South Carolina wins first College World Series title

The College World Series has been a tradition at Rosenblatt Stadium for the past 61 summers, and College World Series tickets will be a cherished memory after the Omaha gem saw its last game Tuesday night.
South Carolina came back with a run in the eight and scored on Whit Merrifeld's opposite-field single to right with one out in the 11th to give the Gamecocks a 2-1 win over UCLA and the 2010 College World Series title in front of a sellout crowd that was on hand to witness the last game at the old stadium.
Next year, the College World Series will be played at Omaha's new downtown stadium, TD Ameritrade Park, but it will be hard-pressed to have a finish quite like the one witnessed Tuesday.
The Bruins got the game's first run in the fifth when Niko Gallego stroked a two-out single to left field, scoring Trevor Brown, who led off the inning with a single.
South Carolina finally broke through in the eighth, taking advantage of an error when a tough-bounce grounder caromed off the glove of Dean Espy at first base, allowing Robert Beary to come around from second with the tying run.
UCLA had a chance to get the lead back and force a third game, but left the bases loaded in the top of the ninth as reliever Matt Price was able to get out of the jam. He allowed just one baserunner in the two extra innings, setting the stage for the Gamecocks' victory.
Scott Wingo led off the 11th with a walk, then moved to second on a passed ball. He moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Evan Marzilli, and UCLA chose to pitch to Merrifeld instead of walking him and tournament MVP Jackie Bradley Jr. to load the bases and set up a force at any base. Merrifeld came through with a single on a 2-0 pitch, bringing Wingo home with the winning run.
It was a great College World Series that saw a lot of incredible efforts. South Carolina won six straight games after losing their first-round matchup with Oklahoma. The Gamecocks and Bruins played just the third extra-inning championship game, and the first since Southern Cal beat Florida State 2-1 in a 15-inning thriller in 1970.
Next year, the College World Series moves to its new home at TD Ameritrade Park. You can get the best College World Series tickets at Ticket Express — where no College World Series game is ever sold out.

Omaha business wants naming right to new stadium

An Omaha financial company has expressed an interest in securing the naming rights to the new downtown baseball stadium that will replace Rosenblatt Stadium as the host site for the College World Series beginning in 2011.

The Omaha World-Herald reported Wednesday that TD Ameritrade has made their interest known in a letter to David Sokol, chairman of the Metrpolitan Entertainment Convention Authority (MECA). MECA is handling all aspects of the new stadium, including naming rights, as part of its management agreement with the city.

TD Ameritrade CEO Joe Moglia told the newspaper that the company is hoping to get the naming rights, and when asked if the company was willing to pay the estimated $750,000 that is being projected as the asking price for naming rights, he told the World-Herald that the figure is in the neighborhood.

The World-Herald also reported that if TD Ameritrade secures the naming rights, they would be willing to make a contribution toward the $43 million in private fundraising that would help pay for construction of the $140 million stadium.

Omaha, NCAA to sign CWS contract today

The 2008 College World Series is on the minds of most Omahans today, but Mayor Mike Fahey will be looking ahead to the future of the tournament today.

The city of Omaha and the NCAA are expected to formally sign an agreement today that will keep the College World Series in OMaha through 2035, with the tournament being played in a new stadium downtown near the Qwest Center beginning in 2011.

Additionally, the Omaha City Council is expected to ratify an agreement with the Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority (MECA) to build and run the new downtown stadium. The council is also expected to approve several measures regarding the new stadium, including the approval of increases in the city’s car rental fees and hotel tax, which would help fund the new $140 million stadium.

Concerns raised over ballpark’s orientation

The building of a new baseball stadium in downtown Omaha may be all but a formality, but that hasn’t stopped some people from nitpicking over details of the new stadium.

At the Omaha City Council meeting Tuesday, a small handful of people attended to speak out against the stadium as the city board began considering items that will lead to the building of the stadium.

Most dubious among those criticisms was the orientation of the new park, or the line of sight from home plate to center field. The new design calls for a southeast orientation, which would provide for a view of the downtown skyline.

Critics, though, feel that the stadium should be facing to the northeast, the same way Rosenblatt Stadium now faces. One critic was quoted in the Omaha World-Herald saying "We will regret it forever if we don’t face it in the right direction." Others claim that fans would be overly exposed to the sun with a southeast-facing ballpark.

Councilman Franklin Thompson pointed out that not every stadium faces to the northeast. In fact, Haymarket Park — home of the Nebraska Cornhusker baseball team — also faces to the southeast and provides a view of Memorial Stadium as well as the Lincoln downtown skyline. Thompson also said that engineers working on the project noted that the southeast-facing design would allow for an angle at which the sun shines on Omaha that would eliminate any sun problems.

Other concners were raised regarding the proposed increase in rental car taxes and keno revenue, but city officials quashed those concerns as well.

The World-Herald reported that city attorney Paul Kratz said that a final design has not been created, but that the public would have "zero official input" in the design process.

