Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Omaha Pushes a CWS Move Downtown

Much to the chagrin of the "Save Rosenblatt" folks, Omaha's city leaders are moving ahead with plans to build a new stadium downtown. And while I agreed with the "Rosenblatt Stadium is just fine" opinion in the past, the NCAA's position has changed my mind. Tom Shatel put it best in his column today. The #1 priority for Omaha is to save the College World Series.

What keeps the College World Series in Omaha? It's the fans, who come out in record numbers each season. But don't kid yourself who runs the show: it's the NCAA and ESPN, not Omaha.

The NCAA is based in Indianpolis, where Victory Field is a showplace, a gold standard for how to build a new ballpark. It has plenty of parking and nearby exhibition space for all the things that go on outside the stadium. It's visitor friendly too, with plenty of hotels and restaurants nearby.

ESPN is owned by Disney, who has a little bit invested in Orlando, where coincidentally, they are also looking to build a baseball stadium.

The NCAA recently notified Omaha that they are invoking a 150 day clause in their current contract where the NCAA and Omaha will engage in exclusive negotiations. After that, the NCAA is free to look elsewhere. What does the NCAA want? Well, the NCAA already has a bad enough reputation so they aren't going to make demand, but rather make "requests".

We already know about the NCAA's request for the "clean zone" to eliminate much of the "Mardi Gras" aspect of the CWS. Bye bye to the beer tents and flea markets. Now the NCAA also is mentioning hotels and restaurants nearby.

Now, it's starting to look like a no-brainer to move the College World Series to downtown, specifically next door to the Qwest Center. There are already 3 hotels within 6 blocks with 4 more already under construction. The Qwest Center provides all of the meeting and exhibition space you'd want for the NCAA's Corporate Partners. Nearby is the Riverfront plus the Old Market with more restaurants and hotels. How do you put this around Rosenblatt? Simple... you have to demolish even more of the neighborhood that the "Save Rosenblatt" folks cite as the reason to keep the CWS at Rosenblatt.

Yes, we probably could keep the CWS at Rosenblatt for a few more years as it currently stands. But the NCAA wants something more out of the CWS, and eventually they'll move it if Omaha doesn't meet their needs. They are asking nice now. They may not ask so nice in the future. Or worse, they'll stop asking and simply move it home. Don't believe me? Well, Indianapolis is now the permanent backup facility for the Final Four basketball tournament and is guaranteed a Men's AND Women's Final Four every five years. If Indianapolis can grab Final Fours two out of every five years, don't kid yourself that they won't grab the College World Series if Omaha balks.

Don't think our city fathers don' t know this? That's why the downtown stadium is the best plan for the College World Series. Rosenblatt has served us well, but the NCAA has served us notice that the CWS has finally outgrown the stadium on the hill. The question is no longer whether we want the CWS at Rosenblatt, but rather if we want the CWS in Omaha 10 years from now.


Omababe said...

>The #1 priority for Omaha is to
>save the College World Series.

Please pardon a possibly naive comment and question here ...

Is Omaha *REALLY* in danger of losing CWS? Is the relationship between Omaha and the NCAA really that fragile?

Ever since I've lived here it seems like the Omaha Powers That Be look upon CWS as a little puppy that might run away if they don't pet him just so.

In my not so humble opinion, the new stadium, to me, anyway, just appears to be an attempt to put as many eggs into the NoDo basket as quickly as possible.

Oh well ...

Paul said...

I don't get why everyone wants to keep the CWS if it isn't the CWS anymore. No beer tents, no dingerville, no Zestos, no RVs, no atmosphere, and most of all no Rosenblatt. How is that the same. If all the NCAA wanted was a new stadium then they would have moved out of Omaha long ago. Omaha's one huge advantage over all the other possible sites is the endless tradition that Rosenblatt brings to the table. Take that away, and we bring nothing more to the table than Indianapolis or Orlando. All a new stadium does is give the NCAA an easy way out.

Husker Mike said...

In the immediate future? I don't think the moving vans are being readied. The CWS is here for sure through 2010, I believe.

But the NCAA does want changes. We choose to ignore those requests at our own peril. I take the NCAA's requests seriously, as they usually get their way in the end. Do we call the NCAA's bluff on this, thinking that nobody else could handle the College World Series like Omaha does?

As for whether we want to keep the CWS...those items are tertiary, at best, to the CWS. Dingerville disappeared years ago and became beer tents on wheels. The beer tents are recent additions as well. What makes the CWS is the fans who flock to the event, not the beer tents and Zestos. I don't see that changing if you move it 4 miles north on 10th street.

Omababe said...

>But the NCAA does want changes.

Correct me if I'm wrong here, but I've never heard anything directly attributable to NCAA to the effect that a new stadium (or more specifically a new stadium in, pardon the expression, NODO) is desired.

It seems that the Omaha Powers That Be (who dearly want that stadium in NODO) imply that the NCAA is holding Omaha hostage over said new stadium, but never come out and show that it's indeed a request of NCAA.

>If all the NCAA wanted was a new
>stadium then they would have moved
>out of Omaha long ago.

Correct. There are countless other newer stadiums (stadia?) in countless venues other than Omaha which NCAA could have just for the asking.

About the only thing I heard loud and clear this year from the NCAA is for "less beer" at the event.

Oh well, so it goes ...

Husker Mike said...

When this story first broke, Dennis Poppe told the World-Herald the following:

"We all have a love for Rosenblatt Stadium," he (Poppe) said. "Some of us are older and set in our ways, and it's hard to handle change."

But he recalled a discussion he had with an NCAA staff member about the Omaha options. Poppe said he compared Rosenblatt with Yankee Stadium and Wrigley Field.

"That staff member reminded me they are tearing down Yankee Stadium," Poppe said.

Everything I heard about the downtown baseball stadium idea indicated it was DOA until about May. Then suddenly it sprang back to life...I believe that's because the NCAA told the City everything they wanted, and the city realized that we need a new stadium for the CWS.

They haven't come out and said it publicly because they don't want to be seen as meddling in the city. They simply are telling the city what they want, and letting the city decide how to respond.