Column: Decision to move CWS from Rosenblatt Stadium a foolish one


It is a sad day when you lose something that has been woven into a city’s identity.

No, I am not talking about the possibility of LeBron James walking away from the Cleveland Cavaliers.

This is about something even more ingrained into the prototypical idea of American sports. This is about something that has been a staple in our country for 61 years.

The book on Rosenblatt Stadium, home of the College World Series, was officially closed after South Carolina won the CWS title on a walk-off hit Tuesday.

The ballpark that sits on a hill in Omaha, Neb., will soon be demolished in order to make way for a new state-of-the-art facility.

TD Ameritrade Park Omaha, a beautiful 24,000-seat stadium that will become the new home of the CWS, is being built just three miles north of Rosenblatt.

Corporate executives are going to love the comfortable venue loaded with 30 luxury suites and 1,000 club seats, but baseball fans won’t.

This move is a travesty.

Unlike Rosenblatt, which is on the south side of Omaha in the middle of an empty field next to sports bars and famous eating spots, Ameritrade Park will be located in the downtown area.

When I made the trip to cover the CWS a couple of weeks ago, I saw what everybody was talking about. It felt like what baseball is supposed to feel like.

Tailgaters surrounded the stadium and fans stood in lines for hours just for a chance at tickets to catch a glimpse of the action.

If you didn’t know, college baseball doesn’t usually draw the biggest crowd. But in Omaha, it does.

Sure, Ameritrade Park will be in that same city, but things won’t be the same.

As I drove by the semi-built stadium, I couldn’t help but notice the gigantic shadows projected onto Ameritrade Park by the sky-rise buildings looming over it. These money-making landmarks mark the end of tailgating alongside the stadium and the famous eating spots like Zesto’s Drive-in, a legendary burger and milkshake joint located next to Rosenblatt which makes 80 to 90 percent of its profit during the CWS.

This is just one of the factors that played into the fans’ decision to boo Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle at the opening ceremonies.

But let’s just think about the logistics of this move.

The Omaha Royals, a minor league affiliate of the Kansas City Royals, call Rosenblatt their home, too. But they aren’t following the CWS to Ameritrade Park because they thought it would be too big for them. Instead, another stadium is being built for the Royals.

That’s right, two baseball stadiums within 20 minutes of each other are under construction simultaneously. They are expected to cost $154 million combined.

None of this makes any sense.

There is something to be said about the feel of an old ballpark full of tradition that witnessed 61 years full of special CWS moments, Robin Ventura’s NCAA-record 58 game hitting streak come to an end and thousands upon thousands of fans travel to a part of Omaha that is not often visited if it isn’t for the CWS.

The ballpark was not even in bad shape. I had the opportunity to walk around the stadium multiple times and sit in the crowd to watch some of the games, and everything was in good condition by my standards.

Rosenblatt looked as pretty as ever. It seemed to be freshly painted and all of the facilities were up to the times.

I know the CWS can’t be played in Rosenblatt forever, but it just doesn’t seem like their is a reason to change sites right now.

What is going to happen to the nearby restaurant owners which wait all year for the CWS to come around to make their profits? What is going to happen to the house next to Rosenblatt whose residents earn over a $1,000 a year from parking cars in their yard?

A lot of people are going to feel the effects of this loss, not only baseball fans.

But once the old ballpark is demolished, there is no looking back.

Instead, the adjacent Henry Doorly Zoo, one of the top zoos in the country, will take control of the sacred land once the ballpark is knocked down. A little league replica of Rosenblatt will be built on the site, too.

This mini version of the stadium seems fitting with all of the childish politics that went into this decision.