A sudden change of heart over hotel tax rates

As human beings, we have the opportunity to form an opinion on a subject, with the option of reassessing and even changing our belief based on new information.

This, however, is simply amazing.

Three months ago, as the concept for a new downtown stadium in Omaha was gaining ground, Mayor Mike Fahey said that part of the funding for Rosenblatt Stadium’s replacement would come from a 1 percent increase in hotel taxes.

Judging from the response at that time by the Metropolitan Hospitality Association, you would have thought the end of the world would arrive if this tax increase went through. Omaha already has one of the highest hotel tax rates in the country, they said. It would drive convention business away from the city, they worried. It would make other cities more attractive to people looking to grow their business in bigger markets, they claimed.

Three months later, the Omaha World-Herald reported that the MHA had decided that the hotel tax wasn’t such a bad idea after all. In fact, it was such a GOOD idea that they asked the mayor to increase it by an ADDITIONAL half-point, with the revenue from that extra increase going to the Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau to fund promotion of Omaha as a destination point.

Good heavens — somebody could sprain something doing a 180-degree turn that quickly. Are you kidding? The MHA has gone from being AGAINST a 1 percent increase in the hotel tax to being IN FAVOR of an increase that is actually HIGHER than the original suggestion?

Of course, the hotel tax is a good idea in that it would help eliminate the need to raise property taxes in a city that is already taxed out. People who were initially against the new stadium worried about the effect it would have on property taxes, but the stadium funding will come from hotel and car rental taxes, keno revenue and stadium revenue.

We just find it strange that an organization that was so adamantly opposed to a hotel tax increase, suddenly, is now not only in favor of it, but wants to see it raised higher than originally announced. We wonder what would cause such an immediate 180-degree turn in the thinking of the MHA.

New stadium may lose old tenant

One of the assumptions with building a new stadium to replace Rosenblatt Stadium has been that the Omaha Royals would play in the new stadium when the College World Series isn’t in town, as they have throughout their history.

That may not be the case, though. In fact, there is concern that the Royals may leave Omaha for a new home.

Recently, the Omaha World-Herald reported that the team’s management was not commenting on reports that the team has drawn the interest of suitors in the Texas cities of Sugar Land, Katy and McAllen, as well as Vancouver, British Columbia.

Team president Alan Stein told the newspaper that the only entity the team is negotiating with is the Metropolitain Entertainment Convention Authority, which will run the new downtown stadium in Omaha. They have had no formal or informal negotiations with any other city or group interested in bringing the Royals to their city.

Having the Royals as a tenant at the new stadium was part of the financial plan set forth in the new stadium agreement. How a Royals departure would affect the new stadium’s plans remains to be seen, but there is always the possibility the city could lure another minor league club. They could also field a team in the American Association, which includes franchises in Lincoln, Sioux City, Sioux Falls and other area cities.

New stadium is a done deal with 25-year agreement

The people of Omaha can exhale now — the College World Series won’t be going anywhere until 2035.

It’s hard to imagine what the game of baseball will be like a quarter of a century down the road. When you think about it, 25 years ago from now was 1983. Back then, we saw some tremendous talent play in Rosenblatt Stadium that would eventually wind up in the big leagues. Some of the guys on the all-tournament team that year are names you no doubt remember in big-league uniforms — Dave Magadan (Alabama), Chris Sabo (Michigan), Barry Bonds (Arizona State), Pete Incaviglia (Oklahoma State) and Calvin Schiraldi (Texas) all made names for themselves in Major League Baseball after showcasing their talents at the College World Series in 1983.

The tournament will remain at Rosenblatt Stadium until 2010, when the current agreement between the city of Omaha and the NCAA runs out. In the summer of 2011, the tournament will move up 13th Street a few miles to a brand new stadium that will be built just a Bob Horner moon shot away from the Qwest Center in downtown Omaha.

There are so many memories college baseball fans have of Rosenblatt Stadium, memories that will no doubt be hard to replace even after "The Johnny" is torn down after the 2010 College World Series. As it always is, though, the memories of days gone by will be the foundation for new memories that will no doubt be created in a brand new 24,000-seat facility that will be built with this tournament’s best interests in mind.

Omaha has been the perfect host for this tournament. With its central location and the timing of the season, there is no better place on this planet for a tournament as unique as the College World Series. The NCAA recognized this and went beyond its comfort zone of short-term agreements to keep the College World Series in a city that has treated the NCAA very, very well over the years.

The College World Series has also served as a calling card for the city in helping to bring other NCAA tournaments to town. Omaha hosted the NCAA volleyball tournament in 2006 and will do so again later this year. Earlier this year, it hosted an NCAA basketball regional for the first time in over three decades. Two years from now the NCAA Div. I wrestling championships will come to Omaha.

