Sunday, April 24, 2011

After One Week, the BFE Trailer Park Still Looks Like Sarpy County's Boondoggle

One week is hardly enough time to render a final verdict on the potential success of the two new baseball stadiums in the region, but the first results are surprisingly strong. I must admit, that some of my expectations were wrong for the first week. I expected to hear complaints about traffic, and frankly, those concerns turned out to be unwarranted at this point.

But that could be in part because the "new ballpark smell" wasn't terribly successful in the first week of the Trailer Park for the Richfield Golden Royal Spike Chasers. Of course, the weather wasn't terribly attractive for baseball in the Omaha last week...temperatures in the 40s and 50s.  The former Omaha Royals averaged about 4000 fans...which was actually pretty good considering the weather. But it raises the prospect that attendance this season at the Trailer Park might actually end up being less than attendance at Rosenblatt. With fewer seats, the days of occasionally drawing 10,000 or more are over, so the GRSC will depend on drawing more people for games on days like last week. And with a stadium that only seats 6500 people, that'll be a tall task. For example, the big Independence Day fireworks show will be at TD Ameritrade Park this year, so that's a 22,000 person crowd that'll need to be made up elsewhere.

The weather apparently wasn't quite as big of a factor for Omaha's new ballpark downtown. Three games, each of which has drawn more fans than the Trailer Park can hold, have drawn over 39,000 fans (nearly tripling the average attendance per game out at BFE).  Last week, when I read that Creighton hoped to average 6000 fans for non-Nebraska games, I thought they were crazy. Now, after averaging over 8500 fans in the first two games not featuring the Big Red, it turns out I underestimated the drawing power of the new ballpark.

Though truth be told, it's not about attendance as much as it is about the money. Higher ticket prices, plus charging for parking and riding the merry-go-round ($5 a person? This parent yells OUCH!) means that the GRSC will probably still earn more revenue at BFE.

It's way too early to draw any conclusions. When summer time comes around, the GRSC may start packing in the crowds every night on the berms, and prove my hypothesis wrong. (Truth be told, I originally thought this would happen in year three out at BFE, once the new ballpark smell wore off.) And uncertainty about the Red Sky Music Festival (when the heck is the lineup going to be announced) and the Omaha Nighthawks (will the UFL survive?) leaves questions about the new downtown ballpark. But after one week, I think the downtown stadium is looking even more of a solid investment, while the Trailer Park is looking even more like an unnecessary boondoggle.

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