College World Series: The Last Year at Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium
The Road to Omaha is a common phrase for any college baseball fan. The mecca of the sport is Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, NE. The history, the pageantry, and the atmosphere make this event one of the greatest sporting events on the planet.
With the pleasure of growing up in Omaha, I have been able to attend games for the past 15 years. I have seen the past 10 National Champions crowned. Not many people are able to make a claim like that.
With the 2010 season beginning this past week and this being the last CWS being played at the great Rosenblatt, I wanted to take a look at the Series' past and its future.
The first two College World Series were held in Kalamazoo, MI and the third was in Wichita, KS. They crowned the champions for the '47-'49 seasons.
The Series arrived at Rosenblatt Stadium in 1950 and it has not left since. Just under 18,000 attended the first series in Omaha—not for one game, the entire series. It actually was an event that caused the city to lose money for a decade, but local business leaders and the mayor, Johnny Rosenblatt, were huge baseball fans and did what they had to to keep the event in Omaha.
The format of the college baseball championship is very similar to that of the basketball tournament. It includes 64 teams and has automatic bids for conference champs as well as at-large bids. There are three sub-tournaments within the championship: the regionals, the super regionals, and, of course, the College World Series itself.
The regionals are set up in a four team, double elimination format with the highest seed playing the lowest, naturally. One main difference is that the high-seeded teams host the series at their home field.
The winner of each regional goes on to the super regional. This format is a best-of-three series again hosted at the higher-seeded home field.
The CWS is a combination of the two prior rounds. The teams play in four team, double elimination brackets similar to the regionals, with the winner of each of those meeting in the championship series. The championship series is another best-of-three series.
The Greatest Show on Dirt
Throughout the years, this annual event became a big deal in and around Omaha. For two weeks ever summer, 13th street becomes nearly a fairground. Vendors line the streets and teams that are participating traditionally actually rent houses across the street for those two weeks.
The first game that was televised for the CWS was during the 1980 series. ESPN aired five games. From then through 2002, ESPN would cover each game with the exception of the Championship Game, which would air on CBS.
The Series' popularity did not begin to take off until the past decade. Total attendance and T.V. ranking have been at a steady increase the past 10 years.
While they do play games in the stadium, there are just as many people outside having just as good of a time. Tailgating is down to a science and no one does it better than those LSU fans. They flock to Omaha every year. Whether their team is there or not, they make a vacation out of it. Every other team does bring their fair share of fans along, but I have to admit LSU and UT are on another level.
They have traditions and they even have their spots that no one touches because they know who goes there. Imagine going to your football tailgate on Saturday afternoon. Now imagine that every day for two weeks because that is what happens here.
It is almost more than words what goes on here. The fans are so friendly and understand everyone is there to have a good time. I am a Husker fan, but I go to Texas, LSU, ASU, and countless other people's tailgate. It is indescribable for those who have not been there.
CWS Future Site: TD Ameritrade Park
TD Ameritrade park will be the new home of the CWS in 2011. The field dimensions are exactly the same as Rosenblatt. The main difference is the perks a brand new stadium.
The NCAA asked for a better concourse, better seating, and more suites for their corporate sponsors, and, basically, what the NCAA wants it gets.
This new stadium is located in the NoDo area of downtown Omaha. It is closer to more hotels, nightlife, and parking than the current location, but many argue that it will lose the tradition and the personal feel of the games. We will see if the games continue to have the same feel, which I think they will.
The main reason for this project is stability. After the stadium was agreed upon, the NCAA and the city struck up a deal to keep the series in Omaha for another 25 years, or through 2035. That puts the series in Omaha for 85 consecutive years.
Here is a link to the stadium animation.
What Does the Future Hold?
This is my favorite sporting event. I have attended countless games and made countless memories. There is no guarantee that the Series will be as successful at it's new home. I cannot make a judgement about that.
What I can be sure of is that Omaha will put its best foot forward to make this a world-class event. I can assure that the people—the fans that make this event so great—will continue to show up to Omaha in droves every mid-June. This is an underrated event and I truly hope it continues to garner the national attention is has gotten in recent years.