Tag Archives: Baseball

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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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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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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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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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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My love-hate relationship with the NCAA


I love NCAA athletic events. College football was my first love. Having grown up in Nebraska it was a natural choice. Husker football is religion in Nebraska.  After I moved to Colorado, I expanded my horizons a little. I’ve dabbled in college hockey, basketball, soccer and gymnastics. Recently, I even watched a regional college golf tournament that was being hosted at the golf course in my neighborhood.

Is there anything more inspiring than watching amateur athletes pour their heart and soul into the fight? For them, the victory usually means nothing more than bragging rights or the thrill of hoisting a trophy above their heads. That moment of victory makes all blood, sweat and tears they put into there sport worth it.  No salary, no retirement pension, no cash bonus. Just tuition assistance (for some), and a little notoriety once in a while.

Even though I am a terrible golfer and have actually come to loathe the sport, I couldn’t resist the urge to go watch last week. The feeling took over me when I approached our subdivision from the adjacent highway and saw the NCAA Regional Championships banner prominently place into a well manicured patch of turf.

Without the aid of TV announcers or subtitles I had no idea who the players were that I watched, but I know they were the best players from the best golf programs in the region. Not a touch of arrogance about them whatsoever, each player carefully studied the course, assessed the conditions and played his best shots. Meanwhile, officials hovered over the finalists, presumably to make sure they didn’t take any extra swings or get any tips from folks like me.

My initiation to the NCAA as a governing body came around 2005 when I heard about a dispute between the NCAA and Jeremy Bloom, a University of Colorado athlete. As bright as Bloom’s athleticism shown on the football field, he was even more dazzling on skis.

Bloom was seeking sponsors to help fund his travel and training in order to prepare for the 2006 Olympics. The NCAA stepped in and said that he was violating the “code” of amateur athletes. Thankfully, Bloom persisted. While he was declared permanently ineligible to play football by the NCAA for accepting sponsorship money, his career includes two trips to the Winter Olympics and a stint in the NFL.

In a recent interview, I heard Bloom share his perspective on what it felt like to walk around campus seeing his name on the back of jerseys worn by fellow students knowing that while he received no compensation for the sale of his name, the gear maker, university and the NCAA were all cashing in on his name.

On September 2, 2010, I attended a Colorado Rockies baseball game in Denver with a couple of buddies who were former NCAA athletes. Back in my childhood neighborhood in Omaha, the final baseball game ever was being played at Rosenblatt Stadium. I could hardly focus on the MLB game before me as I continually checked my smart phone for Twitter posts from fans at last Omaha Royals game at the legendary stadium.

A few beers into our guys night out, one of my pals commented on my obsession with my phone. That’s when I blubbered a comment about the NCAA ruining one of the best experiences in college sports by threatening to move the College World Series from Omaha if a new stadium were not built. I followed with the sentiment that the NCAA stands for Nazi Control of Amateur Athletics.

We toasted with our beer cups as both emphatically agreed with my assessment, then each proceeded to share their own experiences of how NCAA rules made life in college hell for them.

My statement was based mostly on the experiences I had at the College World Series a couple of months earlier. I had been recruited by a college baseball blogging site to come and help cover the last College World Series Rosenblatt. The opportunity afforded me an in-depth look at how the NCAA does things behind the scenes. Don’t get me wrong, most of what they do is necessary to help prevent chaos. Yet, they have implemented such strict rules governing behavior in the press box and a post-game conferences that it’s a challenge for reporters to produce a unique story.

As if the rules weren’t enough, the aspect of control that still stands out most for me was how the water cups bearing the name of a prominent NCAA sponsor were carefully placed as props on the table for players and coaches who would face the press. Interestingly, in roughly ten days of press conferences I think I saw only one player drink from his cup.

Still, the relationship continues. I love college sports more than ever. The NCAA I could live without.

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NET Nebraska debuts documentary: Rosenblatt – The Final Inning


When I was back in Omaha for the College World Series in 2010 I snapped this picture of the NET Nebraska (PBS) crew that was shooting the documentary about Rosenblatt Stadium called Rosenblatt: The Final Inning.

NET Nebraska crew

NET Nebraska crew films a clip for Rosenblatt - The Final Inning at the 2010 College World Series

Next thing I knew, they had a mic on me and the camera in my face. The premier showing is Saturday, June 11 at 7 pm CT at which time I’ll find out if I said anything stupid. From what I understand this production will be quite a bit different from the video released by the NCAA in 2010 in that it covers more than just the history of college baseball at Rosenblatt. Make sure you tune in or set your DVR.

For those of you outside the Omaha & Lincoln metro areas you can watch a live webcast online at www.netnebraska.org. I’ll have to watch online too. Check out the teaser clip now.

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