Thursday, February 23, 2012

Big Ten Baseball Tournament Considering TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha

The AP is reporting that Omaha's TD Ameritrade Park has submitted a bid to host the Big Ten baseball tournament.  Not a surprise to me; it's a natural fit considering Nebraska's entry into the Big Ten and the popularity of college baseball in Omaha.  Last week, the report that the Big Ten was considering the Trailer Park in Sarpy County drew a lot of attention, and some snarky comments from the folks who favored the building of the second ballpark because the Big Ten was considering BFE, and apparently not Omaha's new stadium.

My response was simply:  "how do you know the Big Ten was NOT looking at TD Ameritrade Park?"  Now the truth comes out: they were looking at both parks.  Not a surprise; both Sarpy County, the former Omaha Royals, and MECA have all talked previously about bidding for the Big Ten tournament.  But which one makes the most sense for the Big Ten?

Well, it's not necessarily a battle between Omaha's ballparks; I'm sure other cities will bid.  This year is the last year the tournament will be held in Columbus, Ohio...I would suspect they'll bid again.  But if the Big Ten does decide to come to Omaha, which park would it be?  There are advantages to both parks.  The Trailer Park is smaller, more intimate, and can easily handle the crowds of 5,000 or 7,000 that the Big Ten expects for their tournament.  Downtown at TD Ameritrade Park, crowds of that size will only fill a quarter or so of the stadium.

But downtown presents a lot more advantages outside the ballpark.  Over 1000 hotel rooms within walking distance, for example.  Fans who want to take a break between games can simply walk back to their room, or to a bar or restaurant.  Shopping too.  Out in BFE, fans have to get into their car and drive for anything.  (How's that Pennant Place coming along?)  I guess there is an Arby's opening up at the Walmart a couple of miles to the west.  And Ameritrade Park was designed for tournaments with multiple locker rooms; not sure whether the Trailer Park has the same type of setup.

So it really comes down to what the Big Ten wants, and what the two organizers bid with.  MECA has apparently bid on an every-other-year basis, apparently to also support the Missouri Valley Tournament.  That may - or may not - be appealing to the Big Ten, who were looking for one home for four years. The financial arrangements are also going to be huge, and those bids aren't going to be released publicly.

I do reject the idea that the TD Ameritrade Park is "too big" for the Big Ten. If Nebraska qualifies for the Big Ten tournament, does anybody really think that those games will only draw 6,000 fans?  Try doubling that, and for the weekend championship games, look for crowds tripling that or more if the Big Red is playing.  Is Ameritrade "too big" if the Huskers aren't playing?  Perhaps...but all those other advantages may mean more to the Big Ten if they are expecting fans from around the Big Ten to accompany their teams. 

A lot was said over the last week about the Big Ten considering Sarpy County "instead of Omaha".  I never fell for that, mostly because if there is one thing the former Omaha Royals are good at is promotion.  They never miss an opportunity to promote themselves, so it's not a surprise that in the dead of winter, they passed on the word that the Big Ten was out in BFE. There's nothing wrong with that; that's the business of minor league baseball, and Martie Cordaro's team does it extremely well.  The problem was with folks who "assumed" that since MECA didn't self-promote their bid, they didn't bid.

This bid shouldn't be considered a "Downtown versus BFE" debate; there are going to be other bidders, and if one of the metro area's ballparks are selected, it's a good deal for Husker fans who will have a better opportunity to cheer on the Big Red in the B1G.

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