OMAHA, Neb. – While watching the best college baseball has to offer is certainly the main draw of the College World Series, food and souvenirs are also an important part of the fan experience.
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One of the most memorable aspects of driving up to the old Rosenblatt Stadium were the vendors that lined 13th Street, and the mobs of people walking up and down the hill in order to get the latest CWS gear, their favorite team’s hat, trinkets like braided bracelets or even a barbeque sandwich from one of the tents that lined the front of homes and businesses along the roadway.
When the CWS moved to TD Ameritrade Park, one of the most-talked about issues was not about the actual stadium, but if Zesto’s – the famed burger and milkshake joint next to Rosenblatt – would find a home at the new ballpark.
While its permanent home has been not built yet, Zesto is still serving those famous ultra-thick chocolate milkshakes in a temporary building across the street from TD Ameritrade Park.
The Vondra family, which runs Zesto, has only owned the property for 30 days – not enough time to get a new store built for this year’s CWS. However, Patrick Vondra says that the spot is a great location, although fans initially had difficulty finding the vendor that satisfies their craving for a good burger or a towering soft-serve ice cream cone.
But it did not take long for CWS diehards to locate the new site outside the right-field fence on the corner of 12th Street and Mike Fahey Street, and Vondra says he is seeing many of the same customers that make the annual trek to Omaha. As far as sales are concerned, they are comparable to last year.
“We are very grateful to be able to move with the series,” Vondra said.
Zesto’s new building is scheduled to open in March 2012, but the temporary set up will remain for other events like the College Home Run Derby on July 2, the USA-Japan baseball game on July 8 and the Red Sky Music Festival beginning July 18.
And not to worry CWS traditionalists, the 13th Street store remains in its original spot because of a solid business from the nearby Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo, and after all, it is now an Omaha tradition.
In addition to the new Zesto, vendors surround TD Ameritrade Park. You do not have to walk far to find officially licensed CWS merchandise tents no matter where you are outside the stadium. The vendors are much more spread out this year, and fans have a little more room to wander around.
New restaurants and watering holes have popped up around the stadium, giving fans various options for eating and entertainment. Two blocks from the new ballpark, DJ’s Dugout caters to baseball fans with giant-screen TV and bar food items such as fried pickles. Across from the stadium, there is an Omaha Steaks Tailgating Tent set up where fans can get the famous fare, while there is a compound of vendor tents outside the outfield gates of various items like gyros, brats and pizza slices.
Inside TD Ameritrade Park, the menu choices are plentiful with Philly cheesesteaks, Famous Dave’s barbeque, funnel cakes, ice cream, foot-long hot dogs, hamburgers just to name a few. For the more health-conscious fans, there is even a stand with gluten-free food options.