Thursday, February 28, 2008

Thursday Night Beer: UNO Salutes Our Military

A huge "Ole!" to UNO goalie Jerad Kaufmann, who's organizing a Military Appreciation Night tomorrow night to honor Bryan McDonough, a high school friend of Kaufmann who was killed in Iraq in December 2006. Kaufmann designed special uniforms for the game, but won't be available for the game due to a shipping snafu.

Nebraska announced yesterday that per-game football ticket prices ($52) would remain the same for season ticketholders. Single game tickets for conference games and Virginia Tech are $65, with Western Michigan, San Jose State, and New Mexico State going for $55. With an 8 game schedule, that will total $416. How much do you want to bet that in 2009 and only seven games, the season ticket package will run closer to $416 than $364? (That's an old Bill Byrne trick that allowed Byrne to claim that he wasn't raising ticket prices.)

How about that Husker basketball victory over Oklahoma last night? That's three straight against NCAA tournament caliber teams. It sounds a little absurd, but the way Doc Sadler has this team playing now, post-season play is looking like a very real possibility. Nebraska's wins over Oregon and Arizona State don't look quite as good as they did in December, but the loss against Western Kentucky is better.

Are Omahans starting to warm up to the new stadium idea? Much of the early reaction was rather vehement against replacing Rosenblatt, but I think that more than a few people are realizing that either (a) this is really the right answer or (b) this is going to happen. There haven't been any scientific surveys taken on this, but the unscientific web surveys went from 80-20 against replacing Rosenblatt last fall to a much more even split on today's surveys on the Omaha World-Herald and KMTV-channel 3 web sites. Don't get me wrong; the outrage from the "Save Rosenblatt" side is still loud and shrill as they fight the NCAA and their requests for major stadium improvements.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Omaha Announces New CWS Park

You can read all about the new College World Series ballpark online, so there isn't much of a need to cover all the details. But there are a few highlights that are intriguing:

The World-Herald previously reported that the NCAA first brought up the idea of the new stadium. Now the stadium committee stadium says that the NCAA hasn't expressed a preference. Was the World-Herald wrong? Maybe...maybe not. Note the stadium committe website says that the NCAA had no preference between a new stadium and an "extensive" renovation. That means that the $30 million patchup of Rosenblatt would NOT have been sufficient. Omaha needed to spend a minimum of $80 million... the only question is where and what makes the most sense for this city long term.

I believe that one of the driving forces for a downtown stadium is to create expansion room for the Henry Doorly Zoo. The zoo doesn't really want to come out and say it (and jump into the middle of this controversy, thus antagonizing their neighbors), but this does open up opportunities for the zoo to grow. Making a huge investment in Rosenblatt Stadium would have blocked the zoo from expanding to the west. As Omaha's #1 tourist attraction, I think that's why many of Omaha's leaders were pushing for a downtown stadium. Maybe it's not an issue now, but it might in ten or twenty years.

The complaints about hotel taxes and car rental fees are much to-do about nothing. I checked the rates at four-star hotels in Omaha (Hilton), Kansas City (Hilton), Des Moines (Renaissance), and Minneapolis (Hyatt). Omaha's room tax would be the highest of all these, but the total cost of the room was second lowest because the room rate was the lowest, tied with Kansas City. At today's press conference, they said that the increased room tax takes Omaha from the 81st most expensive city for hotels to the 80th.

The argument about the keno revenue is a valid criticism, however. That's money that was going to the county, which the county will need to recover. (Probably a county tax increase.) However, the city was likely not to renew the agreement with Douglas County to share keno revenue anyway, so the county was probably not going to get that money in the future anyway. (In other words, the county tax increase was probably going to happen anyway.) However, one could argue that the city could use it to lower taxes or on other projects that might require increased taxes. (Such as Omaha's sewer problems.) So yes, that money could have been used differently.

The economics of the College World Series have been updated to emphasize why it's so important to keep the CWS here. 48.5% of CWS attendees are from out of state. $41 million of economic impact in 2007 (up from $33 million four years ago). $4.6 million in taxes paid; $1.8 million to the city alone. People who talk about how we "can't afford it" need to realize that it's probably more true that we can't afford NOT to have it.

