We’re going to Omaha!
That cheer rising from dugouts and baseball fans from Long Island to Los Angeles can mean only one thing: It’s time for the College World Series.
Welcome to Omaha. That greeting is what out-of-town fans can expect to hear from those of us who live here. And we mean it.
The old hands in this year’s field, including two-time defending champion South Carolina and 21-time CWS team Florida State, know what to expect. So do UCLA, Arizona, Florida and Arkansas.
To the two first-timers, Stony Brook and Kent State: Trust us, you’ll enjoy the show.
There’s a reason — more than one, actually — why Omaha and the CWS are synonymous.
>> History is on our side. College baseball’s national championship has been played elsewhere — Kalamazoo, Mich., and Wichita, Kan. — but not since the first pitch was thrown in Omaha back in 1950.
>> The city has truly supported this event. It lost money for 10 of its first 12 years in Omaha. But we stuck with it, and college baseball teams will be on the Road to Omaha until at least 2035 under the latest deal with the NCAA.
>> While the CWS is a nationally televised big deal, the behind-the-scenes story is one of Omaha residents, the business community, city officials, volunteers and the NCAA teaming up to build an event that today showcases both a sport and a city.
>> Fans turn out for these games. Total attendance for the series has grown from 17,805 in 1950 to more than 300,000 in recent years. The final 1950 game drew a crowd of 2,384; last year’s final-game crowd was 11 times bigger. Since 1950, 7,864,373 fans have caught a game in Omaha. Sometime during this CWS, the 8 millionth fan will pass through the turnstiles.
>> Omahans loved our old ballpark, Rosenblatt Stadium. And thanks to the Omaha Zoo Foundation (which now owns it), the ’Blatt is getting one last hurrah. For the next few days, fans can walk on the historic field or play a little catch there.
>> Omahans love our new ballpark, too. Last year’s debut brought rave reviews for TD Ameritrade Park. This gleaming new stadium, with great views and downtown towering over the outfield fence, has quickly become a civic jewel.
>> Even non-baseball fans benefit. The CWS brings an estimated $40 million-plus in economic activity to Omaha. And ESPN’s television coverage shows the nation what a dynamic, 21st-century city looks like. (This year, even New Yorkers might tune in. Thanks, Stony Brook.)
>> If you stick around, you’ll see swimmers. The U.S. Olympic Swim Trials are starting as the CWS is ending. But don’t fret; we think two crowds are better than one.
As Omaha has proven repeatedly, this is a city that can make big events happen. Last year, the first in TD Ameritrade Park, the CWS went off without a hitch — and that was during the worst Missouri River flood in decades.
Which leaves only one thing left to say: Play ball.