The last hurdle to the process will be approval by the Omaha City Council, and that is not expected to be a problem despite the fact there is at least one member on the seven-member board who has said he will vote against any and all stadium-related issues. The 25-year agreement the NCAA will sign later this spring makes this a done deal, and it will be great for baseball fans to continue coming to Omaha to see the College World Series well into the 21st century.

Proposed streetcar system would go by new stadium

With a new stadium to replace Rosenblatt Stadium all but a done deal, the big concern for College World Series fans might be centered around parking.

While parking at Rosenblatt Stadium is nothing short of a nightmare — unless you want to pay $20 to park in somebody’s back yard — the situation at a new stadium will be helped with more available spaces and could be further improved with a streetcar system that is being touted by Mayor Mike Fahey.

Fahey has plans to build a $55 million streetcar loop that would run through the Old Market, the north downtown area and Creighton University. The proposed loop would also bring the streetcar near the front entrance of the new stadium.

It’s an idea Fahey has proposed several times, and he actually received a privately-funded proposal in 2006, according to the Omaha World-Herald. Fahey tabled the idea to spend more time securing a long-term agreement to keep the College World Series in Omaha, which resulted in the proposed new stadium that has resulted in a minimum 20-year agreement for the NCAA to continue using Omaha as the host site for the College World Series.

There are a number of hoops that must be cleared before this streetcar system becomes a reality, including how a system would be funded. The streetcar loop would be built into current traffic lanes on streets along the proposed route, and vehicles could still use the lane for traffic.

NCAA agrees to 25-year deal with Omaha

The College World Series won’t be leaving Omaha for a long, long time.

Tuesday afternoon, the College World Series of Omaha Inc. organization announced it had reached an agreement with the NCAA that will keep the college baseball tournament in Omaha through 2035.

Last week, a memorandum of agreement between the two sides noted that the College World Series would stay in Omaha for at least 20 years, but now it will be 25 years before Omaha has to worry about negotiating with the NCAA.

Under the agreement, the majority of revenue that comes from the two-week tournament will go to take care of the city’s stadium construction debt, which is expected to be about $140 million. The remaining funds will go to stadium operation expenses and upkeep, reserve funding for stadium expenses and the NCAA.

According to the Omaha World-Herald, the stadium is projected to bring in about $16 million in 2011, the first year it is open. Of that revenue, $6.5 million would go to settle construction debt, the NCAA would get $5 million and another $3.5 million would go to operating expenses. The remaining $1 million would be split between the city and NCAA, with the NCAA receiving 80 percent.

Currently, the NCAA is under contract to hold the College World Series at Rosenblatt Stadium through 2010. Under the current deal, the NCAA receives about $3.3 million from Omaha, so the new deal will be an increase of over 50 percent for the collegiate governing body.

The stadium will be run by the Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority (MECA), which also oversees the Qwest Center, located just southeast of the new stadium site. MECA will work with the NCAA on securing stadium naming rights, which could bring in close to $1 million annually.

New stadium to be huge lift for Omaha, CWS

College baseball fans can breathe a little easier now, knowing they aren’t going to have to worry about finding different hotels, restaurants and watering holes to hang out at during the College World Series.

The "memorandum of understanding" that was signed between the NCAA and Omaha officials means that the College World Series will stay in Omaha well into the 21st century. The current agreement will have the tournament at Rosenblatt Stadium through 2010, with the tournament moving to a new downtown stadium for a 20-year run that will keep it in Omaha until 2030.

It has been an interesting 12 months since discussion of a new downtown stadium first started. With cost estimates, controversy surrounding the city’s reluctance to give out any details about the stadium and all the behind-the-scenes work that goes with such a project, it’s a relief to see that the NCAA has come to realize the crown jewel it has by keeping the College World Series in the same city that has served as the tournament’s host for almost 60 years.

This is a unique situation for the NCAA. Normally, their national championship tournaments rotate from city to city, with cities usually getting the tournament for no more than two or three years in a row. The Final Four in both men’s and women’s college basketball is in a different location each year. The NCAA Div. I wrestling tournament has had its tournament in St. Louis the past two years, but normally rotates it around the country as well. Only the Div. I College World Series stays in the same location every year, and much of that is a testament to what the people of Omaha bring to the table every year and the enjoyment fans have in coming to the middle of the country every year to cheer on their favorite teams.

Certainly, moving to a new stadium is going to be met with some resistance. The people living around the stadium are going to miss out on charging $20 to allow fans to park in their front yards, and some of the traditional atmosphere will be lost in a new stadium. But the positives — improved parking, better access to hotels and the overall downtown atmosphere near the stadium in the Old Market — is going to bring a new, exciting vibe to what is arguably college sports’ biggest event.

The new stadium will provide a much-needed lift to Omaha’s revitalized downtown region and will be a nice complement to the Qwest Center, which was built just a few years ago and is already becoming a top-notch facility in its own right. This is going to be a huge lift, not just for the city of Omaha, but for the College World Series as it continues its long, storied tradition in Omaha, Nebraska.