Maybe the CWS wouldn't leave here immediately if Omaha doesn't do this with the NCAA, but I think it's safe to say that the NCAA would begin looking elsewhere at some point. If Omaha succeeds in getting a 20 year or longer commitment from the NCAA, this is still a great opportunity for Omaha.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Tuesday Night Beer: Mavs Beat #9 Mankato

How 'bout that one! UNO's hockey team headed to #9 Minnesota State tonight and beat the Purple Mavericks 4-2 behind a strong performance in goal by Jeremie Dupont. Dupont struggled in the early part of the season, and eventually the steadier Jerad Kaufmann took over as UNO's goalie in the second half of the season. Nice to see Dupont put the demons from earlier this season behind him, and with tonight's performance, gives UNO another option in the playoffs. Kaufmann has been solid, though unspectacular this season. Dupont has the bigger upside, but until tonight, hasn't played like it.

Brandon, the Hi-Plains Drifter, passed on a neat story about last week's Husker gathering with Tom Osborne and Bo Pelini in Grand Island from Monday's New York Times... If you've got sound available, be sure to check out the audio slideshow; you get an idea how the folks around the Tri-City area are feeling.

If you can't stand those warm fuzzies coming out of Grand Island, has the ugly story of all-American Sarah Pavan's estrangement from the Husker volleyball program. I'm not one to "blame the newspaper" because usually when there is this much smoke, there's fire. Listen, Tommie Frazier wasn't beloved by his teammates in his day either, so this really shouldn't tarnish Pavan's accomplishments on the court. If anything, this story might tell you a little more about the differences between male and female athletes.

Tomorrow, Mayor Fahey and his stadium committee are going to announce their plans for a new downtown College World Series stadium near Omaha's Qwest Center. That's not news; it's been in the news for some time now. What I'm desperately hoping for is that Fahey and the committee finally counters the ridiculous speculation and conspiracy theories that are being foisted on the citizens of this community. Fahey needs to go through the entire timeframe of how the NCAA and the city came to the conclusion that Rosenblatt was no longer viable and explain every option that was considered before selecting a Qwest Center parking lot.

I've been especially disappointed in Kevin Kugler and Mike'l Severe of KOZN radio's coverage of this debate. Today was especially humorous when they mocked the idea of people walking eight blocks from a ballpark near the Qwest Center to visit the Old Market and continuing to raise the "parking" argument for leaving the Series at Rosenblatt. If a new stadium is built, there will likely be over 5,000 parking spots available at the Qwest Center for use during the series. How many are available at Rosenblatt? 1,000...maybe? Last few times I went to Rosenblatt for a big event (CWS game and Nebraska/Creighton), I've parked 10 to 12 blocks away. Of course, parking is really the heart of the whole debate as the property owners around Rosenblatt fight to keep people parking in their yards at $20 a car each day.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sunday Night Dessert: Huskers Sweep, Mavs Get Swept

After a couple of miserable games the previous week against Missouri and Iowa State (gaack, that was a horrific second half against the Clones...), Husker hoops shocked the Big XII with a couple of upsets of Top 25 teams. First on Wednesday night, the Huskers foiled future NBA'er Michael Beasley's pregame prediction of scoring 50, holding him to just 17 as the Huskers beat Kansas State 71-64. I didn't get to see it, and only got to hear most of it through a screechy speaker.
Then Saturday afternoon, in College Station in front former NU AD Bill Byrne and former President George Bush (#41), the Huskers beat Texas A&M 65-59. Both games seemed to follow similar form; Nebraska played strong from the start and held the lead most of the way, playing great defense and shooting well. Saturday's win might have been costly as Cookie Miller suffered a dislocated shoulder and left the game with about six minutes left. The extent of the injury apparently won't be known until an MRI tomorrow, but I'm not terribly optimistic. Miller is fourth in the conference in assists, so his injury could be a major loss down the stretch. A week ago, the season looked rather bleak, but a couple of upsets makes the NIT or the new CBI a possibility. And with a young squad (only senior Aleks Maric graduates), the more basketball these guys play together can only benefit.

