Last night, I checked out my first Lancer game in years. In the early to middle 90's, I was a season ticket holder until UNO, my alma mater, started the hockey program. I had a lot of great memories at Ak-Sar-Ben watching the Lancers during that time, but the Mavs stole my interest. I attended a few games after that, but none since Ak-Sar-Ben closed down. Not sure how to explain it, but perhaps that Missouri River bridge was a psychological barrier. I just didn't have much of a desire to head over to the Mid-America Center, even if parking was free. Seems that a lot of area hockey fans had similar opinions, as attendance plummeted in recent years.
Now the Lancers are back in Omaha, now at the Civic Auditorium. The Lancers have made a few upgrades to the Civic, namely a replay board that obstructs the view from the upper deck on the ends. It doesn't matter for the Lancers, as the Civic in this configuration can easily handle a crowd of 6,000 fans, like they did last night. I'm surprised how little has changed with the Lancers over the years. Glenn Frey's "The Heat is On" still plays on the PA after each goal, and the fans still do the Arsenio Hall fist pump at the completion. Eddie still does his victory lap around the arena. Didn't see Skunkman or Dancin' Dave, and Fred Brooks is now working in Atlanta.
The success the Lancers are finding in their return to Omaha makes for an interesting contrast as the Royals prepare to leave Omaha for western Sarpy County. Several times last week, I heard updates about the progress of BFE Stadium and making subtle observations to minimize just how far away from Omaha it is. Managing partner Alan Stein was on local sports radio mentioning that it's just "two minutes" to the interstate. (Well, maybe...if you take a few liberties with the speed limit and don't get stopped at any lights. Maybe speed traps are now part of the funding plan to pay for the stadium?) It's "only 11 minutes to drive from the stadium to I-680 and Dodge." (Last night, it took me 13 minutes to drive from the Qwest Center/TD Ameritrade Park area to I-680 and Dodge, and that's considered "too inconvenient" for west Omaha families on weeknights...) There's discussion about all the family friendly amenities that are sure to be developed around the new ballpark that will help the Royals draw families. (I guess no families around here bother to visit the Henry Doorly Zoo...)
The new stadium may turn out to be a success for the Royals in the end; they've already announced plans to increase season ticket prices from $300/$400 at Rosenblatt to a range of $561 to $1340 in BFE. So even if attendance doesn't increase (which might be tough in a stadium with only 6,000 seats), they still can benefit from the higher ticket prices. But deep down, I wonder if the residents of Papillion and Gretna will be able to compensate for the inevitable loss of fans from inside the Omaha city limits.
The Lancers found out the hard way the price of leaving Omaha, especially after they tried to change the name of the team. Are we watching a repeat of that same mistake?