Tag Archives: tailgate

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 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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Rosenblatt Stadium’s ten day funeral (2010)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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