UNO Maverick hockey, on the other hand, got swept at Northern Michigan this weekend. Bryan Marshall's injury last weekend kept him out of action this weekend, making this the third year in a row that the Mavs leading scorer went down with an injury late in the season. Friday night's performance was forgettable, losing 6-4 and Saturday night's game was heartbreaking, giving up a 3-1 lead to lose 4-3 in overtime. Before Marshall's injury, UNO was thinking a #5 seed in the CCHA playoffs... now they are looking at a #8 seed in the playoffs. That #8 seed is especially rough because if they win their first round series, they'll likely get matched up with #1 Michigoon at Yost in the second round.

The operators of Omaha's Qwest Center, when they aren't trying to ship the College World Series out of town, are scheduling some big-name concerts for the Qwest Center. That's good news for Omahans. Problem with that is UNO still has some hockey to play at home, and MECA already scheduled a Keith Urban/Carrie Underwood concert for the night of the first game of the CCHA playoffs. So now UNO's first round opponent either needs to arrive a day earlier to start the series on Thursday, delay the series to a Saturday-Sunday-Monday series (with a quicker turnaround for the winner to head on the road for the second round), or play game one at the Civic (and reticket thousands of season ticketholders). Thanks again, MECA.

Speaking of arenas, Tom Osborne tells the Lincoln Journal-Star that a new arena near Haymarket Park would be "doable" as a new home for Husker basketball. Interesting idea that probably was sparked by Nebraska's experience at the Qwest Center in December. I get the feeling that Doc Sadler has Nebraska basketball on an upward path, and if that's the case, the Devaney Center will probably start filling up like it did fifteen years ago at the height of the Danny Nee era. And if that's the case, upgraded facilities (premium seating and suites, amenities, practice facilities for both the men and women) are going to be in demand. A new Haymarket arena is still four or five years away, as any vote doesn't appear to be planned for another year, followed by a year of design and two years of construction. The Devaney Center has served Nebraska basketball well, but it may be time to consider the next level for this program.

One thing that will be interesting to note is how the subject of beer is going to be addressed at a new arena. Will a Haymarket Park arrangement, where alcohol is banned during University events but sold at other events, be economically viable for a new Lincoln arena? Or will the economics of the Omaha's Qwest Center apply, where alcohol is sold at Creighton basketball and UNO hockey games. On one hand, alcohol certainly wasn't an issue at the Oregon game earlier this season in Omaha, and alcohol sales haven't been an issue at Creighton or UNO games. On the other hand, Osborne has been on record as being concerned with the connections between alcohol and collegiate athletics. This issue might not surface for a while, but if there are concerns about financing a new Lincoln arena, money from the sale of beer is potentially an issue with it's viability.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Bizarro Omaha Debates the CWS Stadium Proposal

This morning, I had to see the dentist, and when he came in, he asked me whether I was following the College World Series stadium controversy. I said of course, and that I'm surprised by how contentious it is becoming. He agreed, and said that building a new ballpark was stupid since the NCAA is going to demand even more in two years or threaten to move.

And suddenly, the whole debate became clear to me.

Omaha is now Bizarro World. A place where up is down, left is right, and everything is the opposite of what it really is. I tried to explain that if the NCAA didn't agree to a twenty or thirty year commitment to staying in Omaha, the city would drop all of these plans, but he wasn't having any of that. And since I had to get to work, I wasn't going to argue the point.

Listening and reading various comments, my dentist isn't alone in this apparent Bizarro Omaha. Or maybe it's just myself and a handful of others that have it backwards. Opponents of the plan make plenty of claims, many of which are countered by various media reports. Who's right and who's wrong? From my perspective, the media reports have more substance to them, so I tend to put more faith in them. (Or maybe the Omaha World-Herald is really the Bizarro World-Herald...)

Here are some of the wild claims that I've heard, and the evidence that say just the opposite.

Claim: Mayor Fahey has always been about building a new downtown stadium; he's never considered Rosenblatt. Fahey made the first proposal to the NCAA for a downtown ballpark.
Evidence: The Omaha World-Herald reported on October 12, 2007 that Fahey started negotiations with the NCAA to remodel Rosenblatt in November 2006, and proposed a $26 million renovation of Rosenblatt in February 2007. The NCAA's response on March 12th said that remodeling Rosenblatt would be an "expensive band-aid" and that the city should build a new stadium downtown instead. Of course, the idea of a new downtown ballpark was first raised in 2005 by the Omaha Royals, not Fahey. Fahey was lukewarm to the idea of a new ballpark at that time.

