Tag Archives: rosenblatt stadium

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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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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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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Rosenblatt Stadium: fan memories reflect the pain of loss


LSU fans 2009

LSU Tigers fans at the 2009 College World Series

Memories of Rosenblatt Stadium some fans have shared on the Rosenblatt Stadium fan page on Facebook:

Last year (2009) was the last CWS. This year is just a 10 day funeral. The city muckety mucks that perpetrated this fraudulent need for a new stadium will milk it as much as possible. The Corporate World Series has begun. Thanks for the memories, Johnny. I guess the right people weren’t making enough money. John F. Holdforth

We’ve been almost every year for the last 15 years with our 5 kids- to them it’s one of the best shows on earth! What’s not to love-college (not pro) baseball, great fans to watch, the zoo next door, nike town, and ZESTOS!!!! So sad when the “big boys” think they can make more money by changing things! Alna Parish

With Rosenblatt closed and the New TD Ameritrade opening, my heart is heavy. Too Many Memories, living on 13th Street for many years and then moving closer to the ballpark to 16th Street, we were always close to all the crowds that would park on the street and after game they would become a parade of people going to their cars and then dinners. It was a simplier time. Too bad money is the movitator to destroy a landmark and to build a ball park without memories of taking your kids and grand kids to the ball game. Your son or daughter working in the stands selling dogs for money to buy school clothes or save for their first car. I will miss Rosenblatt Stadium because of the Memories and the College World Series, the traffic and the SMILING FANS.  Kimberly Jane Peterson-Heier

Saw Arkansas lose to LSU in 2009. I felt overwhelmed by the magic that is Rosenblatt Stadium and wanted more. This past summer, I got to see Games 1 thru 6. Spent all day Sunday during the rain and got to see game 3. They played game 4 on Monday so since I had tickets for that game, I got tickets for games 5 & 6. I’m glad I discovered the CWS and Rosenblatt thanks to ESPN. I sure will miss the Diamond on the Hill. Mike Lustig

Jesse (Cuevas, groundskeeper) never knew who I was, but I looked for him each night – he was part of that park – one night the chicken or some mascot rode a four wheeler over a pitcher’s mound and I thought Jesse was going to lose it – it was a funny sight looking back! Erika Meldrum Harris

Share your memories below or on the Rosenblatt Stadium fan page on Facebook.

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Rosenblatt Stadium legend: Chopper the ball shagger


Rosenblatt legends come in all shapes and sizes. Some were athletes, others were groundskeepers or announcers. One legend was a 4-foot tall, 80 lbs. ball shagger by the name of Eugene Rosales, but everyone knew of him as Chopper. Even ESPN’s Kyle Peterson reminisced about Chopper during a recent broadcast of a Creighton – Nebraska game.

I tracked Chopper down and asked him to share his memories as Rosenblatt’s College World Series ball shagger.

RR: Do you remember what your official title was?
ER:  My official job title I believe was ball shagger. I was too young and excited to have that job to ask them why they didn’t just use the same person who did the Royals games. I was actually an employee for the City of Omaha .

RR: How old were you when you performed that role?
ER: I was 11 when I first got the job in the summer after finishing 6th grade. My dad knew the foreman of the grounds crew (Frank Mancuso) and he simply asked him if I could have the job. Frank was a cool cat with his cigars. 

RR: Did you ever meet anyone famous at Rosenblatt?
ER: I actually have met a ton of people and players who went on to be stars in the major leagues. Some of the players I met were Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Pete Incaviglia, Dave Magadan. A lot of them I still have autographed baseballs in a box at home. I may have met Chris Berman from ESPN not really knowing who he was since cable TV was a relatively new thing back then.

RR: You became a sort of Rosenblatt legend in your own right. Explain how you went from being a foul ball shagger to a Rosenblatt icon.
ER: That’s quite a compliment, but I think there are probably more deserving people of the icon status than me. Guys like Jesse and Terry Cuevas come to mind. I remember Terry wearing his cowboy boots all the time. He was always so nice to me. I only had that job for four summers from 81-84.

He’s so modest, or embarrassed. Chopper became a CWS sensation for the dance moves he pulled off whenever he caught the foul balls off the backstop net. His moves had moves! Chopper was as entertaining as the games on the field.

RR: What is your fondest memory (or a few) of Rosenblatt Stadium?
ER: I have lots of them. The only memories I have of the actual stadium facility so to speak are how I was always so intrigued by the light towers that lit the stadium for night games when I was very young. Believe it or not, one of my goals was to climb up one of them. That never happened of course.

My other memory of the actual facility was how I was so taken with being able to go into the clubhouse and visit with the players and coaches. Other memories are mostly of the people that worked there and how hard everyone worked to get ready for the event. I got to sign lots of autographs. I still have a couple of scars on my right arm from diving on the gravel warning track around the field. I guess I didn’t take heed to the warning huh?

Chopper (Eugene) still lives in Omaha employed in the mortgage lending business. He’s a loyal fan of the Kansas City Royals.

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