Sunday, April 03, 2011

A "Disaster" at BFE and the Trailer Park

I couldn't help but be amused by a couple of stories about Omaha's former AAA baseball team yesterday. WOWT-Channel 6 had a story about disaster preparation drills being held at the Trailer Park in Sarpy County. Nothing wrong with the officials being prepared for something unfortunate; in fact, it's a good thing and hopefully completely unnecessary in the future. But the story about a disaster at the new ballpark just seemed to be begging for a snarky comment; after all, I'm still on the record that the new AAA ballpark wasn't - and still isn't - a good investment for Sarpy County, not to mention the metro area.

I still haven't heard how Sarpy County plans to pay for the bonds for the new stadium. As best as I can determine, Sarpy County plans to siphon hotel taxes from use elsewhere to the stadium, and that's an amount that's increased in recent years to $940 thousand last year. That likely will pay for half of the stadium bills...except keep in mind that this is money that's been used elsewhere in the budget. So diverting it to the ballpark creates a hole elsewhere; it's a shell game. Even so, I'm not sure that the hotel tax revenue will be enough to pay the mortgage payments. There's talk about the city of Papillion kicking in sales tax revenue eventually...but annexation is likely a long ways off.

The other story that caught my eye was the "Futures" game in Kansas City yesterday. They estimate about 10,000 fans stayed after the Royals/Angels game to watch Kansas City's AA and AAA teams play. The interesting fact is that this will be the largest crowd to watch the AAA team in their home uniforms. The Trailer Park only holds 6500 fans, with a couple of thousand more able to sit on the grass.  While the "new ballpark smell" will draw people to the stadium out of curiosity, I really wonder if that will be enough to offset the loss of big crowds from the Fourth of July fireworks. The "new ballpark" may have "fan friendly amenities" (even an occasional baseball game, as I understand it), but it's still a ballpark in Nebraska that's subject to the variety of weather we get here.  Just look at today: by noon, it was pushing 80 degress.  A front came through this afternoon, and this evening, the wind is howling and it feels about 50 degrees cooler...and when you get evenings like this, it doesn't matter what the ballpark is like.

We'll see down the line how the Trailer Park turns out, but right now, I'm seeing much more activity and anticipation for TD Ameritrade Park in downtown. Tomorrow morning, tickets for the ballpark opening game between Nebraska and Creighton go on sale, and all around downtown, you see signs of what the area will look like come College World Series time in June. New stuff is popping up all the time. Meanwhile out in BFE, nothing. And probably nothing for another five to seven years.  Ouch.  (That has to be considered a disaster if you were someone who pumped the BFE plan.)

But wait... Ameritrade is going to be empty 50 weeks a year, right?  Hardly.  There are some Creighton games, and while they probably won't draw many people except when Nebraska comes to town, it's something. The Nighthawks will play there this fall, unless the league collapses.  (And with the latest coaching hires, a collapse doesn't appear likely.)  And this week, we should hear the lineup for the Red Sky Music Festival in July.

U2, perhaps?  Beats the hell out of Glee and Sarah Palin nights...

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