Year 3 of Werner Park brings more head-to-head matchups of Omaha Storm Chasers baseball vs. the College World Series.
The Chasers return home for a five-game, four-day homestand that starts with Tuesday's 7:05 p.m. series opener against Albuquerque. For the second straight year, the Chasers and the CWS are scheduled to play at the same time three of the four days.
But that doesn't mean either entity is sweating it. Once again there appear to be plenty of bodies available to fill seats in each venue.
“It's just like a regular mid-week series for us,” said Martie Cordaro, the Chasers' president and general manager. “We have a strong pre-sell for a unique promotion on Tuesday, a strong kids day on Wednesday, and then Thirsty Thursday and Friday fireworks.
“We would anticipate probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 22,000 to 23,000 for the four days.”
That would mean above-average crowds for Omaha, which ranks 11th in the Pacific Coast League in attendance at 4,967 per date.
“It should be a strong homestand,” Cordaro said.
Previously, Omaha's Class AAA team shared Rosenblatt Stadium with the CWS, with Omaha sent on extended road trips during the CWS — during the time of year that is prime-time for minor league baseball operators.
But new stadiums — Werner Park west of Papillion for the Chasers and TD Ameritrade Park downtown for the CWS — opened in 2011.
There were no on-the-field time conflicts between the Chasers and the CWS in 2011, as Omaha played at home that season while the CWS was gearing up for its championship series. The Chasers played on a Saturday CWS off day, were rained out the following day, then played afternoon games prior to the two night games of the CWS championship series.
The three openings attracted 23,457 for an average of 7,819.
Last year the events went head-to-head for the first time on a Tuesday as Omaha drew 4,074. After Omaha played an unopposed afternoon game the following day that drew 8,020, it went up against the CWS again on Thursday and Friday and drew crowds of 6,492 and 8,081.
For the four dates during the CWS last year, Omaha drew 26,667 for an average of 6,667 — better than its overall season average of 5,938.
This year's conflicts are Tuesday's 7:05 p.m. game against Game 8 of the CWS between North Carolina State and UCLA, Thursday's 7:05 p.m. game against Game 10 of the CWS, and Friday's 7:05 p.m. game against the CWS' Game 12.
Those attending Chaser games are typically of the same demographic whether or not the CWS is in town, Cordaro said. He said there's very little crossover among baseball fans in town for the CWS who also decide to take in a Class AAA game.
But Cordaro said that gradually more youth-aged baseball teams in town for tournaments that coincide with the CWS are also finding their way to Werner Park. He said those relationships have come from both the teams calling the Chasers and the Chasers seeking out teams that are in town.
“Some of these teams want to see some professional baseball while they're here,” Cordaro said. “It's somewhat challenging depending on their tournament schedules.
“But most of the people who are here from out of town to support a specific college team and want to experience the College World Series … that's (typically) not someone who is coming to our games.”
Tuesday is the Chasers' second annual “Peanut Free Night,” with the park prepped specifically to host those with peanut allergies — including sunflower seeds and tree nuts. It's also the last “Ticket Replay Night,” with fans able to exchange unused tickets from the team's first three homestands for admission, depending on ticket availability. A fireworks show has also been added.
At this point last season, Omaha was averaging 5,161 per date for its 34 openings. Attendance this season, through 28 openings, is down 3.8 percent.
Attendance does escalate over the summer months, though extreme heat like in 2012 can affect crowd size.
While Cordaro can control the promotions at the ballpark, he can't control the weather.
Of 32 scheduled dates to this point of the season, Cordaro said 20 have been negatively impacted by weather — cold or rain. Heat is part of the metric that Cordaro uses, but that hasn't been a factor in 2013.
“Last year only 26 of 72 were negatively impacted,” he said. “It's been a challenging start to our season.
“We've already rolled the tarp 20 percent more than we did all last season.”
Negative weather impacts, Cordaro said, include a heat index of 95 degrees or more, or a temperature below 50, or rain at any point during the day.
“They're general guidelines and it's not an exact science,” he said. “But 65 to 90 degrees is generally very comfortable. That's a wide, wide range, but we haven't really fallen in there much dating to mid-June of last year.”
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