Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The NCAA Commits to 20+ Years in Omaha

Well, chalk up one more criticism of the new stadium debate down the tubes. Today, the NCAA made an unprecedented commitment to keep the College World Series in Omaha for a minimum of 20 years. And just like everything else in this whole bizarre debate, it rated a ho hum from many.

I usually enjoy listening to KOZN radio's Kevin Kugler and Mike'l Severe, but on days like today when their position against the downtown stadium go down in flames, it was almost like listening to a funeral. I mean...the College World Series staying in Omaha until 2031 is good news, isn't it?

Well, not if you were looking to Save Rosenblatt. Which meant we were treated to even more conspiracy theories and black helicopter talk about how this whole new stadium idea was some sort of unnecessary ego trip by the Mayor forced on the City and the NCAA. Of course, nobody brings any substantial proof behind those charges... just more half-truths, idle speculations, and rumor mongering.

My favorite is the idea that the NCAA would never move the CWS. Let's break that argument up into two parts: would another city bid for the CWS, and would the NCAA ever leave Omaha? We already know that other cities would bid for the CWS; even Hal Daub acknowledged it. Would the NCAA ever leave Omaha? That's a loaded question, and the answer depends on the timing. The NCAA College World Series is a unique event. Omaha knows it. The NCAA knows it. The history of the CWS in Omaha counts for something, and the NCAA knows that they have something good going in Omaha. So the answer long as Omaha shows that we're serious about wanting the CWS in Omaha, we'll probably keep the CWS.

Now some people want to twist this around and read into that statement that the huggable NCAA just loves the CWS exactly the way it is...which couldn't be further from the truth. The NCAA had a list of things that they wanted addressed in order to obtain a new contract: clean zone, new locker rooms, etc. That bill was likely to run over $30 million...and probably would have garnered Omaha another five year extension. But what after that?

That's when the $80 million renovation idea took hold...but even that wouldn't solve everything at Rosenblatt (open concourses, hotels). But is that necessary for an extension starting in 2011? Nope. But when you look at everything that the NCAA has suggested, you know that at some point, the NCAA would be making requests for those other things.

From my perspective, a new stadium for the CWS was inevitable. If not in 2011, then 2016 or 2021. Should we have waited to find out? Perhaps...but you run the risk that very likely the changes made at Rosenblatt for 2011 would have been demolished in 2016 or 2021. That would be money wasted.

The NCAA looked long term at this. Mayor Fahey looked long term. Omaha's philanthropic community looked long term at this. That's why Omaha is building a new stadium. It wasn't necessary to keep the College World Series in 2011...but we would have been kicking ourselves in 2016 or 2021 when we ended up building a new stadium anyway despite tossing $30 million into the Rosenblatt money pit.

And yes. I do believe that, in the end, the Royals play in the new downtown stadium by 2012 too. Yes, it's probably too big for the Royals. I don't believe La Vista is going to be able to justify a $25 million subsidy for a new stadium when Omaha struggled with justifying it. Warren Buffett and Walter Scott didn't buy half of the Royals to have them leave town either. It may sound impossible now, but some people thought the new stadium sounded impossible in March.

The other criticism revolved around the process. Which is fair; it was a contentious process that divided a lot of people. But one frequent criticism of government is that it's slow to react. This stadium process went from idea to signed contracts in just over one year. That's almost unheard of in government. How long did Omaha argue about building the Qwest Center? Lincoln started talking about an arena years ago, and their commission recommended a new arena near the Haymarket in 2005. Today, they moved a little closer by selecting a developer for the arena. And it's still not a done deal; it might go in front of the voters next year. Almost FIVE years from the first discussions.

Speaking of the Lincoln arena, this looks like a rather sweet future home for Husker basketball. I just hope Doc Sadler can wait until 2012 or 2013 for his practice facility.


Hug_Ty said...

Very nice summary. When you look at it big picture it does look like a sound deal; dealt with fairly efficiently for the gov't. Can I use efficiency and gov't in the same sentence?

Frankie said...

Just like everything else, as soon as the finished product is up, people will soon forget about this controversy and move on. They'll forget about their taxes going up, no parking downtown, and the expensive concessions to payoff the stadium.

Husker Mike said...

I almost didn't post that last comment since it was either really bad satire or just more stupidity from the citizens of Bizarro Omaha. (Hint to Frankie: Click here to have your entire comment refuted. Most citizens of the real world understand the concept of links, but sometime the inhabitants of Bizarro World need to have it spelled out for them....)