With the help of College Baseball 360 editor Sean Stires, Omaha native Paul Fiarkoski has filed a review of the new TD Ameritrade Park in downtown Omaha. Paul has been on record in the past as an ardent supporter of Rosenblatt Stadium, which was the home of the College World Series since 1950 prior to this year.
Paul: I am aware that dozens of writers have already made comparisons of Omaha’s new TD Ameritrade Park to the condemned Rosenblatt Stadium three miles to the south. I almost didn’t bother writing my own review, but I feel like I needed to on behalf of the people who really loved Rosenblatt Stadium.
Having grown up with the Rosenblatt Stadium lights visible from my bedroom window, I became very attached to Rosenblatt. It was the center of activity in our South Omaha neighborhood where we could go for events. Most people think of the College World Series when they think of Rosenblatt, but it was once the spot for way more than that. I saw my first concert (the Beach Boys) there. To this day, I have still never seen a more spectacular fireworks display than the ones at Rosenblatt. I think you get the point – I really loved Rosenblatt. So much that I maintain a blog of memories at rememberrosenblatt.com and a Rosenblatt Stadium fan page on Facebook.
I moved to Colorado in 1996 and have made it back to numerous events Rosenblatts since. I felt a great loss when I left the last College World Series game in 2010. Had it not been for the opportunity to guest blog for Collegebaseball360.com in 2011, I doubt I would have ever bothered to visit the new TD Ameritrade Park. Now that I have been there, I think it’s important that I share my thoughts on behalf of the thousands of others who are clinging to the memories of Rosenblatt.
In order for me to offer an objective review, I had to try to set aside my opinions about the politics and finances of the new stadium. It’s hard to do. Let me just make this one point before I get to my review.
Many people talk about the stadium cost of $131 million. The reality is it took two new stadiums to replace what Rosenblatt already offered the community. The other new stadium (Werner Park), in the town of Papillion southwest of Omaha cost $26 million. Not included in either figure are the infrastructure costs to get people to the stadiums or keeping flood waters out of the area surrounding TD Ameritrade Park.
Need more background? Read What happened to Rosenblatt Stadium>>
Sean: Unlike Paul, I didn’t grow-up in Omaha. My first visit to the city was in 2002 to attend the College World Series. I have subsequently covered the CWS four more times since then.
As with many people, the connections to Rosenblatt for me was instant and indelible. The College World Series was Rosenblatt Stadim and vice versa. The colors, the neighborhood, the surroundings…the people make forgetting Rosenblatt hard to do.
I am proud to be able to say that I am part of the group of people who were there for the last game at Rosenblatt Stadium and the first game played at TD Ameritrade Park.
Paul: My first visit to TD Ameritrade Park was the evening of day four of the 2011 College World Series. I arrived so late in the game that I didn’t bother going in. I parked my car at an open meter about three blocks south and wandered around the new baseball village that is reportedly owned in part by Omaha’s mayor at the time the decision for a new stadium was made.
I was rather impressed with the layout of the “village”, although it really lacked people on that night. I continued my stroll around the vicinity and the overwhelming feeling was “Where am I?” Twenty years earlier I served a summer internship for the Omaha World-Herald in the same general area and spent quite a bit in north downtown. On my first visit back to the area I did not recognize it. I remember thinking to myself as I jumped back in my car to go meet some people in the Old Market, “Why wasn’t this here when I lived in Omaha?”
Parking & Tailgating
Day five of the College World Series was my first day to go inside the new stadium. Before that though I had to park in Lot D featuring the bubbling spring on the north end. I arrived 90 minutes before the game parked at the far east edge of the lot to preserve up close spots for fans. The few tailgate parties I saw paled in comparison to Rosenblatt tailgates by a long shot. The most active was a tent near the spots closest the stadium which was hosted by the advertising agency of record for College World Series Omaha, Inc.
