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.