There certainly is a valid concern about the long-term viability of the United Football League, but if it fails, it won't be because Omaha didn't give them a chance. Already the Omaha Nighthawks Facebook page has over 3600 fans, and they haven't even played a single game yet. Ticket sales apparently haven't begun yet, but I wouldn't be surprised if they go briskly. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the first game didn't come close to selling out. The UFL certainly is drawing a buzz that I haven't felt since UNO sold out hockey season tickets in eight days back in 1996.
Omaha will certainly give this team a chance, and the initial schedule gives the Nighthawks two chances right off the bat to establish themselves in the community. The season opener on Friday, September 24th, is early enough in the fall that it should be a comfortable night for football, even if the high schools are playing that night. The next weekend, the UFL takes advantage of a Nebraska bye week to play a Saturday night game on October 2nd. Only conflict is an exhibition hockey game for UNO. The next two games will be tougher sells: Thursday, October 28th is a weeknight with colder weather, and the season finale on Friday, November 19th has two likely conflicts (State football championship game, and UNO hockey meets up with longtime NCC foe North Dakota, where Dean Blais won two national championships) plus the potential of even worse weather. Make those first two games work, and you never know how those last two games will turn out.
Hopefully, the Nighthawks won't depend too much on the Omaha Royals to get Rosenblatt Stadium ready for football. I admit I haven't been out to Royals games in recent years, and my experience earlier this month certainly doesn't encourage me to return. Between a ticket snafu (sending me tickets for the wrong date at the last minute), then not being prepared to handle 7,000 fans on a weeknight, they certainly didn't give a good impression. It shouldn't take 20 minutes to get through the gate for a minor league baseball game when you've got tickets in hand, and when you give kids vouchers for hot dogs with their tickets, you shouldn't be unprepared when those kids show up wanting their hot dogs. The Royals certainly do a much better job with in-game promotions and trying to make the experience fun, but wacky promotions don't excuse poor execution of the basics. Sad thing is this wasn't a large crowd by any means (and certainly the type of crowd they hope to attract in BFE). I wasn't expecting a perfect outing by any means, but I'm trying to figure out what went right for the Royals that night.
The one highlight of the game was getting to see former Husker Alex Gordon trying to make a transition to left field. It's obvious that Gordon needs some serious at bats to work out the rust from injuries the last two years. That night, he was called out twice looking, but currently, he's batting .364 with five home runs for Omaha in 12 games. Hopefully, he'll stay in Omaha for a couple more weeks at least and only go up to Kansas City if they are ready to play him regularly.
As I mentioned, UNO's 2010-11 hockey schedule is out, and the first season in the WCHA sets up rather nicely from a fan perspective. Only one series in December at home during the busy holidays, then home games against recent Frozen Four teams Bemidji State, Wisconsin, and Denver after the holidays. (Not to mention RIT in the Saturday night Stampede game to open the season!) Back to back road trips to Minnesota then Michigan in October will certainly be a tough way to open the season.