Claim: MECA never was included in the CWS Stadium discussions. They just want to make sure everything is coordinated.
Evidence: David Sokol, chairman of MECA, was involved in the original discussions in 2006, per the World-Herald. Back when Fahey proposed a stadium in lot D, he said that a new stadium should be operated by MECA.

Claim: The NCAA loves Omaha and is a kind organization.
Evidence: In the real world, the NCAA is considered rather evil. Their motivation is to maximize their revenues and they pretty much operate as an out-of-control bureaucracy.

Claim: No other city will lure away the College World Series.
Evidence: Former Mayor Hal Daub told last summer that New Orleans and Indianapolis attempted to lure the CWS away from Omaha when he was mayor.

Claim: The NCAA is just going to ask Omaha for more in a couple of years.
Evidence: Omaha is going to demand a long-term deal of 20 or 30 years to do this. No going back to the piggy bank if we do this. (This claim kind of sits in opposition to the previous one, which indicates that not everyone in Bizarro Omaha is on the same page either...)

Claim: Where would people park at the College World Series? Traffic around the Qwest Center is horrendous!
Evidence: There is probably two or three times more parking at the Qwest Center versus at Rosenblatt. HDR did a traffic survey after a recent Creighton basketball game and identified solutions to the traffic issues as well as suggested a plan to replace the 896 parking stalls that the stadium would use with 1,500 to 1,800 new stalls.

Claim: What would happen if there were a baseball game at the stadium, a Creighton basketball game, and a Home Show going on simultaneously. (A real question posed by Mike'l Severe of KOZN Radio today)
Evidence: Well, the chances of that happening are pretty low. Baseball season is April through September. Creighton basketball games are played November through March. OK, so swap out a Creighton basketball game with a sold out concert. That could happen, though it's unlikely to have big crowds all simultaneously. For one thing, there are only so many part-time workers available to MECA to staff all three events simultaneously. In the summer of 2007, I only saw four big events on the Qwest Center calendar (Faith Hill/Tim McGraw, Keith Urban, and the AVCA Volleyball tournament). None of those were scheduled during the CWS; in fact, the Qwest Center generally is unused during the CWS anyway.

Claim: A remodeled Rosenblatt would be just fine for the NCAA.
Evidence: A remodeled Rosenblatt would not meet the NCAA's requests for hotels within walking distance. On the other hand, Ken Stinson of the CWS committee thinks a remodeled Rosenblatt could earn a contract renewal up to 20 years long, versus up to 30 years for a downtown stadium.

Claim: This is another Fahey Folly like his manhole covers he's wasting taxpayer money on.
Evidence: Omaha placed an order last summer for 200 new manhole covers for replacing old, worn-out manhole covers. When they placed the order, the foundry in Lincoln that makes them had to make a new cast, and since a new cast had to be made anyway, asked if the city would like to have a design put on them. The new manhole covers won't cost the city anything extra.

Now, has this project been poorly communicated to the public? I'd say yes; in fact, I'd suggest that too much information has been released so far. Get the NCAA's buy in first, then present the whole plan in it's entirety. Many people are skeptical because there are unanswered questions about how to pay for this, and when people have unanswered questions or you refuse to answer the question, they frequently assume ill-intent.

We also don't know what the NCAA needs versus desires. They may ask for the world, but be willing to accept less.

I don't know what they will accept or reject for a stadium in Bizarro Omaha.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Shatel: Time to Grow UNO Hockey

Last night, UNO had a nice 5-3 win over Bowling Green to just about lock up home ice for the first round of the CCHA playoffs. Unfortunately, Notre Dame beat Alaska 2-1, so Notre Dame's magic number over UNO is now 1, meaning that Notre Dame only needs 1 more win or 1 UNO loss to clinch fourth in the CCHA. The top four seeds get first round byes (and home ice in the second round), which makes the difference between fourth and fifth huge.

If things carry on as they appear they will, UNO will finish fifth in the CCHA for the third straight year. And while it's nice to finish in the upper half of the conference, that "fifth place ceiling" is starting to become an albatross to the program. Not that there aren't some explanations that can come into play: two years ago, all-American Scott Parse got injured late in the season. And this season, defensement Juha Uotila missed the first half of the season due to academic issues. But when so many explanations are necessary, they come off as excuses to some.

Which raises the question as to what UNO wants out of it's hockey program. Is UNO happy to finish fifth in the conference year after year? After the turmoil of the Nancy Belck era, one might say yes. But that period is over. Finally today, Tom Shatel of the Omaha World-Herald finally gave us the answer:


Shatel talked to UNO chancellor John Christensen who finally gave us an authoritative statement of where UNO hockey should be:
"My vision for the hockey program is to have them compete for the conference championship on a regular basis. And peridically, compete for a national championship. That's the same for all of our sports. I don't want to waiver from that. We have to take the next step. Mike (Kemp) understands that. We want to be in the top four, playing for the league championship, in the next three seasons. We need to feel we have arrived in that top group."
Harsh words for Kemp? Nothing that some fans haven't said. UNO is close, but UNO needs to take the next step. Up until 3 years ago, the difference between fourth and fifth was neglibile. Now with the playoff format the CCHA uses, getting to fourth place is HUGE. And once again, UNO is going to fall just short of it.

Last year, Michigan State finished fourth in the CCHA, and went on a roll. They swept UNO in the playoffs, then steamrolled everybody else and won the national championship. Fourth is the next step in the program... it gets you into position to win conference championships. It gets you into position for the NCAA tourament. It's huge. It's where UNO needs to be if the program is to grow.

Last night's game got bumped to the Civic Auditorium, the original home of UNO hockey. Many of UNO's greatest moments in hockey occurred there. The World-Herald revisited the famed Bowling Green play-in game from 2000, now referred to as simply "Tuesday Night". The joint was rocking that night. That's the magic that UNO hockey needs to find again. But that magic wasn't the Civic. UNO returned to the Civic last night, and only drew 5100. The Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights spent two years there, and finally gave up. That building is not the future of UNO's hockey program, it's it's ghost.

UNO hockey needs to get back to the Joe. It needs to start making NCAA tournament appearances. That will get UNO hockey back into the mindset of Omaha sports fans.

Chancellor Christensen says it:
"Look at what Creighton did. If we take the next step as a program, we can grow in that building."

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Husker Football Thinking Title Game?

Talk about putting the cart ahead of the horse. This afternoon, I received an e-mail from the Husker ticket office to let me know that Big XII Championship game tickets go on sale tomorrow.


Now, I got into a little bit of trouble with AJ the HuskerH8r over some preliminary thoughts on 2008, but planning on a trip to Kansas City next December is a stretch. Although AJ ridicules me about it, I think Nebraska can be significantly better in 2008 over 2007. Remember the upswing of the Huskers from 2002 to 2003? For as untalented, unmotivated, and out of position that defense appeared in 2002, they made dramatic improvement in 2003.

I'm not sure there are a bunch of first day draft picks on the 2008 defense, but I'm not sure we knew that there were a bunch of first day draft picks going into the 2003 defense. Here's my take as to why I think coaching and motivation was a key reason the defense imploded in 2007:
September: 10, 17, 49, 40, 17 (average: 26.6)
October: 41, 45, 36, 28 (average: 37.5)
November: 76, 31, 65 (average: 57.3)
Each month had a top ten opponent (USC, Missouri, and Kansas), so it's not like the opposition got significantly grew more difficult as the season progressed. But the defensive performance became more and more pathetic as the season evolved. Did the defense suddenly become less talented as the season progressed? There weren't any significant injuries to explain it either.

My only explanation? A team that couldn't wait to be rid of their coaches. Sure, they didn't say it in words, but their actions spoke volumes. And with a young, motivated new coaching staff with a record of success coming in, I'm cautiously optimistic this team will be better in 2008. Even on offense, I see a lot of opportunity for improvement. Like Corn Blight over at CornNation, I think we'll see a much more balanced offense in 2008 that will utilize a power rushing attack more than it has in recent years. A little west coast, a little spread. One thing I'd love to see is letting Quentin Castille and Roy Helu take over most of the load at I-back, and line up Marlon Lucky just about everyplace else (other than offensive line). Kick returns, receiver, wingback. Heck, maybe even quarterback for a gadget play; he's thrown 2 touchdown passes in 4 attempts.

