Creighton wins with brand new home
CU may be biggest winner when it comes to new Omaha stadium
OMAHA, Neb. – A facility upgrade for Creighton is nothing new.
Nearly a decade ago it was the Creighton men’s basketball team moving from the Omaha Civic Auditorium to Qwest Center Omaha. Not only did it increase seating capacity by nearly 7,000, it gave the Bluejays a state-of-the-art facility.
The reward? An average attendance of nearly 15,000 fans and a team that is annually in the thick of the race in the Missouri Valley Conference.
So when it came time to build the new downtown stadium in Omaha that would keep the College World Series in town for at least the next 25 years, it’s the Creighton baseball program that may be the biggest winner.
Something that some people may have forgotten about in all of the hoopla surrounding it all --the fact that this $131 million facility is not only home to the CWS, but it shares a residence with Creighton.
CU’s move from its on-campus facility to TD Ameritrade Park Omaha could end up propelling the Bluejays to territory it hasn’t seen too often.
How could it not? It may go down as one of the biggest facility upgrades any program in any sport has ever seen.
Just ask the Creighton players their first reactions of the new place.
“Playing in the new stadium was awesome, this place is unbelievable,” senior Trever Adams said. “To have all these fans here and the energy that was in here, it was great.”
Senior pitcher Jack VanLeur and fellow senior Jimmy Swift even joked that they stuck around a fifth year just to get a chance to play in the new place.
Creighton head coach Ed Servais said after the game: “… their eyes were bugging out.”
Gone is the stadium which had seating only along the third-base line and held only 2,000 fans. In is a two-tiered stadium which holds more than 24,000.
Say goodbye to five shades of FieldTurf and say hello to a fielder’s best friend – natural grass – something that should help a coaching staff that already has preached defense for years.
“The infield played a little fast,” Servais said after the opening game of the new stadium against Nebraska. “All in all it’s a special field and I think over time our kids will get comfortable with it.”
Welcome to daily practices in a state-of-the-art home with lockerooms as nice as the professionals dress in and batting cages just behind the dugouts in case someone needs to keep warm by taking a few hacks – which can happen in Omaha early in the season.
In reality, the differences between the two could fill more space than anyone can measure. Think of it like this: the Bluejays are moving from what resembled many high school fields across the nation to a stadium that looks everything like one of the new Major League ballparks – minus 20,000 seats or so.
Even one of Creighton’s biggest rivals on the baseball field, Nebraska, had nice things to say following the grand opening.
“This place is going to be special because it’s going to create a great environment for student-athletes across the country when they know they are going to the state of Nebraska,” Nebraska head coach Mike Anderson said. “It’s also going to create great memories for families for years to come.”
For a program that has only been to one CWS – and oh what a magical ride it was back in 1991 – there really is no telling what this may do for Creighton.
Yes, the Bluejays played some home games at Rosenblatt Stadium over the years. And yes, the fact CU made it that year led to then-record crowds of more than 16,000 clad in Creighton blue that saw them make it all the way to the national semifinals.
But what about Creighton making the College World Series and playing not only at home but in its home?
Don’t say it can’t happen. The Bluejays have only made eight NCAA tournaments in their history, with the last coming in 2007, but all anyone has to do is mention Fresno State and that argument will come to a quick and easy rest.
Judging by the way the fans fill seats in the Qwest Center all winter long -- and with all the blue in the crowd last week – they will show up to see Servais’ squad.
“It was great, it would have been better if the weather was a little warmer,” said Servais after battling Nebraska in frigid temperatures. “I appreciate everyone coming out; it tells you a lot about what people think about college baseball in the city of Omaha.”
It most likely won’t take a College World Series appearance to get people in the seats on a consistent basis. The Bluejays were already 43rd in average attendance in 2010 – with just more than 1,500 fans per game.
And after all, being a stone’s throw from Iowa, one can always rely on the old Field of Dreams quote: If you build it, he will come.