Culture Change at the CWS

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June 23rd, 2016

Changes in culture at the College World Series are all about "taking care of the fans". (Photo by Ryan Robertson, KVNO News)

Changes in culture at the College World Series are all about “taking care of the fans”. (Photo by Ryan Robertson, KVNO News)

For the past 67 years, Omaha has been home to the College World Series. Six years ago, the series moved from historic Rosenblatt Stadium to T.D. Ameritrade Park downtown. As KVNO News reports, it was a concerted effort to change the image from a festival type atmosphere, to a family friendly/ major-league feel.


Not that long ago, if you wanted a beer or bite to eat on the way to a College World Series game, you probably got both while tailgating, or at a backyard barbeque…all while a stone’s throw away from Rosenblatt Stadium.

Nowadays, a plain burger outside TD Ameritrade Park Omaha will run you nine bucks.

When the CWS moved from Rosenblatt to TD Ameritrade Park, fans traded prime tailgating space for concrete parking lots, and brick & mortar restaurants. (Photo by Ryan Robertson, KVNO News)

When the CWS moved from Rosenblatt to TD Ameritrade Park, fans traded prime tailgating space for concrete parking lots, and brick & mortar restaurants. (Photo by Ryan Robertson, KVNO News)

Kari Murphy works for Blatt Beer & Table across from the new home of the CWS. She said, “There used to be more tailgating with Rosenblatt people bringing campers and staying in town. But people are kind of getting the hang of being at this end of town, and I think they’re redeveloping that tailgating atmosphere. So, it’s starting to kind of come back around.”

Gone are the when the area just outside of Rosenblatt was filled with RV’s, bbq grills, and people. To be fair, there are still some tailgaters at the College World Series, but they’re across the street in a parking lot; their pop-up canopies sticking out  like sails in a sea of asphalt.

The prime space around the stadium is now filled with corporate sponsored activities and events. The Capitol One Bank receiver challenge. The AT&T mobile device charging tent.

One man, working at an Allstate Insurance tent, talked to passers-by like a pitchman from a TV commercial. For an exchange of information, he said, you can get a picture of yourself in which you appear to be catching a home run ball in the stands of TD Ameritrade Park. Because you’re in good hands with Allstate, as the pitchman said.

The change in venue and atmosphere of the College World Series did not happen by chance. The idea was to clean up what some critics called a booze-fueled, festival-type atmosphere, and turn it into an event with a “Disney theme park” feel.

The move from Rosenblatt to TD Ameritrade allowed the CWS and Omaha to transform the minor league/small town image of the CWS into a big city/major league environment.

Food is an obvious point of emphasis at the College World Series. This foot long, southwestern chimichanga ($18) is said to be a new fan favorite. (Photo by Ryan Robertson, KVNO News)

Food is an obvious point of emphasis at the College World Series. This foot long, southwestern chimichanga ($18) is said to be a new fan favorite. (Photo by Ryan Robertson, KVNO News)

Ron Prettyman is the Managing Director of Championships and Alliances for the NCAA. He said the NCAA has done a lot to help keep the CWS growing and moving in the right direction.

“What a great opportunity for young men to be able to play the sport that they love in such a great, great facility,” Prettyman said. “We continue to be innovative and do new and creative things to make a great a great fan experience that comes along with some culture change.”

That culture was important to the NCAA, and the other stakeholders in the College World Series, including the Metropolitan Entertainment & Convention Authority (MECA) and CWS Omaha, Inc.

Kristi Andersen is the Director of Communications for MECA.

“Every year we’re trying to enhance the fan experience a little bit more and again this is really pretty new right, six years is all,” Andersen said. “Rosenblatt didn’t start off with neighborhood parking lots and those types of things I mean it grew into that.”

TD Ameritrade offers fans a 360-degree walk around the entire park on its concourse. There are wider seats, more leg room and more than 250 big screens within the stadium – so fans will not miss any action. Fans can also eat at the more than two dozen food vendors within TD Ameritrade Park, something Rosenblatt never had.

Jack Diesing is the president of CWS Omaha, Inc.

“Certainly our focus here in Omaha, is to continue doing everything we can every year to provide a quality experience for the student athletes and the fan experience,” Diesing said. “It seems like every year we move things up a notch and this year is going to be no exception.”

The quirkiness of the festival feel has given way to the efficiency of the commercial touch. The NCAA also keeps a tight ship on advertising within the stadium: there is none. It’s not always easy balancing big league efficiencies with small town charms, but Diesing said it’s all part of providing the people what they want.

Like everything in life, though, there are mixed reactions to the CWS move.

Kari Murphy, the beer slinger from Blatt, said  it’s taken some time to get used to, but the fans are coming around to the CWS’ new home, and the area is developing a neighborhood feel again.

Marty Holland, a long-time CWS attendant, disagreed.

“Rosenblatt was so much better. I like the tailgating and the atmosphere around it,” Holland said. “It was so much better than it is now.”

Holland said he’s been to more CWS games than he can count, so  for him, nothing will ever compete with old Rosenblatt and the memories made there.

But even he admits the change of venue and culture wasn’t necessarily about making current fans happy, it’s about attracting new ones.

While his two young kids play near around on the steps in front of TD Ameritrade Park, Holland said he’s glad they’re able to make their own CWS memories in Omaha, just like he did.

“At least it’s here, at least they can come to it,” Holland said. “They’re lucky enough they’ll be able to come to it for years and years to come. We could have lost it. I’m glad they’ll get a chance to do it and maybe they’ll be able to bring their kids here. It’ll be a fun thing to do from here on out.”

A fun thing to do…because what’s a day at the park, if not fun?

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