Chilly opener at new CWS home
Nebraska and Creighton matchup in stadium debut
OMAHA, Neb. -- Fans who showed up in long johns and parkas for opening night at TD Ameritrade Park could only imagine what those sultry days at the College World Series will be like in two months.
The new home for the Division I baseball championship debuted in 40-degree temperatures and gusty northeast winds for Nebraska's 2-1 victory against the hometown Creighton Bluejays on Tuesday.
The $131 million downtown ballpark replaces Rosenblatt Stadium, which was home to the College World Series from 1950-2010. This year's CWS starts June 18.
By building the stadium, Omaha secured a contract extension with the NCAA that keeps the CWS in the city through at least 2035.
"This stadium is the future of college baseball,'' NCAA manager for baseball and football Dennis Poppe said. "It's symbolic of where I think college baseball can go. There are the amenities and experiences the kids will have. But just as important are the experiences the fans will have.''
The clubhouses and dugouts are spacious, with batting tunnels only a few steps away. The field is covered in four varieties of Kentucky bluegrass and can drain 7 1/2 inches of rain in an hour.
With a 360-degree concourse, fans won't have to miss any of the game when they make a run to the concession stand. The seats are 21 inches wide, with 36 inches of leg room. There are 250 flat-screen televisions and an average of one toilet for every 58 fans.
Nebraska's Kale Kiser had the first at-bat, against Creighton starter Ty Blach. Kiser flew out on the first pitch.
"This is something I'll treasure the rest of my life,'' Kiser said. "I'll come back here in 50 years and say, 'Hey, I played the first game here at TD Ameritrade.' It was awesome just to walk through these doors and see something like this.''
Allie Green of Omaha and two of her friends were among the early arrivals in the crowd of 22,197. The first thing they noticed was the walk-around concourse.
"I like the fact you can see the field from all the areas, which you couldn't at Rosenblatt,'' she said. "I'm really impressed.''
So was 43-year-old lifelong Omahan Larry Cannon.
"The concourses are really wide. It feels like you have some breathing room,'' he said. "But I'm going to miss Rosenblatt.''
TD Ameritrade CEO Fred Tomczyk threw out the first pitch. Nebraska's Cody Asche had the first hit, beating out a grounder in the hole for an infield single in the first inning. Creighton's Trever Adams scored the first run in the second.
The decision to build TD Ameritrade Park came after a lengthy and sometimes contentious discussion among city officials. Some argued that Rosenblatt should be renovated at a cost of $26 million. Others argued that a new stadium was needed. All agreed that keeping the CWS in Omaha was vital.
Green said she liked the tradition of Rosenblatt and is concerned that there aren't enough events to fill dates at TD Ameritrade Park. The College World Series, Creighton baseball team and Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League are the only tenants.
"Aside from that, this place is going to be empty,'' Green said. "If they can fill it, all the more power to them.''
Roger Dixon, president of the agency that operates the stadium, said TD Ameritrade is unique.
"It's not a minor-league park, it's not a major-league park,'' he said. "It's a hybrid.''
Poppe good-naturedly disagreed.
"I don't know if I would call it a hybrid,'' he said. "To me it's the home of the College World Series. That's what it's made for, and we're proud of it. It's the perfect venue for our young men who are going to be playing here.''