Sunday, June 23, 2013

What would they know of such things?

This is the view from Omaha's TD Ameritrade Park just north of downtown.

One sportswriter from Baton Rouge, home of the LSU Tigers, apparently finds this as surprising as he finds the new home of the College World Series lacking in charm.

While I will admit that, with the dismantling and redevelopment of the Union Pacific repair yard and the ASARCO lead smelter, NoDo doesn't have the "gritty" charm of, say, a vista dominated by refineries, chemical plants and a crumbling working man's paradise, you sometimes have to wonder how willfully insular some people -- and places -- can be.

Scott Rabalais writes in The Advocate:
As for the College World Series’ new home, there is no question the ballpark is an upgrade over old Rosenblatt Stadium, a collection of jigsaw pieces the NCAA and the city of Omaha assembled into a 24,000-seat ballpark over the years.

TDAPO is clean, has a broad, sweeping main concourse that allows you to keep up with the lack of offense on the field from any concession or souvenir stand, much improved locker room facilities, indoor batting tunnels and state-of-the-art media facilities.

What it doesn’t have is charm, something the College World Series has lost in the quest to be bigger and better.

Rosenblatt wasn’t the best ballpark in America. It had claustrophobic, dark concourses, few of the all-important club seats and cramped clubhouses for the participating teams. It was the kind of place where you had to go outside to change your mind.

But what it lacked in modern amenities it made up for with buckets of homey ambiance. It fit into the slightly gritty South Omaha neighborhood that grew up around it like a ball in a well broken in baseball glove. The ballpark was like a beloved weekend retreat on False River — not the place where you would want to entertain heads of state, but where you wanted to visit over and over again.

TD Ameritrade Park shiny and new and is surrounded by shiny new restaurants, watering holes and eateries. As an example of urban renewal, it’s top notch. Who knew Omaha could look so slick and refined?

But the new ballpark has the feel of something valuable behind glass that is to be admired but not touched, and certainly not a place where you would feel comfortable putting your feet up on the furniture. It’s a place you would like to visit, but sort of like going to the White House. You’re afraid if you sit on a chair the Secret Service is going to come repelling out of the rafters and hoist you away.

Another thing TD Ameritrade Park probably has over Rosenblatt: big walk-in freezers. In that respect, the new CWS ballpark is in keeping with the warm and fuzzy feeling that everyone gets from the NCAA.

At least TDAPO accomplishes one very important thing: it kept the College World Series in Omaha with an unprecedented 25-year contract. If a new home that leaves everyone with a bit of a chill is the Faustian bargain necessary to guarantee that the city which nurtured the CWS – which loved it before rest of the country figured out it was cool — then it’s worth the loss of rough-hewn folksiness that was Rosenblatt. But just barely.
WHO KNEW it would take a downtown stadium for a sportswriter who's been following LSU to Omaha for years to notice the city's progression toward "slick and refined" over the last couple of decades?

As someone who happily left Baton Rouge for Omaha before it became "so slick and refined," my inner snarkster muses that Rabalais' profound revelation about my city is kind of like a resident of South Sudan proclaiming his disbelief at how "slick and refined" were the Norwegian aid workers. Get out much?

THEN AGAIN, when this is your ballpark just north of downtown, maybe people should just consider the source. Though I'm sure Pete Goldsby Field is loaded with charm. Tell 'em the story again about how Felipe Alou wasn't allowed to play in an Evangeline League game there against the Baton Rouge Rebels in the late '50s because of . . .  you know.

I always find it amazing, though not necessarily surprising, when folks from places that rarely even try give left-handed "compliments" to places that bust their asses to excel. Is where I'm coming from.

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