Sunday, March 09, 2008

Bizarro Omaha's Dream of Rosenblatt Unaltered Forever Lives On

As the new downtown ballpark for the College World Series becomes more and more likely, the reaction from Bizarro Omaha becomes more and more irrational. You can refute the fear, uncertainty, and doubt with facts and figures, but as long as Bizarro Omaha prefers to hang onto conspiracy theories and emotional attachments to the 1948 stadium, it's like arguing with a five year old.

Harsh sentiment? Perhaps. But as the debate evolves, it becomes clear that what the "Save Rosenblatt" faction is pushing for is what they want in their part of town as opposed as to what the NCAA is asking for or what is best for the city of Omaha long term. And is this "Bizarro Omaha" any sort of majority? Well, they certainly are vocal, but other than my dentist, I really haven't found anybody in the "Save Rosenblatt" camp.

Here's some of my favorite new "Save Rosenblatt" stories:
What I object to is the way Fahey has gone about obtaining "his dream". He has not been open and honest with the people of Omaha and I have a real problem with that.
That's a quite a charge. I see the point about not being "open", but I'd like to see another project of this magnitude involving any government entity where it was done completely in the open. It's certainly not the case in Lincoln, where they are debating building a new arena near the Haymarket. If anything, I think Fahey has been just the opposite by being more open than he needed to be. Remember the original proposal for a $50 million stadium that held 9,000 for Royals games and expanded to 25,000 for the CWS? That idea was ridiculed, and as the process moved forward, more proposals were floated in the media and criticized.

If someone wanted to criticize the process as disjointed and rushed, I could agree with that charge. But when a process that began as a simple extension of the current contract became much, much bigger, that's to be expected. Should Omaha simply ask for an extension? No, simply because the process, no matter how clumsy, has come up with a proposal that doesn't seem to have any issues that would prevent it from being signed. Taking more time runs the risk of fouling the situation up further. Unless someone points up an issue that hasn't been adequately addressed, there's no point against moving forward with it. The NCAA likes it, and Omaha's movers and shakers like it.

As for the "hasn't been honest" charge, I'd simply like someone to simply explain what Fahey hasn't been honest about? The NCAA has asked the City and the local organizers of the CWS for certain things, and Omaha responded to those requests.
My property taxes are too high.
I'm not going to argue that property taxes aren't too high; I'm just going to argue whether that's relevant or not. The city is not going to use property tax revenue for the project, and the only potential impact on property taxes is city keno revenue that currently goes to the county. It's estimated that's $6.67 a year for a $100,000 home. When I look at my property tax statements, that amount looks more like a rounding error.

And if you hold strongly to that property tax issue, the bottom line is that if you say "No" to the NCAA, the College World Series will start being targeted by other cities. We'd probably have the CWS for another five years...maybe. But after that, the future starts looking rather murky. Is that a fear tactic? To some extent, yes. But it's also the truth. Even Hal Daub, who's been rather vocal in his opposition to the Mayor's plan, says that when he was Mayor, New Orleans and Indianapolis tried to get the CWS out of Omaha. If Omaha loses the CWS, Creighton professor Ernie Goss, a renowned expert on economic development, estimates that city coffers would lose nearly $2 million in tax money each year. All told, state and local government entities would lose $4.6 million each year. Wouldn't THAT impact your property taxes?
"Where would I park downtown?"
Where do you part at Rosenblatt? The last time I went to Rosenblatt for a CWS game, I parked 10 blocks away. Last time I went to a Nebraska/Creighton game, I parked nearly 12 blocks away. The Qwest Center has two to three times as many parking spaces as Rosenblatt, and the plan is to replace every space used for the stadium with two new spaces. The Qwest Center has three different interstate access points (Cuming, 14th Street, and 17th Street) versus one at Rosenblatt (13th Street). Why is this an issue?
"You'll have to close the Qwest Center during the College World Series"'s already closed for the most part. Since hotels are booked solid, no conventions occur anyway and concerts are difficult to schedule as well. Not to mention that many of the part time workers that the Qwest Center uses will be working at the stadium as well.