Paul: Once inside the business end of the stadium I got a taste of what others mean when they have said the new stadium is “sterile”. I felt like I was in a hospital. I am not alone in my assessment that the press box set up was much better at Rosenblatt. I overheard one reporter say he felt like he was covering the games in a library. My particular beef with the press box at TD Ameritrade is that the glass panes are narrower than at Rosenblatt, so you have more vertical lines disrupting your view. On Day one of the series, a number of media members complained about spotty wifi (internet) access in the press box. I’m sorry, but that should not happen at a brand new, state-of-the-art stadium. Even the press box at 62 year-old Rosenblatt Stadium had good wifi.
Sean: I know some fellow media members mentioned via Twitter and other outlets their displeasure with the lack of “ambiance” in the press box for the first day-plus of the series. I didn’t voice my own thoughts on this at the time, because I’ve always found that “fans” watching on T.V. or paying for tickets to watch the games could care less about what media people who are sitting inside the press box have to “endure” (I use that word with a touch of sarcasm).
That said, it was very unnerving to watch the games in essentially complete silence for those first couple of days. Thankfully, someone finally patched-in the crowd microphone “ambiant” sounds of the stadium for the rest of the CWS. We went from hearing nothing, and I do mean nothing for those first few games to hearing what umpires were saying to players in the batters box. We couldn’t even hear the sound of bat hitting ball prior to the change. If we happened to be looking down to write a note and something happened on the field, we were all but lost. I was sitting next to College Baseball Today’s Eric Sorenson throughout my time at the CWS. Let’s just say if he and I had a dollar for every time we had to ask each other “What just happened?” we could have afforded several adult beverages after every game.
Paul: On day two of my visit, I vowed to get out into the stadium to get a taste of the fan experience. To say the least, I was impressed. Some have said TD Ameritrade Park has a big league feel to it. I would say it doesn’t. It’s better. Most big league parks are so big that you don’t feel like you’re close to the action. I tested out numerous vantage points from around the main level and all the views of the field were great. However, I did not make it to the upper deck.
On the topic of views, I much preferred the view of treetops and the valley beyond at Rosenblatt than the buildings poking up around downtown Omaha. Regarding the grass on the field I have mixed feelings. Since the most common question I heard about the turf was whether it was real (it is) I’ll have to give it a thumbs down.
Sean: There’s no doubt that TD Ameritrade has a pro park feel. All the defenders of the stadium have basically echoed that sentiment.I asked several players during the CWS what they think of the stadium and they all loved it. All of them said it’s like playing in a pro park. That should come as no shock. Most of the players at the CWS are used to playing in stadiums that seat fewer than 10-thousand. And guess what? They all dream of playing professionally so of course they are going to love playing in a pro style park.
Yes, there are no obstructed views. And yes, the seats are now wider to accommodate the trend of obesity in America that made them a necessity. I agree with Paul though. The view could be from any town USA. There is just concrete and steel to stare at. Keep Manhattan, just give me that countryside!
Paul: The scoreboard and video reply monitor at TD Park does not stack up to the one at Rosenblatt. If it’s not smaller, it sure looks like it and it doesn’t display as much information. At Rosenblatt, you could see information not just about the current batter, but you could also see who else was in the lineup. Not so at TD. The other thing I liked seeing at Rosenblatt was the pitch speed display. I looked all over and couldn’t find the pitch speed anywhere at the new stadium. The other gripe I have about the scoreboard is that everytime I look at it, I am reminded how much money I have lost in my IRA at TD Ameritrade and how difficult their statements are to read (zing!).
Sean: I honestly had no real thoughts on the scoreboard and how it compares to Rosenblatt. I thought the new one was alright. It serves its purpose. As long as its modern (which it is) and shows replays and the score (which it does) it’s fine with me.
Paul: One thing that is vastly improved at TD is the concessions. Truthfully, I only bought a pretzel and a souvenir cup of Dr. Pepper but there was virtually no wait and the ambiance was much more inviting than at Rosenblatt. The people I am happiest for in the whole move to the new stadium are the concessions workers. I always felt bad for the sweaty folks working in the hot, cramped confines of the Rosenblatt concession stands and I’m glad they can now work in greater comfort. The menu boards are attractive and easy to read too.
