Last night, I headed down to the "Opening Ceremony" for the College World Series and when you consider that an estimated 23,000 people attended, I think it's nearly time to finally put to rest all those complaints about the move downtown. Sure, some people will still complain, but it's becoming more and more evident that their problem boils down to "somebody moved their cheese."
Parking complaints? Traffic? Puhhh-leeeze. With thousands more parking spaces nearby, parking and traffic are so much better downtown than at Rosenblatt. Barely an hour before the opening ceremonies began, traffic moved very smoothly around the ballpark...a sharp contrast to the traditional traffic jams that ensnarled traffic from Rosenblatt all the way past I-480 some days. Afterwards, streets were relatively congested, as you might expect with 23,000 people leaving at one time. But even that moved smoothly, and I was quickly able to get to the Interstate. I estimate it took less than 15 minutes to find my way into clear sailing to head home. And most of that was because I ended up on Cuming Street, which is probably going to be the biggest bottleneck, though still so much better than 13th Street was.
The concourses at Ameritrade were full of people, but appeared to be able to handle the flow. I didn't visit the concessions, but I didn't see any long lines. We'll see what happens when people spend a full day at the ballpark in the heat to gauge that.
Even Zesto's is there, now closer than ever, albeit with a temporary tent. Everywhere you look, there are places to eat, drink, and party, if you so choose. All those concerns about the city and the NCAA taking the "fun" out of the CWS? Please.
Is it a little sterile? Maybe. The empty seats certainly aren't as colorful as Rosenblatt's red, blue, and yellow seats. But one the place is filled up, you won't notice it. Yes, we lose the iconic Desert Dome in right field, but gain lots of other stunning visuals: the Bob Kerrey bridge behind left field, and the Omaha skyline just behind the right field corner.
All those concerns about the river? Everything seems to be holding, and the situation seems to have improved ever-so-slightly, as interstates start to reopen. The sewer problem at 12th and Nicolas still exists, but frankly, any smell seems transient at worst. Walking around the ballpark yesterday, the predominant smell was grills and hamburgers.
Have things changed? Yes...and for the better. The downtown area is simply so much better equipped to handle this event. Will it be perfect? Nope. Events like this will never be...and it'll take time to work out the kinks. Some people will look back nostalgically at Rosenblatt and the wonderful memories, pushing the claustrophibic concourses, long lines, and ridiculous traffic/parking problems out of their minds. That's their choice to wallow in their unhappiness.