as mayor, Fahey opted not to do so.
  • TD Ameritrade, the Omaha based brokerage firm after which the new stadium is named, was founded by Joe Ricketts.  Ricketts and his four children own a controlling interest of the Chicago Cubs baseball organization, with son Tom Ricketts serving as the chairman.
  • Since the Ricketts family bought into the Chicago Cubs in 2009 the team has made several unsuccessful attempts to finance an overhaul of Wrigley Field at taxpayer expense.
  • Cubs general manager Jim Hendry was the coach of Creighton’s baseball team who led the team to the College World Series in 1991.
  • Joe Maglio is the current chairman of the board and former CEO of TD Ameritrade. Joe Maglio is also the head coach of the Omaha Nighthawks – the United Football League team that now calls TD Ameritrade Park home.
  • TD Ameritrade Park, along with adjacent the Qwest events center,  is managed by a group called MECA.
  • David Sokol was the president of MECA until April 2011, at which time he resigned. A few weeks earlier, Sokol was dismissed from the board of directors of Berkshire Hathaway – the investment firm of legendary billionaire Warren Buffet – on suspicion of insider trading.

Some theorists have proposed that all of these facts are too closely connected to be coincidence. What do you think?

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Remembering the fireworks at Rosenblatt Stadium


by Paul Fiarkoski

Most people think of the College World Series when they think of Rosenblatt, but it was once the spot for way more than that. Here is what I say to anyone whoever came to Rosenblatt for the College World Series and thought it was the best party ever: “You ain’t seen nothin’!”

To this day, I have still never seen a more spectacular fireworks display than the ones at Rosenblatt. The people driving through Omaha on Interstate 80, even truckers, would literally just stop to watch the fireworks. The South Omaha neighborhood surrounding the stadium was ONE BIG PARTY. The residents would invite their friends and family over and it turned into the city’s biggest party. The prepping usually began a few days before the Fourth with lawn mowing, hanging up banners, etc.

On the night of the fireworks, usually the 2nd or 3rd, the entire neighborhood was virtually standing room only. The smell of barbecue, beer and sulfur from spent fireworks began permeated the air around noon. If you didn’t have a parking spot in the neighborhood or in someone’s yard by 4 p.m., that meant you would be walking a long way or watching the show from afar.

The home I grew up in was nearly a mile away from Rosenblatt at 24th & D Streets. We never had people park near our house for the College World Series. But for the fireworks shows, the curbs along the front and side of our house would be packed about three hours before show.

We always watched the fireworks right from the elevated deck on the back of my parent’s house. The Rosenblatt lights rose far above of all the treetops between our house and the stadium. The fireworks rocketed many times higher. I remember the first time I heard Lee Greenwood’s “Proud to be American“. A local country radio station, KYNN if I recall correctly, had landed the rights to play about 25 minutes of patriotic music that was synched up with the fireworks display. This way, you didn’t have to be in the stadium to get the full experience. I was overwhelmed by the sense of pride I felt that night listening to Greenwood’s lyrics while being mesmerized by the incredible show choreographed by the famous Grucci family.

I couldn’t help wondering how much was spent on those displays or when the finale would come. The performance seemed to go on forever, yet it never got old. When it ended, there were 20-something thousand people inside the stadium would file out and hit the streets in their cars. Estimated crowds in the surrounding area often exceeded five times the number of paid spectators. This all led to huge bottlenecks in the narrow residential streets of South Omaha and on the adjacent interstate.

When I began dating the woman who would become my wife, she lived with her mom three blocks from the stadium. On Grucci fireworks nights, it was typically three hours after the fireworks show was over before the traffic jam subsided.

After decades of dazzling Independence Day fireworks shows, the skies over Rosenblatt remained dark for the first time in 2011. Many of the folks in Omaha, especially South Omaha, felt a great void. They have been sharing their thought on the Rosenblatt Stadium fan page on Facebook.

Read their comments>>

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Rosenblatt Stadium’s most electrifying moment: the Matt Curry (TCU) grand slam of 2010


Let me start by acknowledging Warren Morris‘ walk-off homer to win the 1996 College World Series championship game for LSU was likely the most spectacular moment at Rosenblatt. With all due respect, I contend that most electrifying moment is described below.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that the moment described below was, for me, the most spectacular AND electrifying moment in sports I have personally witnessed – in person or on TV.


The hole in one, the seventy-yard field goal, the grand slam. There are few athletic feats as rare and hard to attain as these. Players dream about them. Fans long for them. They happen, but so rarely that when they do we, the sports community, never let them be forgotten.

And so, what first baseman Matt Curry and his team of TCU Horned Frogs did at Rosenblatt Stadium on Wednesday night, June 23, 2010, will be remembered forever. A legendary moment at Omaha’s legendary diamond on the hill.

Two outs into the top of the eighth inning, TCU found themselves in a spot not unfamiliar to them: down by three runs in a do or die situation against an opponent (Florida State) far superior in baseball tradition and experience. Indeed, it was by winning a game of this magnitude that the Frogs advanced to the final College World Series to be played at this fabled field of dreams.

We’ll always remember how Curry’s moment in history was set up by Jason Coats. Down by three in the top of the eighth, two on, two outs, tying run at the plate, full count. Next pitch by Florida State’s Mike McGee missed the strike zone. Ball four, bases loaded.

Up to the plate walks Curry, his moment in College World Series history just a few cuts away. With all hopes of staying in the tournament riding on one pitch, Curry faced the same two outs, full-count situation as Coats. Everyone in attendance was on their feet, save a few FSU fans, cheering with all their might. The buzz was electric. The delivery, the swing, the contact, the feeling, the roar. It all happened just like that!

Watch the amateur video captured from the stands>>

Curry knew it was outta here. Few others did. Frogs Coach Schlossnagle’s stomach dropped when he saw Florida State outfielder Tyler Holt camped out underneath the ball in center field. Holt later told Curry he didn’t even know where the ball was. He lost it in the twilight.

The camera saw it. That is until it left not just the field, but  the entire stadium. The ball sliced right through the small gap between the right field bleachers and the center field concession stand roof. Who retrieved perhaps the greatest home run ball to ever fly out of Rosenblatt we thought we would never know.

TCU players mob first baseman Matt Curry after his 2010 grand slam

The Frogs went on to tack on a few more runs and send Florida State home without a championship once again. This happy ending (for TCU) gets even happier. A few days later, the person who retrieved Matt Curry’s magical homerun ball showed up at the Omaha hotel hosting TCU to return the keepsake to Matt.

Story: CWS fan gives back grand slam ball>>

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