Are the 2008 Huskers Big XII North title good? Let's not get ahead of ourselves. Oklahoma is back on the schedule. Missouri should be even better next season, though the Pinkel Factor is long overdue to get them. But on the other hand, Nebraska did score 39 against Kansas last season; can Nebraska hold them under 40 in Lincoln with a renewed defense? Likewise, Kansas did knock off Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. Mild improvement will get Nebraska bowl eligible, and significant improvement might get them to nine wins.

It's really too soon to prognosticate much about 2008. We don't know what this coaching staff will do with these players. Spring practice is still a month away. But I'm not sure you can say that 2008 is going to be a rerun of 2007 either.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Difference Between Recruiting & Recruiting Services

Looking around I once again notice that some fans simply cannot tell the difference between recruiting and recruiting services. If you criticize recruiting services, they reply back with the strawman that since schools such as Southern Cal, Florida, and Texas are continually winning on the field with top rated recruiting classes, the recruiting rankings have to be right.

Is that true? Or is it the reverse? In other words, are their recruiting rankings based in part on the coaches' reputation in identifying and recruiting talented players, as evidenced by their performance on the field?

Based on the recommendation of Corn Blight over at CornNation, I picked up a copy of Bruce Feldman's book "Meat Market", where Feldman spends a year following Ed Orgeron's on the recruiting trail for a year. Orgeron's reputation was built on his reputation as Pete Carroll's recruiting coordinator at USC, and Orgeron's focus at Ole Miss was definitely on recruiting. And it showed on the field, as Orgeron only won ten games over three years and was fired last November. Orgeron's plan to recruit his way out of the SEC cellar sure sounds familiar, and worked about as well as it did in Lincoln.

Orgeron had decent recruiting rankings under Orgeron (#30, #16, and #27 according to Rivals), but it simply never translated on the field. And in the book, you soon learn that even a recruiting focused coach like Orgeron doesn't believe in the recruiting services either. In fact, many of the observations that Orgeron and his staff made in the book were echoed by the new Husker coaches in Sunday's Omaha World-Herald.

Why are the internet recruiting services flawed? Simply put, they only evaluate part of the player. They focus on measurables: height, weight, speed. They don't evaluate the person, the work ethic or character of the player. Orgeron learned that the hard way when he had to boot several key players from his squad in the fall of 2006, and thus began to place a greater weight on character in his recruiting process.

But the services have to be solid on the other aspects? Sometimes. ESPN's Feldman reported that high school prospects commonly misrepresent themselves to these recruiting sites, and the recruiting sites just pass it on. Okolona (Mississippi) running back Robert Elliott struggled in his season opener, rushing for 43 yards on 14 carries. However, reported that Elliott ran for 121 yards on 11 carries after talking to Elliott. Isolated case? Hardly. A couple of weeks ago, Fernley, Nevada's Kevin Hart called an in-school press conference to announce his selection of Cal over Oregon a couple of weeks ago. Except that Hart lied about the scholarship offer from Cal. He lied about the offer from Oregon. Turns out he so desperately wanted the attention he made it all up. And for several days, everybody ate it up.

I think new Husker coach Bo Pelini kind of summed it up best to the Lincoln Journal-Star:
“I think you have to temper what the expectations are. Everybody wants to talk about what the No. 1 recruiting class is. They want to put numbers on it and talk about who had a good class and who didn’t have a good class. It’s hard to say. Talk to me two, three years down the road and I’ll tell you how good a class it was.”
Remember the 2005 Husker class, and how it was supposed to bring us "unprecedented talent" the likes of which we hadn't seen before? Well, the class imploded with 11 players leaving the program for one reason or another, and now Steve Octavien laments what might have been:
"With the caliber of players we had, we wanted a BCS game. Now we're known as the worst [three-year] class that came through Nebraska."
Recruiting is simply the first part of the equation. Coaches have to develop players and take them to the next level. If you can't do that, you'll find yourself in the company of Bill Callahan and Ed Orgeron, who've proven that it takes more than recruiting to win.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Trying to Make Sense of the CWS Stadium Debate

As the debate over the future of the College World Series continues, the debate seems to become rather bizarre at times. The "Build It Downtown" side took a hit as the costs for a new downtown stadium jumped once again to $130-$140 million, while the cost of rebuilding Rosenblatt might only be $70-$80 million. The ballpark committee seems to think that both could gain a long-term commitment from the NCAA. Game over for downtown, you say? Not so fast.

