Thursday, May 15, 2008

OMG: What Would Omaha Do if the Royals Reject the New Stadium?

Today's Omaha World-Herald discusses what might happen if the city, MECA, and the Royals can't come to an agreement over playing in the new ballpark, with the assumption being that the Royals leave the metropolitan area.

Would another baseball team come to town? My best guess: Yes. It, however, wouldn't be a AAA level team. The Pacific Coast League, of which the Royals are a member, is probably the loudest voice demanding a stadium custom built for AAA baseball. Highly unlikely that another AAA team would come to Omaha.

It also wouldn't likely be a AA or single A team either. The nearest leagues are in Texas (and Oklahoma) for AA, and Michigan/Ohio for single A. Both of those leagues are bus leagues, and those bus trips would be rather grueling.

But there is a nearby league that would fit Omaha... the independent American Association, which includes Lincoln, Sioux City, Kansas City, and St. Paul. A bus league to be sure...but easy bus trips and natural rivalries. And they're interested, of course. Would downgrading professional baseball from AAA to independent hurt Omaha? To some extent, but even the Royals admit that minor league baseball isn't about the game... Kansas City has done a horrible job of sending future prospects through Omaha in recent years, so it's not like Omaha would lose their opportunity to see the future stars. Heck, some people think that in recent years, the Kansas City Royals have been a AAA farm team for the rest of Major League Baseball.

Now, could a 24,000 seat stadium work for any minor league team? That's a $140 million dollar question. It might be more intimate than Rosenblatt, as you could easily close down the upper deck...but would that be enough?

One possibility for the Royals that hasn't been discussed is the LaVista rumor. I still don't see that being very realistic. Omaha didn't see a lot of value in investing in a smaller stadium optimized for AAA baseball. Where does LaVista, with 5% of the population base, get the resources to build a AAA stadium? Council Bluffs used casino profits to build an arena that struggles to pay the bills. What's the funding source for a new stadium in LaVista?

The city dismisses concerns about the slow pace of negotiations, and for good reason. The #1 priority is, and has to be, the NCAA. If the NCAA isn't happy, this new stadium doesn't happen and the future of the CWS becomes cloudy. First things first, Omaha. But after that, the next game starts. And all sides are positioning themselves in the news media, whether it's the Royals and the PCL criticizing the new stadium and talking about moving, or the city, talking about other leagues.

I still think in the end, the Royals sign on to play in the new stadium. It might not look realistic now, and might get ugly down the line, but I think it happens.


AJ said...

I'm pretty dumb...but trust me on this. Omaha fans get insulted when you bombard them with wacky promotions, endless and lame giveaways and ZERO product on the field. In other words, the people here want to believe they are watching a major-league caliber team.

Trotting out 19 year olds who weren't even good enough to get drafted, while holding 8 dizzy bat races and 3 Myron Noodleman sketeches is not going to keep the fan base.

Since the stadium is basically a waste sitting empty for 50 weeks a year (trust would be.)...the Royals kinda have the city by the sack for once. I'm not suprised they're playing the "we might leave" game, and frankly I don't blame them.

However, don't think that for a second an Indy league team wouldn't have the same problems the Royals have...probably more.

The city needs to make sure there is a baseball team down there to help develop that area...and the Royals know this.

Husker Mike said...

But that's what the Royals keep telling us. We need even more wacky reasons to come to the ballpark other than the game.

Who's right? I don't know.

However, the ballpark won't be empty 50 weeks out of the year. More like about 42 weeks, if the Royals pack up. I think Creighton has pretty much said they'll play there. Will the 3,000 people they'll average be enough to convince someone to build a new restauarant along 15th street? Kind of doubt it...but you never know.

Anonymous said...

AJ's not dumb. Insulting, particularly to Husker fans, but not dumb. I think he's right. We may not necessarily expect a major-league caliber team...this *is* AAA...but it should be close. These are supposed to be players on the cusp of breaking into the majors, or MLB players on rehab assignments. But something Mike said hits it on the head.

"Heck, some people think that in recent years, the Kansas City Royals have been a AAA farm team for the rest of Major League Baseball."

And the ORoyals are supposedly not quite good enough for that level of baseball.

I want the Royals to stay, because overall for the city I think it's good that they're here. But I'm not a Royals fan (KC or Omaha). I don't have an emotional attachment to the team, and running stupid costumed races, promos with fans and water balloons, and whatever else they're doing between innings isn't going to build that attachment. Neither is being in a 5000-7000 seat stadium as opposed to a 24000 one.


Omababe said...

>What's the funding source for a
>new stadium in LaVista?

Uh, keno revenue?

Traffic fines?

Husker Mike said...

Maybe they could set up a bake sale or kool-aid stand outside the new Cabelas.