In ESPN's on-air introduction to the 2010 College World Series championship series, the deep-voiced narrator used these words to salute Omaha's commitment to the NCAA baseball finals: “The city busts with pride.”
Statements like that still get to Kyle Peterson, even though the Omahan has been with ESPN for 10 years and hears similar compliments at the start of every CWS.
“Every time,” said Peterson, who will work as a color analyst for ESPN telecasts. “Every single time.”
Likewise, in NBC's live introduction before the July 4 session at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Swim Trials — with the CenturyLink Center fans sporting red, white and blue shirts by sections — a roar greeted prime-time television viewers, as did the words of TV host Bob Costas: “We're here in Omaha. ... ”
David Brown, CEO of the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, could only imagine what something like that meant around town for those who make up the largest city in Nebraska.
“I think it's definitely a feel-good deal, because everybody likes to have nice things said about the place where they live and work,” Brown said. “But I think there's an image-enhancement thing that happens here, that leads people to think about us more frequently when you're talking about a place to live or work or go or even invest.”
The times that “Omaha” is mentioned or written by national media will be hard to count after the CWS started Friday and spills right into the Trials starting June 25. Other than the obvious economic boon — Omaha gets 17 days of national exposure.
Omaha will be center stage in the sports world, if you will.
“There has to be an awful lot of pride attached to the community that goes with getting that kind of exposure,” said Harold Cliff, president of the Omaha Sports Commission.
CWS games will be on ESPN or ESPN2, including the two- or three-game championship series that starts June 24. NBC rolls into town for eight straight prime-time nights of Trials finals starting June 25 (as well as some tape-delayed coverage of preliminaries on NBC Sports).
“The two events together is something I don't think any city in the country has ever experienced before,” said Doug Parrott of Bailey Lauerman, who provides public relations counsel to the Omaha Sports Commission and is on the OSC board of directors.
Omaha first handled both in 2008, but with a slight gap in between. They are set to overlap at least one day — and possibly two — this time around.
Also, the Trials television coverage in 2008 was split between NBC and the USA Network.
Still, Parrott said, a monitoring service commissioned by the Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau estimated that the number of times Omaha was mentioned during the 2008 Trials and the Summer Olympics in Beijing was worth in the neighborhood of $90 million in public-relations value and branding.
“I think Omaha has probably for a long time kind of suffered from a name that everybody knows but nobody has real specific feelings or information about,” Brown said. “Everyone knows we're out there, but they don't know what that means. So when you get a chance to highlight your city on national television, essentially, on a nightly basis for three weeks, it's a game-changer. All of a sudden Omaha becomes a household word.”
Cliff imagines what officials in cities of similar size to Omaha might think of Omaha's exposure, which also has been heightened by events like NCAA basketball and volleyball events, and will follow with Omaha hosting the U.S. Figure Skating Championships and U.S. Senior Open golf in 2013.
“I'd be like, ‘Holy cow, that's an awful lot of coverage,' if I'm a Convention and Visitors Bureau or the Chamber of Commerce,” Cliff said. “You're thinking, ‘Man, those guys really get it. What are we doing wrong, or how do we get the same?'”
Coverage will peak next weekend as the CWS is winding down and the Trials are about to start. ESPN and NBC trucks will be all around the TD Ameritrade Park and CenturyLink Center grounds.
“It's going to be nuts, especially for two or three days,” said Peterson, also on the Omaha Sports Commission board. “I don't think many towns of our size could pull it off, just because of the amount of volunteer work it demands, and of course the facilities.”
Four-time Olympian Amanda Beard was in Omaha last weekend for the Mutual of Omaha Swimvitational and will return soon for the Trials. She called Omaha “a cool place.”
“It's one of those things where you come to Omaha and you're quite impressed with Omaha,” Beard said. “Great environment. Great for sports.”
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