Omaha can celebrate another successful College World Series at the $131 million ballpark its taxpayers and private donors built to secure a landmark quarter-century deal with our partners at the NCAA.
This week, World-Herald reporter Erin Golden shared word that fans are helping pay off the ballpark debt at a better clip than early visitors to the nearby arena and convention center.
Officials expect this year's bigger crowds, a record 341,483 versus last year's 326,734, to help the stadium finish this year in the black for the first time in its three years of operation as CWS central.
This is good news all around.
It is good news for taxpayers who were steadfast when the ballpark lost more than $800,000 in its first year of operation and more than $120,000 last year. It gives hope that additional taxes might be avoided and that the city might meet its plan to pay off the park in 2036.
It is good news for hoteliers and restaurateurs who saw an influx of people who — while they might have complained about higher pricing for rooms during the CWS — still came, ate, drank and had fun.
It is good news for our reputation as hosts that we welcomed so many visitors who hadn't been to Omaha before or who hadn't been back since we bid adieu to the ballpark on the hill. They'll tell their friends.
It is good news for local stalwarts, fans of the CWS who kept their seats or bought new ones, because the value of that investment continues to increase. Ask a sales rep about the value of giving tickets to clients.
It is good news for continued investment in north downtown and in the Old Market, as properties nearer the park encounter pedestrians on a scale that reminds many of the crowded walks along 12th Street outside Rosenblatt Stadium.
Perhaps it is time, too, to acknowledge the truth about the CWS' move downtown — that it has proven a boon to the big-time feel of college baseball's championship event and to Omaha's image.
It would be nice to see the park used more often, but it has been wonderful to see television coverage of “The Road to Omaha” pan past tall buildings and bustling sidewalks, to traffic and parks and businesses behind those tailgaters.
Nothing against the iconic Desert Dome at the ever-improving Henry Doorly Zoo, but the visuals on every broadcast downtown project a more urbane image that helps build the Omaha brand.
And that is why taxpayers and donors were willing to spend $131 million for two grand weeks each year — because good branding stays long after our visitors go.