Which brings up the flip side that nobody talks about: the Henry Doorly Zoo. Apparantly it's ok for the zoo to essentially shut down during the CWS except for a few visitors in the morning before the CWS fans take over all of the parking.
I smell conspiracy here.
Circle those black helicopters here. The innuendo is out there that the people pushing this plan own all of the property downtown. Which might be something if the city didn't already own parking lots C and E where the stadium is going to be located.

That being said, I think the Zoo is a bigger player here than most folks realize. It's no secret that Rosenblatt has a negative impact on the Zoo. Fireworks bother the animals. The zoo is running out of expansion space for new exhibits as well. (Don't forget the parking situation as well.) This is why the numbers for a new stadium are the same or better than the numbers for remodeling Rosenblatt. Moving the stadium downtown is a win-win for both south Omaha and downtown. The zoo becomes even bigger and better for south Omaha, and the downtown stadium becomes a magnet for downtown development.

Unless, of course, you park cars in your yard for $20 a game during the College World Series. Maybe that's the real conspiracy.


campfiar said...

Okay Husker Mike, hear's something for you to consider to help you understand what the Save Rosenblatt camp is fighting for. Suppose University of Nebraska's regents tossed out a proposal to build a new stadium for the Cornhuskers in Waverly at taxpayer expense. Such a move would provided all the advantages for Cornhusker fans as what you cite downtown Omaha offers South Omaha and CWS. No really, think about it. Would it bother you at all to think of Memorial Stadium and all it's history to be reduced to rubble in the name of progress?

Husker Mike said...

It would largely depend on the specifics of the proposal, much like the Rosenblatt proposal does. On one hand, you have the history of the old stadium and the on-campus location. On the other hand, you have the narrow seats and bad sightlines. Not to mention the vast majority of seats are in the endzones instead of the sidelines. It would also depend on the economics.

Of course, you confuse the issue a lot by talking about the Omaha stadium proposal being paid for at "taxpayer expense". The vast majority of this new stadium is going to be funded by visitors (car and hotel taxes) and donations, not by local taxpayers. That's misinformation that's being perpetuated by SaveRosenblatt supporters, and it downright dishonest.

If you ask the average SaveRosenblatt supporter what should be done with Rosenblatt, the majority would say "nothing" or "fix the bathrooms". They ignore the NCAA's requests for changes.

They also ignore the possibilities of an expanded zoo in their neighborhood. The zoo is Omaha' biggest tourist attraction, and it has to basically shut down during the CWS.

When the new stadium idea was first floated by the Royals, I dismissed it as a boondoggle. But as the NCAA started to make their demands known, it became crystal clear that Rosenblatt is becoming obsolete for the College World Series.

Yankee Stadium is in it's final season of existence. Sometimes you just have to realize that nothing lasts forever.

Kalthalior said...

Mike -

I'm not sure where you work, but saying you can only find one person against the ballpark idea hard to believe. Every single one of my co-workers that has expressed an opinion is COMPLETELY against the new ballpark. And I'll not we all work downtown, have reserved parking spots and it would be far, far more convenient for us to catch a game in a downtown park a couple of blocks away from the propsoed site after slipping in to the office in the morning than it is to drive a mile plus south.

Not that I myself don't agree with you about the advantages a new park would offer, but the political opposition to a new park will be formidable.

Husker Mike said...

I see the opposition to the stadium in the paper and on TV, but I just haven't come across it in real-life conversations. And yes, the opposition is formidable as they are vocal and passionate. I'm just not convinced they are the majority, except in south Omaha.

Anonymous said...

I am against a downtown ballpark only because Creighton will claim it as they have the Qwest. This will prevent the Huskers from having a venue to play in Omaha, at least they will no longer have a neutral site to play the Bluejays. There will be an uproar if the Huskers try to schedule a game there as there was when the Huskers played Oregon at the Qwest this season. If there was a provision that the new ballpark would NOT be Creighton's to use, I would be all for it. It may be petty but I am tired of the taxpayers of this city providing top notch athletic facilities for Creighton.