Tag Archives: stadium

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.

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.

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.

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!

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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Basecrawl documentary features CWS tailgating at Rosenblatt Stadium

Following is an exclusive Remember Rosenblatt Q&A conducted in 2010 with Troy Foster, co-producer of the Current TV documentary of BaseCrawl – a video journal of every baseball player’s ultimate fantasy. Foster and two buddies embarked on a mission to attend one game at every Major League ballpark in a single season, plus the College World Series at Omaha’s Rosenblatt.

Basecrawl.com co-producers Troy, Daren & Nolan

RR: Why did you feel it was so important to detour several hours off your basecrawl itinerary to go to a minor league park (Rosenblatt Stadium)?

Troy:  You’re not a hard-core baseball fan unless you’ve experienced the annual spectacle that is the College World Series. Not knowing about Rosenblatt Stadium is like saying you’re a baseball guru who’s never heard of Cooperstown.

When we were mapping out our basecrawl itinerary, we made sure that we’d pass within a stone’s throw of Omaha in June. In fact, the dates of several Major League games before and after the College World Series were framed around our stop at Rosenblatt, rather than the other way around.

RR: What was your most memorable College World Series experience?

Troy:  Personally, watching my alma matter win national championships in 2006 and 2007. I went to Oregon State in the late 1990s and spent an occasional spring afternoon in Corvallis watching the Beavers toil in obscurity. Their facilities were sub-par back then and nobody took them seriously because they were one of those “northern teams.” Head Coach Pat Casey and a special group of players scrapped and clawed their way to respectability, first making it to Omaha in 2005.

Following the Beavers triumphs at Rosenblatt Stadium actually reconnected me to baseball, which was an important part of my childhood but wasn’t a strong interest as a teen or adult. However, Oregon State’s storybook run this decade inspired me to give baseball another try and indirectly led to the basecrawl that was the subject of our documentary.

RR: How did the atmosphere of Rosenblatt Stadium compare with all of the MLB parks you attended?

Troy: The game-day experience was, without a doubt, better than anything we saw at the 30 Major League ballparks. Granted, each team in the Majors plays 81 home games and the ones we attended were of no particular significance, but there was something special going on at Rosenblatt Stadium. The tailgating and festival-like atmosphere wasn’t just an event, it was something to behold. I’ve heard other people describe it as akin to a college football atmosphere and I’ve even used those words myself, but I’ve been to plenty of college tailgaters — including the Fiesta Bowl — and this blows those out of the water. If you’ve watched the BaseCrawl installment on the College World Series you’ll notice Daren and I had a little bit too much fun soaking in the atmosphere.


RR: Any tips you would offer anyone considering going to the 2010 College World Series?

Troy:  If you’re a fan of the game of baseball, you need to make it to Rosenblatt this last year before it closes. I’m stunned that Omaha’s powers that be think they need a new ballpark, or that they think they can do better than Rosenblatt. This ballpark is a gem I’ll be sad to see it go.

In terms of any “how to” tips, I would suggest booking hotel reservations NOW if you can, because there’s no such thing as a last-minute reservation or vacancy in Omaha during the College World Series. Both years I’ve been to Rosenblatt we stayed over the state line in Iowa — the first time in Glenwood and last year at a campground. Also, get to the games early and enjoy the scenery and the tailgating. Don’t stress over tickets. They were being sold on the street in abundance for not much more than the change in your pocket.

Finally, don’t be like the guy who didn’t make it to the original Yankee Stadium before they tore it down. This year is Rosenblatt’s last song and dance. Don’t miss it.

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Ticket unscalping at the College World Series (2009)

Read on for a humorous story about my experience with an “unscalper” at Rosenblatt Stadium during the 2009 College World Series.

I have been to enough sporting events to develop a tactic for dealing with scalpers. There’s nothing really earth shattering about the technique; it’s just an application of the principles of supply and demand taught in Economics courses for decades. Here’s how it works: I wait until the game is well under way before I show any interest in needing tickets. Scalpers start to realize that if they don’t recoup their costs then they’ll lose money. This gives the buyer (me) much greater leverage.

And so it played out on the Friday night game of the CWS in June 2009. My wife and I had already sat through a rain-delayed day game and just hadn’t seen enough action, so we decided to stick around for the classic night game featuring Texas and Arizona State. We calmly waited and watched the first two innings on the tube underneath the pavillion just south of the main entrance. Then, it was time to put the plan into action.

As we neared the front entrance, I scanned the faces of those who lingered out front. A raised hand with tickets is a sure sign the party is ready to do business. At a glance, you can tell pro ticket scalpers from the inexperienced. I had no intent on haggling with a pro. Face value was the most I would pay. Into sight walked my target – a twentysomething chap outfitted in flip-flops, denim and Horns shirt and cap. As he walked the wrong way out of the front entrance, he fumbled, almost as an afterthought, to remove the merchandise from his back pocket.

