Video: Demolition begins at Rosenblatt.
Video: CWS fans being able to tour the Rosenblatt for the last time
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The first blow was struck at 10:11 Wednesday morning.
A giant backhoe clawed at the red girders that helped form the entrance to Rosenblatt Stadium. At that point, a lump formed in the throat of Omaha City Councilman Garry Gernandt, who once led the fight to save the iconic stadium.
“It's a sad day,” he said.
But it's one Omahans knew was coming since November 2010, when the last event there — a United Football League game — was played. Demolition work started Wednesday on the 64-year-old structure, and it will take about six months to complete.
Don Goers used to park his RV in the lots north of the stadium for the College World Series. He mingled with fans from Texas and Louisiana State, eating jambalaya and sharing good times.
Now, Goers manages the stadium's demolition for Anderson Excavating Co. His company has torn down many an Omaha landmark — Ak-Sar-Ben, Jobbers Canyon, Peony Park.
“This stadium is like your life or my life,” he said. “When you're done, you're done. I have feelings for it. It's like Ak-Sar-Ben. I hated to see that go. Peony Park, I hated to see that go.
“But times change.”
The CWS has moved to its new home downtown, at TD Ameritrade Park. The Omaha Storm Chasers now play in northern Sarpy County, at Werner Park.
Most of Rosenblatt will become a parking lot for the Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium. The zoo will construct a commemorative park, Johnny Rosenblatt's Infield at the Zoo, on the stadium's infield.
The zoo opened Rosenblatt to visitors for five days during this year's CWS. About 10,000 fans made their way in to get a final look.
About 50 or so showed up Wednesday to watch demolition work begin. They stood behind a chain-link fence and felt the ground rumble at 10:14, when the first brick pillar crumbled.
“It's a shame to see it come down,” said Andy Minino, 64, a South Omaha native. “But what else are they going to do with it?”
Minino watched as the long arm of the backhoe stretched out and raked down blue sheet metal at Rosenblatt's main entrance.
“There's a lot of years coming down here,” he said. “A lot of memories. Royals games. Some college games. Beach Boys concerts. Bringing my boys down to monster truck shows and, of course, the fireworks. Always the fireworks.”
Gernandt, an SOB (South Omaha Boy) who grew up near 20th and Vinton Streets, wore a St. Louis Cardinals jersey and cap to the stadium. His fan-wear harked back to when Rosenblatt was young and was home to the Cardinals' minor league teams.
“When the Cardinals were the home team, I used to stand out in front of the stadium in a Cardinals T-shirt with my puppy-dog face on in hopes that someone would take me in as their family,” Gernandt said. “If you were a kid and had a Cardinals shirt on, you could get in free with your ‘family.' ”
Goers estimated that it would take three or four weeks for his company to reduce the recognizable elements of the stadium's exterior.
As he talked, the backhoe tore into the kiosk in the stadium's entrance plaza. It took four minutes to reduce the structure to a pile of mangled steel and crumbled brick.
“We'll crush all the masonry debris and recycle the steel,” he said. “There will be very little here that will not be salvaged.”
He estimated that 4,000 to 5,000 tons of steel would be recycled.
Before the demolition began, Tessa Goodwin and Stacey Bailey, both 17, pulled into the stadium's north parking lot to take pictures of the left-field sign that faces Interstate 80.
Goodwin grew up on Eighth Street, blocks north of Rosenblatt. She walked there for annual field trips with schoolmates from Bancroft Elementary, who made a day of it by visiting the zoo and attending a Royals day game. She worked at the zoo, and shared in annual feasts that LSU fans used to give to zoo employees. She watched Rosenblatt fireworks from her yard.
Bailey used to go to work with her dad, a Rosenblatt grounds crew worker, and eat candy while he worked with legendary groundskeeper Jesse Cuevas.
“A lot of my childhood memories are here,” Bailey said.
“Now that it's going to be gone,” Goodwin said, “it's sad.”
As the red steel fell with a thud at the stadium's entrance, Vicki Kellogg sifted through memories.
“I've been through so many years of history here, me and my son,” said Kellogg, 48. “I'm trying to hold back tears.”
She has 20-plus years of souvenir bats, balls, pennants and ticket stubs from Rosenblatt outings with her son, Anthony, now 31.
“Good times — just to see a big smile on his face,” she said.
Those will remain long after the work is completed.
“They can demo a building,” Gernandt said, “but they can't demo our memories.”
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