Rosenblatt Stadium

Enjoy it while it lasts.

Omaha Municipal Stadium was built in 1947 to hold minor-league teams. The St. Louis Cardinals were the first team to locate a team in Omaha, making it the home of their single-A team. In 1955, the Omaha Cardinals were promoted to AAA status as part of the American Association. Six years later, the Los Angeles Dodgers took the team and renamed it the Dodgers, but the team did remain part of the American Association for two seasons. Between 1962 and 1969 (and 1960), no minor-league teams played in Omaha, but in 1969, the Kansas City Royals moved its AAA team to Omaha. The Omaha Royals have played their ever since, but now, they are part of the Pacific Coast League (the AA disbanded in 1998).

In 1964, the stadium was renamed Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium after the city’s former mayor. Rosenblatt played in semi-pro and even professional baseball before coming back to Omaha and entering into a life of public service. He saw the potential of the city and pushed for the construction of the stadium. From 1954 to 1961, he served as the city’s mayor, and he was a big reason the College World Series stayed in Omaha despite financial losses. Unfortunately, Rosenblatt had Parkinson’s Disease, but his service and dedication led to the renaming of the stadium in his honor.

Though home of several minor-league teams during its history, Rosenblatt Stadium (aka “the Blatt”) is most known for holding the College World Series and has since 1950. Every time that the contract has ran out, the NCAA and Omaha have come to quick agreements to continue the relationship, and the newest contract has Omaha retaining the rights until 2035. However, there are concerns as to whether or not Rosenblatt Stadium will be a part of the College World Series much longer.

Originally capable of holding 13,000 people, the demand for tickets led to renovations that added 10,000 seats. That’s great for the College World Series, but it doesn’t help the Omaha Royals, who struggle to bring crowds that occupy even half of the stadium. The Royals believe a smaller stadium would allow for a more intimate experience. Though the Royals would like to remain in Omaha, a partner for 40 years, they do have to run a business. But what do they do? One suggestion is to build a new stadium with removable seats to house the CWS and the Royals, but the Royals doubt that it would allow for an intimate experience even with the removed seats. Another is to build a stadium for just the Royals, but Rosenblatt Stadium needs more than just the CWS to survive.

As of April 30, 2008, an agreement has been reached to build the new downtown stadium for both the CWS and the Royals. The remaining Rosenblatt stadium will be sold to the local zoo and demolished. However, there is a campaign to save Rosenblatt Stadium, but the desire for modern luxuries and amenities is too powerful. Built back in the late 1940’s, the stadium isn’t beautiful. It’s looks a little piecemeal due to all the renovations, and its bright blue steel beams aren’t exactly attractive. A new stadium would be in the heart of downtown with shops and restaurants. It will have bigger concourses. It will be prettier. As for the Royals, they will not join in, but they will stay in Omaha, building a new stadium in the suburbs. By the time the 2011 College World Series rolls around, the new stadium will be unveiled.

As with most historic stadiums, history and tradition with a renovated facelift or modernity as part of eventual progress? It’s a tough call for all involved.

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