Clearly NOT a pro at ticket sales, this guy was obviously well rehearsed in tailgating. It was my first impression that the lad with whom I was about to enter into my most memorable ticket transaction ever had spent extra innings at the tailgate party in the preceding hours. Eyes bloodshot, breath wreaking of some putrid combination of Jack Daniels, Fat Tire and ganja he was desperate to get rid of these tickets. But he knew his price.

As we began to haggle, he guaranteed the tickets had not yet been used and that his effin friend stood him up and stayed back at the hotel. We began to talk price. “All I want is what I paid for them – $20 plus the friggin’ $4.50 handling fee.”

My turn: “Okay so you want $50 for both of them?” as I started to count out the cash. “NO, dammit; I want effin $49 for them – just what I paid!”

I handed him fifty bucks. As he began to dig around for my dollar in change, I caved. Going against my original plan to pay no more than face value, I let him keep the buck. Partly out of respect, but mostly because I was too impatient to wait for him.

Then the good ole boy did something no scalper has ever done. He escorted my wife and me to the gate to make sure we were able to get in with the tickets. “See!?” he hollered through the bars of the fence, “I told you they were good!” Then he meandered on in his orignal direction, presumably back to the tailgate tent.

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Royal treatment made for a classic experience at Rosenblatt Stadium

Over the past several decades, Rosenblatt Stadium has become synonymous with the College World Series. Every June, sportscasters and former baseball standouts were shown calling the championship games with periodic pans of the packed house crowd and the infamous desert dome at the zoo in the near distance over the right field wall.  That was the world view of Rosenblatt.

The experience I had with my family at Rosenblatt in the summer of 2007 was more consistent with the experience most locals have had at Rosenblatt. It occured on a balmy Saturday night in August. The Omaha Royals, farm club of the team in Kansas City, were playing a AAA opponent that wore uniforms of a color I cannot remember. Honestly, I don’t have a clue who they played. None of that mattered to us really. Sure, we knew there was a game being played on the field. But there were far too many distractions around us to pay attention to the game. Who can focus on baseball when you have snow cones, cotton candy, popcorn and hilarious fan contests diverting your attention?

No draw, no crowd
With the exception of a few appearances by George Brett when he was still playing, the O Royals were never a big draw. Tack a special event such as a country music star or fireworks on to the final out and a respectable number of fans (rarely more than 10,000) would show. (By comparison, College World Series games often draw around 20,000.) Personally, the most memorable draw for me was The Chicken, the bright red and yellow feathery mascot formerly known as the San Diego Chicken. My older brother took me to a Royals game to see The Chicken when I was about twelve years old. I was in stitches watching him repeatedly abuse the umpires.

My daughters at an Omaha Royals game in 2007.

On the occasion of our family outing in 2007, there was apparently no such draw. If the official fan attendance was recorded at 3,000 I would argue stadium workers inflated the number. So we did what many locals do. We gained entrance with our $5 general admission tickets and picked up a few goodies at the no-waiting concession stands.

An out or two into the bottom half of the first inning we emerged from the tunnel just to the first-base side of home plate and made our way to some seats. They weren’t our seats, but it was clear they belonged to nobody else either.

Our VIP package
After one quick scan of the stands, it took me only a few seconds as our gang’s leader to conclude we could pretty well choose any seats we wanted. There was that little voice of guilt in my head that whispered, “don’t do it.” Quick to overpower that pesky noise was the logical voice, “Out of respect for the players, fill up some seats behind home plate.” Logic won out.

We took our places in the red seats about twenty rows behind the first base side on-deck circle. A group of twelve of us – myself and Wendi (my wife), our two girls, their cousins, some friends and their kids. We created our own group VIP package right there, all clustered up close to the stairs and in the rows immediately above the walkway that separates box seat ticket holders from everyone else. The view of the field and the horizon was great! We didn’t need the benefit of the stadium announcer. We could hear the players, coaches and umps just fine.

Since we were back in Omaha for only the second day of our week-long summer vacation, it was a great opportunity to chat and catch up on how everyone was doing. The kids kept themselves entertained by making up chants and cheers and trying out different vantage points of the game from other seats in our immediate vicinity. It was a great night for baseball. I couldn’t tell you what the score was, or who won for that matter, but the memories stuck.

The kids posing with CWS statue

My kids and their cousins still talk about that night. How the ushers, vendors and even Casey (the mascot) kept coming to harrass us – in a good way. How they took turns climbing up on the legendary statue to have their picture taken. How we giggled and tried to avoid the sidewalk cracks as we treked three blocks back to Grandma’s house after the game. A classic night at Rosenblatt, indeed.

I love this pic too much not to share:

My daughter Caymen posing as Casey, the O Royals mascot.

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