One key point is that the ballpark committee is now thinking a new downtown ballpark would gain a 25 or 30 year commitment from the NCAA, while a rebuilt Rosenblatt would only gain Omaha a 20 year commitment. Both are good...but 30 years or even 25 is still better than 20.

There's also the fact that rebuilding Rosenblatt doesn't address the NCAA's desire for more hotel rooms within walking distance. That's a key point that seems to get lost in all of the debate: downtown provides 12 hotels with 2300 rooms within a 1 mile radius while Rosenblatt only has 1 motel with 79 rooms.

That has a key impact on one of the more bizarre aspects of the debate: parking. Somehow the thousands of parking spaces that will remain at the Qwest Center are somehow inferior to the hundreds of parking spots available at Rosenblatt? Totally bizarre. Then, factor in the idea that suddenly many out-of-town fans will walk to the game from their hotel room (remember, 2300 hotel rooms within 1 mile) instead of driving to Rosenblatt. Actually, parking might be the main reason people oppose the downtown stadium. A lot of people around Rosenblatt would lose a great revenue stream from parking cars on their lawn at $10-$20 a pop.

If you rebuild Rosenblatt, there's another issue. What do you do with the Omaha Royals? Where would they play during the two seasons when the ballpark is being demolished and rebuilt? Chances are that if Rosenblatt were to be rebuilt, they would have to move elsewhere...and probably won't return either. That's another loss for the city.

Let's be honest. The development possibilities from moving the College World Series downtown are huge for the city. It generates downtown redevelopment in the North downtown area. It also provides a lot of potential for the world-class Henry Doorly Zoo to expand.

Favog over at Revolution 21 kind of sums it up well. Rebuilding Rosenblatt might save money, but doesn't meet the NCAA's requests nor does it drive any additional benefits. That's not to suggest that there aren't issues with building a new stadium downtown, but right now, it's still the best decision.

Friday, February 08, 2008

As I thought...Not Much Happening

Aside from the lunacy of recruitniks trying to predict who outdid who, not much to say right now. I think AJ the HuskerH8r has the right idea...

UNO hockey got a couple of needed points last weekend in Lansing against #6 Michigan State, squeaking out an overtime victory Friday night then staying competitive for most of the Saturday afternoon contest, losing 4-2. Alas, they gave away a little of that momentum tonight, only netting a tie against Ohio State. Easy come, easy go.

Greg Sharpe was finally named the new "Voice of the Huskers" this week. At first, I was hoping either Kent Pavelka would return or Kevin Kugler would get the job; either would have been a major improvement. But both announcers have their detractors, which makes Sharpe a safer choice. And after listening to his highlights of the final three games last season, he's got the pipes to do the job justice.

That was one heck of a finish at the Super Bowl! Too bad for me that Eli Manning didn't turn his game up earlier in the season; my fantasy football team really needed the points. I've never quite figured out Tom Brady, but the Super Bowl cleared things up for me. Brady's a decent talent, but more importantly, he's had the luxury of playing behind a great offensive line. That line typically gave him an absurd amount of time to scan the field and make the throws, propelling him to three Super Bowl wins. And maybe a fourth... if the Giants defensive line hadn't found a way to dominate the Patriots. Suddenly, Tom Terrific became Tom Mediocre as he was harassed most of the day.

Some Husker fans are blowing a gasket over Barney Cotton's statement to the Omaha World-Herald about wanting the roster to be two-third's Nebraska kids. That's two thirds of the roster, not scholarships as some folks have claimed. Division 1-A schools are limited to 85 scholarships, so if Nebraska's roster expands to, oh, say 150 players, that means 65 walkons in the program. Just for argument, let's say that 60 out of the 65 walkons are Nebraskans. Two thirds of 150 players is 100, so that would mean that 40 scholarships would go to Nebraska kids. Or probably around 8 a year. High, maybe... but not excessive in my book. Of course, does "two-thirds" mean exactly 66.6%, or is it something more like "around 66%". And do you consider guys like Barney's son Ben to be a "Nebraska" kid? He graduated from Ames, IA High...but it would be hard to argue that he's not a Nebraska kid.