Last Modified: Friday, July 26, 2013 2:55 PM
OMAHA, Neb. — Two years ago, when this fine city cut the ribbon on brand new TD Ameritrade Park for its first College World Series, a local woman was quoted in the Omaha World-Herald.
She waxed on at some length about the beauty of the new ballpark, the amenities, the sight lines, the cleanliness and convenient parking, then she began gushing about the concessions, the comfy seatbacks, the wide concourses, the location and easy walking distance to the thriving downtown Old Market area.
Summing up the wonder of it all, she said, “I hate it.”
And I couldn’t have said it any better myself.
But I’ll take a shot anyway.
TD Ameritrade Park really is breathtaking, all spit-shined chrome and glass, a perfectly symmetrical bowl filled with fan-friendly this and state-of-the-art that, all carefully painted in some sort of designer off-shade of blue with a cup holder at every seat, a whole level of luxury seating and most of life’s other creature comforts.
But it ain’t Rosenblatt Stadium.
From the back, it looks like a spaceship landed in downtown Omaha, conveniently enough settling down right next to a parking lot the size of Iowa.
And there’s the name — TD Ameritrade.
Yeah, the last folksy big-time sporting event in America has gone high tech, commercial corporate.
There’s irony in the names.
TD Ameritrade is called “Park.”
Rosenblatt went by the more formal “Stadium.”
In reality, Rosenblatt, now there was a ballpark for you.
You could even step down an octave and call it a ballyard.
It was perfect for the event, made all the more so by its slight imperfections.
But somehow I can’t imagine delirious baseball teams emerging from a super regional dogpile and exclaiming “We’re going to TD A-MERitrade!!!!!”
But I guess somebody had to pay for this thing, and I suppose they got their money’s worth.
I don’t know what you would call that dominant color scheme of the seats in this new place, and I don’t have any interior designers on speed dial to find out.
Nobody had to ask at Rosenblatt.
It wore the three primary colors — basic red, blue and the brightest yellow this side of the sun — with unabashed Midwestern pride.
And it was an honest paint job.
Look closely at the rails and you could see the paint bubbles and drips, probably slathered on by volunteers on weekend assignment.
Rosenblatt was a Norman Rockwell painting. Ameritrade is a computer-generated graphic, probably Photoshopped.
Rosenblatt fit the CWS like a glove. Now the event is still trying to get comfortable in a spaceship.
In fact, Tom Shatel, the excellent World-Herald sports columnist, sent out a desperate plea to LSU fans to make themselves at home, as only they can, and help give it that lived-in look and feel.
But, for now, this is the third year for the CWS in TD Ameritrade, and it still has that new-car smell to it.
Rosenblatt smelled like … well, it smelled like Rosenblatt, which was nothing if not distinctive, detectable from blocks away. I guess it was a jarring blend of not only peanuts and Cracker Jacks but also Famous Dave’s Barbecue and Omaha Steaks and Zesto and whatever other local delicacy could squeeze into the row of concession trailers parked haphazardly just outside the dank corridors.
It smelled like … baseball.
TD has something that looks like a food court.
I don’t remember anybody complaining that Rosenblatt didn’t have a sushi bar.
Before we go any further, just to clarify, I’m not totally old-fashioned on these matters.
LSU’s old Alex Box Stadium, for all its lore and memories, should have been torn down two decades before it was, and I personally would have lent a sledge hammer to rid the world of Tiger Stadium’s old press box.
But Rosenblatt kept up with the times.
The last time I saw Rosenblatt in 2009, it looked nothing like my first glimpse in 1990. Back then it might have been a candidate for the bulldozer. How they were able get insurance on the rickety old structure atop the grandstand roof is beyond me.
But it evolved. Omaha tinkered with it like a backyard labor of love with a honey-do list, never really finishing it but always improving here and there.
By the end, the TV view from center field showed a distinctive ski chalet-looking thing atop a new roof, housing a press box and what should have been plenty of room for hospitality and corporate bootlicking.
Gazing from the press box, which, to my way of thinking was just as nice and comfortable as the new one, you could see the evolution of Rosenblatt, you spot where they added more seats here, improved things there to keep up the growing popularity of the event.
The pride of a city was visible in the different new add-ons — you could trace the growth of the event by the seams in the development.
They got it done. It got better and better without losing its simple charm.
TD Ameritrade is seamless.
But it ain’t Rosenblatt.
TD Ameritrade wasn’t a labor of love, it was a reaction to fear.
I’m told every Omaha mayor since Johnny Rosenblatt in the 1950s — the namesake who got the CWS here — has lived in fear that the NCAA would take the event somewhere else on his watch.
It’s hard to imagine the CWS event anywhere but here, but it might also be dangerous to underestimate the NCAA’s greed. And Omaha got a 25-year guarantee with the promise of the new park.
I give Omaha credit for spending $130 million to insure that it never loses the event that defines the wonderful city.
But I’ll never forgive the city for tearing down the wonderful icon that defined the event.
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Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org