One myth about TD Ameritrade is that you can watch the game while you stand in line. I actually lost my place in line because I heard a crowd roar and ran to the railing to see what caused the ruckus. The railing around the lower reserved seats, by the way, is very nice. I like the fact that you can set a drink on the narrow counter top or take notes if you want to.
Sean: I agree with pretty much everything Paul had to say on this subject. It is much nicer to have the wider concourse area and open air concessions. I only walked around outside a few times to find my son and his friend in the stands. I do think the bigger concourse and the fact that you can see the field from there only invites people to get up out of their seats and walk around more…so are those bigger seats really necessary if people aren’t sitting in them as long.
The outfield general admission seating area is nicer though. Concession stands are out there and have a view of the field. Those railings Paul was talking about are available as well.
Sean: A lot was made about the fact that just eight home runs were hit during this year’s CWS, and most of the blame was placed on the new BBCOR bats that were used this season in college baseball. However, that was only part of the reason for the drop in long balls.
The dimensions of TDA are exactly the same as Rosenblatt: 335 feet down the lines, 375′ to right and left centerfield and 408′ to dead center. That makes it the biggest park most college baseball players will ever play in. Florida’s McKethen Stadium is 329′ to left, 325′ to right and 400′ to center, while South Carolina’s Carolina Stadium is 325′ down both lines and 390′ to center.
Remember, Rosenblatt was home to a Triple-A baseball team with bigger and stronger players who needed the bigger dimensions.
The argument for the bigger dimensions seems to be that they are the “great equalizer” for teams once they reach Omaha. Whether it’s a team like Texas with its small ball style or Florida, which ended the season with 69 home runs, no team would have an advantage over others in Omaha.
However, what TDA lacks is the strong southern winds that were prominent at the top of the hill at Rosenblatt that helped push balls out of the yard. TDA sits in the bottom of a valley and with home plate situated roughly ninety degrees clockwise from home plate at Rosenblatt, the winds are more likely to blow in than out.
It’s an easy fix, move the plate five feet and let the game be played.
The Big Picture
Sean: There’s no doubt that as an overall facility, TD Ameritrade is an upgrade from Rosenblatt. However, newer and more modern doesn’t mean everything is better.
There is a big difference between a “stadium” and a “ballpark”. The name TD Ameritrade “Park” is a misnomer. It is a stadium. There is no “ballpark” feel. It is all concrete and steel and lacking in emotion and nostalgia…kind of like the NCAA.
Keep it corporate, there’s no time for feelings here!
Put it this way, remember when the Chicago White Sox built the new Comiskey Park (now U.S. Cellular Field) back in 1991? They trumpeted the place as the “Eighth wonder of the world”. It was shiny and new and had all of the most modern amenities (it also had a view of the train yards and projects on the South Side…anything but wonderful). The next year Oriole Park at Camden Yards opened with its “retro ballpark feel” in Baltimore. Guess which one has been the model teams around the country have tried to replicate since? (Hint-it’s not the one with the corporate name.)
That’s my biggest gripe with TDA. I can’t fault the city for wanting a new stadium, but they act like it was required to build one without a soul. Go to Oklahoma City, Lansing, MI, Bridgewater, NJ and all points in between. Ballparks there have the feeling of a “ball park” not an overblown corporate event attended by Sterling, Cooper & Price et al.
When the Yankees built the new Yankee Stadium they didn’t forsake their past. While they might have done a better job to project things like wind tunnels in right field, they did everything they could to make it as much like the House That Ruth Built when they erected the new yard.
TDA is also sorely lacking in color. Those sandy, tan concessions in left field look like they’re trying to hide from a camel in the desert. Would it hurt to dress them up? How about painting all that gray steel dark green (like they do at most parks) to set some contrast from the Qwest Center and all the other cold steel and glass in the background?
Rosenblatt wasn’t just unique for its structure, it was painted bright blue and red. It screamed “something fun’s happening here”. TDA screams…well, does it scream anything? The only bright colors there are the red on the sign across the street at The Dugout and those red structures at the corner of 10th and Cumming..