Saturday, February 09, 2008

Trying to Make Sense of the CWS Stadium Debate

As the debate over the future of the College World Series continues, the debate seems to become rather bizarre at times. The "Build It Downtown" side took a hit as the costs for a new downtown stadium jumped once again to $130-$140 million, while the cost of rebuilding Rosenblatt might only be $70-$80 million. The ballpark committee seems to think that both could gain a long-term commitment from the NCAA. Game over for downtown, you say? Not so fast.

One key point is that the ballpark committee is now thinking a new downtown ballpark would gain a 25 or 30 year commitment from the NCAA, while a rebuilt Rosenblatt would only gain Omaha a 20 year commitment. Both are good...but 30 years or even 25 is still better than 20.

There's also the fact that rebuilding Rosenblatt doesn't address the NCAA's desire for more hotel rooms within walking distance. That's a key point that seems to get lost in all of the debate: downtown provides 12 hotels with 2300 rooms within a 1 mile radius while Rosenblatt only has 1 motel with 79 rooms.

That has a key impact on one of the more bizarre aspects of the debate: parking. Somehow the thousands of parking spaces that will remain at the Qwest Center are somehow inferior to the hundreds of parking spots available at Rosenblatt? Totally bizarre. Then, factor in the idea that suddenly many out-of-town fans will walk to the game from their hotel room (remember, 2300 hotel rooms within 1 mile) instead of driving to Rosenblatt. Actually, parking might be the main reason people oppose the downtown stadium. A lot of people around Rosenblatt would lose a great revenue stream from parking cars on their lawn at $10-$20 a pop.

If you rebuild Rosenblatt, there's another issue. What do you do with the Omaha Royals? Where would they play during the two seasons when the ballpark is being demolished and rebuilt? Chances are that if Rosenblatt were to be rebuilt, they would have to move elsewhere...and probably won't return either. That's another loss for the city.

Let's be honest. The development possibilities from moving the College World Series downtown are huge for the city. It generates downtown redevelopment in the North downtown area. It also provides a lot of potential for the world-class Henry Doorly Zoo to expand.

Favog over at Revolution 21 kind of sums it up well. Rebuilding Rosenblatt might save money, but doesn't meet the NCAA's requests nor does it drive any additional benefits. That's not to suggest that there aren't issues with building a new stadium downtown, but right now, it's still the best decision.


hackermav said...

The only thing I see not mentioned in your comments was traffic and the extra bottlenecks that would come into play. I don't think it would all that bad in my opinion. So instead of it taking 30 minutes to get out it takes you 35 or 40? So what.

I just cannot see that rebuilding Rosenblatt solves any problems except saving a little bit of money (and $60 million is nothing compared to what this city already owes, or will), and satisfying those who live in the surrounding neighborhoods able to make some coin and walk to the games.

I really don't see the argument that the atmosphere will change for the worse. I mean if you had your choice to play a game in the KC Royals stadium versus any of the newer stadiums (pick any), you choose the one that isn't operating room sterile like the KC Royals stadium. And Rosenblatt just happens to remind of it.

Let's spend the $60 million and just move on.

SQJTaipei said...

Husker Mike:
Thanks for covering the CWS Stadium debate... as an Omaha area native who is now living far away, I appreciate your news and take on the issue. I can't figure out why people want to keep Rosenblatt... that option makes no sense at all to me. Do people really think that the NCAA would not move the CWS? That would be a bad error in judgment as they would move in a heartbeat.