Monday, June 22, 2009

O! Suck it up and git 'er done

They're talking about us down on the bayou. Most of what folks are saying is pretty good.

Interesting that, sometimes, visitors in Omaha for the College World Series look at our city and end up having more faith in us than we do. Says Gary Laney of The Advocate in my old hometown, Baton Rouge:
Baseball is about Little Leaguers in Williamsport, Pa., summer leaguers playing around the clock in Wichita, Kan., and collegians spending a couple of weeks at Rosenblatt Stadium — with the lucky few getting to feel the Ivy at Wrigley Field or hear the thud of a line drive off the Green Monster at Fenway Park.

When the Red Sox play the Yankees, the sport does fine. It’s when it goes into these misadventures with the new — overpriced Yankee Stadium seats, shortened college seasons — that it always seems to trip over its own spikes.

It’s within that context that folks here are a little nervous. Rosenblatt Stadium’s days are numbered, to be replaced for the 2011 CWS by a brand-spanking-new downtown stadium, to be called TD Ameritrade Park Omaha, named for one of the city’s Fortune 500 companies. Rosenblatt will become a parking lot for the Henry Doorly Zoo, and the stadium’s other tenant, the Omaha Royals, will move to suburban Papillion, Neb.

The new stadium promises, or threatens, to be everything Rosenblatt is not. Where Rosenblatt has the dome from the zoo as a right-field backdrop, TD Ameritrade Park will have the city’s skyline, and yes, Omaha has a skyline. Where Rosenblatt is in a working-class neighborhood with Zesto’s ice cream stand (where one can spend a couple of dollars for what is supposedly the best ice cream in the Midwest) across the street, the new place will be on the edge of trendy, touristy Old Market with the state-of-the-art Qwest Center across the street.

And, one is named after a corporate giant while the other is named after the mayor who brought professional baseball and the College World Series to Omaha.

All of those thoughts are downright scary for baseball purists. But folks in Omaha are the perfect hosts for the College World Series for a reason, and that’s what gives hope for their new stadium. If any place is going to do a new stadium right, it’s Omaha.
THERE'S A LOT RIGHT about Omaha. And, yes, if any town can make a major change to a beloved baseball tradition -- and, more importantly, make it work -- it's the Big O.

But we're facing tough times. City revenues are tighter than one of Sasha Baron Cohen's "Bruno" getups, and ordinary folk are yelling and screaming for city fathers to take a budget ax and cut right through the bone.

That's because Omaha, unfortunately, is not immune to America's generation-long affliction with taxorexia. It's kind of like anorexia and bulimia combined, except that while you're not taking any nourishment in, you're still purging cops, libraries, yard-waste pickup and street repair.

Funny thing is, it only applies to civic affairs. Show us skyrocketing cable-TV bills and we'll still pay up. We'll bitch, but we'll pay. Upgrade to digital, even.

And we'll sell Junior on Craigslist to fill up the SUV with premium unleaded.

But show us a city that's cut the budget to the point of "You don't want to go there," and we'll say
"Go there . . . we ain't paying no stinkin' taxes." Of course, no one has any useful suggestions about where to cut, but that's not important now -- there must be some more fat somewhere.

Sadly, it's often between the ears of the armchair budget director.

AS I SAID, Omaha's in a tough spot right now, what with anemic tax collections and all. But we've been in tough spots before, and Nebraskans usually suck it up and do what needs to be done.

So maybe we just need to shut the hell up and do it again -- in this case, that would be protecting the city's quality of life, basic services and economic viability just as zealously as we've guarded the CWS all these decades.

What, do you think we got to the point where far-off newspapers run glowing accounts of life in Omaha by sitting on our butts muttering "No, no, never, no"? I think not.

Suck it up. It's important.

No comments: