Sunday, January 15, 2012

Jim Suttle's "Crazy" Ballpark Toboggan Run Should Be Part of Omaha's Outdoor Hockey Plans

Tonight, I'm watching BTN's replay of the Michigan-Ohio State hockey game being played at Progressive Field and noticed something rather interesting in left field behind the rink:  a huge ramp.  Turns out this is the second year for Cleveland's "Snow Days", where they built a sledding ramp in the baseball facility.  Last winter, over 50,000 people came downtown to go sledding in the baseball stadium.
Photo Courtesy of WBUR

Why bring this up?  Well, I remember the first time I heard this idea, when it was proposed by Jim Suttle in his mayoral campaign.  In typical partisan fashion, first political blogger Street Sweeper at Leavenworth Street, then former mayor Hal Daub ridiculed the idea in a desperate attempt to brand Suttle as a crazy guy.

Fast forward three years...and suddenly Suttle's idea  is reality. And thankfully, Daub didn't get elected, and Sweeper's politcal acumen continues to misfire.  (How'd that recall prediction work out again?)

Why bring this up now?  Tweaking a couple of tired, closed-minded individuals is always fun...but that's not the point.  While it's not been formally announced, the rumor mill is pretty strong that UNO is planning to play North Dakota next February outdoors at TD Ameritrade Park.  I love the idea of playing an outdoor hockey game; today's Michigan/Ohio State game drew 25,864 and I would expect thousands of NoDak fans to follow the Sioux to Omaha for a chance to play outdoors.

Adding a toboggan run to the festivities might limit attendance slightly, but it would add quite a bit to the festival atmosphere for the outdoor game.  And yes, I'm solidly behind the idea of playing an outdoor hockey game in Omaha at the ballpark.  Will it be cold?  Yep.  Is it something you'd want to do annually?  Probably not.  But it's a fun, unique event that's become wildly popular in hockey.  The NHL's Winter Classic has become a resounding success making inroads on a day that (prior to ESPN's bastardizing of New Years Day) college football dominated.  Over 100,000 people attended a Michigan/Michigan State game at the Big House last year, and there have been successful college hockey games in Wisconsin at both Camp Randall and Lambeau Field.

You wouldn't want to do it every year.  But it's something that attracts interest from players and captivates the interest from casual sports fans. That makes it something that Omaha should do, and do in such a way that ensures its success.  And if a toboggan run makes it all that more of a big deal, successful event for the city of's something that should be considered.

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