• Photo Showcase: Sneak peek at TD Ameritrade Park
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The first thing you notice when you walk into TD Ameritrade Park is the smell.
Omaha's downtown stadium has the unmistakable scent of newness. Think new house or new car, then multiply it a thousandfold.
The thing it doesn't smell like is a ballpark.
“It will,'' said Bruce Carpenter, the lead architect for the stadium project for Omaha-based HDR. “It won't be long until you're going to be able to smell the popcorn and hot dogs and sweat.
“We just need to get some people in here.''
That day comes next week, when Creighton and Nebraska play Tuesday in the first game of the $128 million stadium that will serve as the new home of the College World Series.
Monday, a group of news media representatives received a tour of the stadium. About 250 workers were still busy putting finishing touches on the place, but Kent Grisham, a spokesman for contractor Kiewit Building Group, said the work is 99 percent complete.
The contractor turns the stadium over to the Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority on Friday. Four days later, a sellout crowd of 24,000 is expected to see baseball played there for the first time.
There will be plenty for the fans to like, from the wide concourse that encircles the playing field to wider aisles and seats. The new place will offer fans the amenities that its predecessor, Rosenblatt Stadium, could not.
“It's going to be a dramatic change from what they were used to,'' Grisham said. “Right away, when you hit that concourse, you realize the sheer size and scope that will allow people to just flow through this stadium comfortably.
“You'll never lose track of the game. It's a huge, huge thing, and I think every fan will walk into this place and go, ‘Wow, it's amazing!' ''
The new stadium packs plenty of wow factor, from the perfectly manicured green field offset by the crushed red brick of the warning track to the eye-pleasing symmetry of row-on-row of blue seats.
Monday's tour included a look at one of the two clubhouses, one of the two indoor batting tunnels complete with pitching mound and the dugout. Reporters also got a look at the nearly-finished club lounge on the stadium's second level.
The lounge will be accessible to the 30 suite holders as well as holders of the 2,500 club seats that take up most of the stadium's second level.
“I think the fans will be impressed with the size of the stadium,'' said HDR's Carpenter. “It has the feeling of a major league stadium with the intimacy of a collegiate stadium. It's all driven by the CWS.
“It's nice to have the quality and the amenities that come with a major league stadium — the batting tunnels, the clubhouses and all the support area. But all of the general admission and (lower) bowl seating has a very close, intimate feel. It's kind of the best of both worlds.''
Unique features or features that might readily identify the stadium as Omaha's were noticeably absent during the tour. That is in part because the stadium hasn't been built for one team but for an annual event that brings the eight best collegiate baseball teams to the city.
Creighton University will play its home games there in the spring. The stadium also is expected to be the home of the United Football League's Omaha Nighthawks, although Roger Dixon, MECA's president and CEO, said the professional football club has not yet signed a contract.
“As long as the league is there, I think the Nighthawks will play here,'' Dixon said. “It's not a done deal until they sign the paper. When they sign the lease and we sign the lease, then it will be a done deal.''
Dixon said the stadium's status as the home to the CWS provides it with its uniqueness.
“This is not a major league park, it's not a minor league park,'' Dixon said. “We have the 360-degree concourse. It's 100 percent accessible.
“The design team, the construction team, everybody went all out to make this as nice as we can get.''
Now, all it needs is Omaha's fans to complete the project.
“That's my favorite part,'' Dixon said. “I want to sit back and watch the kids and watch their eyes pop when they walk in. I think that's going to be pretty cool.''
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• Video: TD Ameritrade Park baseball stadium tour: