Showing posts with label stadium. Show all posts
Showing posts with label stadium. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Wir fahrn, fahrn, fahrn auf der Superbahn

What this country needs is a good, old-fashioned socialist revolution that's not on behalf of investment banks, multinational corporations or professional sports franchises.

We've had enough of the other socialist revolution -- the one that brought us accountability-free Wall Street bailouts, the military-industrial complex and states fighting over corporations like whores fighting over a john with a big . . . wallet. The one that ushered in the members-only welfare state. The one that treats corporations like people and people like trash. The one that socializes risk and privatizes reward.

You can have that socialist revolution. No . . . wait.
I want that socialist revolution. I'll bet you would enjoy it, too.

But if you promise not to blab it all over, I'd probably settle for something as simple as the American Dream . . . which we all thought well within reach back when we still dared to dream.

OK, here's my bottom line, which still might be a bridge too far in this age of country-club kleptomaniacs and the best government campaign donations can buy: Is it too much to ask that if taxpayers are going to shell out major dollars for giant public-works projects, that government at least maintains the
pretense the work was on the public's behalf?

Take sports arenas and stadiums, for example.
Remember when you could remember their names?

Plastichrome- Superdome  sign 1975

REMEMBER when you could remember which ballpark was in which city?

Remember when you could remember what the one you helped pay for is being called this week?

In this age of steel-and-concrete commercials for corporate interests, we were down to just a handful of stadiums you could figure out. One was the Louisiana Superdome.

The Superdome opened in 1975, when I was in ninth grade. Building it was a stretch for a poor state like Louisiana, and we still didn't have too much we could hang our civic-pride hats on even after the Dome opened. But, by God, we had that.

And what a "that" we had.

It was a marvel in 1975 -- about the only thing you could say was world-class about the Gret Stet back then, other than the food and the music -- and it's a marvel today. And still, it's about the only thing you can say is world-class about the Gret Stet, other than the food and the music.

And it was the LOUISIANA Superdome.
Take that, Mississippi. And did you know you could fit the Houston Astrodome inside the thing?

Take that, Texas.

But the Houston Astrodome is now the vacant and dilapidated Reliant Astrodome.

And the Louisiana Superdome -- the pride of a state, the landmark whose ground was hallowed by great suffering during Katrina and which rose from the muck like a swamp phoenix -- is about to become the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Take that, Louisiana. At least you can take small comfort in knowing that German money will be paying billionaire Tom Benson to keep the Saints in New Orleans, and not the cash-strapped state government.

WHAT I WANT to know is this: If a German car company will pay the New Orleans Saints craploads of money to rename the domed stadium built by the people of the Gret Stet of Louisiana, thus keeping the NFL team fat, happy and in town . . .
what else could we get the world's corporate titans to pay for?

For instance, New Orleans is a mess. If any city in America needs a bailout, a makeover and a little domestic nation-building, it's New Orleans. Well, Detroit, too . . . but that's not important now.

Trouble is, Louisiana is still a poor state. And one not particularly inclined, or able, to pull off an urban-renewal project of that magnitude -- especially since Katrina trashed the place.
So, what if we sold naming rights to it?

I don't know about you, but I think Exxon-Mobil, La., has a certain
je ne sais quoi. You think the advertising value is worth, say, $10 billion for 10 years?

C'mon down! And don't forget to visit the Exxon Extra French Quarter and put a tiger in your tank!

Or how about Apple? The hip factor alone should make Crescent City naming rights attractive to the ubercool tech colossus.
Apple, La. Short . . . sweet . . . has pizazz.

Wait! Wait! Three words:
The Drunken Apple. Now, that's a good 30-percent funner than the Big Apple.

PERHAPS I could get used to this selling-your-soul thing.

Maybe Corporate America
even could be persuaded to help out Louisiana with its finances. I think that if we could come up with the perfect naming-rights deal, it just might give the ol' coffers quite the stimulus package.

By jove . . .
I think I've got it!

The Trojan Magnum State Capitol

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Before, during, after

Here's the scene before Omaha's annual Independence Day fireworks show Saturday night at TD Ameritrade Park.

And here's what it looked like during the show.

Yep, still going.

Yep, still going. It's a big, big show.

And we all go home afterward. Happy
Fourth of July weekend, America.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Give me some peanuts and Cracker Jack

Old Rosenblatt Stadium ain't dead yet, but the family's thinking about the wake.

The wake, of course, will be the 2010 College World Series -- an oddity, being that the wake will precede the old baseball stadium's actual demise sometime in September, with the end of the Omaha Royals season.

MEANTIME, Omaha already can see the flashy downtown slickster that's going to replace the old girl in South O, starting with the 2011 CWS. At left is the view from 13th and Cuming streets of the new TD Ameritrade Park.

What's amazing -- at least to me -- is how quickly the site has gone from a Qwest Center Omaha parking lot to an excavation site . . . to this. "This thing really is gonna happen" quickly has gone from an intellectual exercise to a concrete-and-steel reality.

AND HERE'S the view from beyond what will be the right-field seats, while below is a close up of the work on the grandstands and luxury suites.

YOU KNOW, it's starting to look like a real city around these parts. Play ball!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Omaha Cubs

I think we've just found a new baseball team for the new downtown Omaha Baseball Stadium TD Ameritrade Park.

And it's major league.

ACCORDING to The Chicago Tribune:

After nearly two years of intrigue, the billionaire Ricketts family has emerged as the winning bidder to purchase the Chicago Cubs from Tribune Co. for about $900 million, a source close to the winning bid said Thursday evening.

The family will now complete negotiations with Tribune Co.

The family edged out Chicago real-estate investor Hersch Klaff and New York private-equity investor Marc Utay, a Chicago native, for the chance to follow Tribune Co., the Chicago-based media conglomerate, as owners of the storied yet hard-luck franchise.

The Ricketts family effort, led by Tom Ricketts, who lives in the Chicago area, still has a number of hurdles to cross before taking ownership of the Cubs, including receiving approval from 23 of the league's 30 owners.

Cubs officials have said they hope to have sale completed by the start of the new season in April.

The deal would represent a return to family ownership for the Cubs. Before Tribune took control of the team in 1981, the Wrigley family, founders of the chewing-gum company, owned the Cubs for 65 years. The clan sold the team and Wrigley Field to the media company, which owns the Chicago Tribune, for $20.5 million.

In Chicago, the Ricketts family is hardly as well known as the Wrigleys, or any of the current owners of the city's major professional sports franchises, but certainly that would change quickly for the new custodians of one of the country's best-known teams, as well as one of its most storied stadiums. Along with the Cubs, the Ricketts are buying Wrigley Field, and a 25 percent stake in a regional cable sports network.

The family patriarch, J. Joe Ricketts, grew up in Omaha and started a discount stock brokerage. In the 1990s he transformed the company into an Internet trading powerhouse now known as TD Ameritrade Holding Corp. He is ranked among the world's billionaires, according to Forbes magazine, with an estimated net worth of $1.2 billion. Shares of the company are also owned by his wife and four children.
I THINK THE CUBS will be a perfect fit for Omaha. After all, the ol' cowtown has long experience with crappy baseball teams, most notably the Omaha Royals, Triple-A farm club of the sub-woeful Kansas City Royals.

Compared to that, it's going to look like we landed the World Series champs.

And people thought the new ball yard might sit vacant for much of the year. Heck, just to show the Windy City there's no hard feelings, we'll let the Cubs play in old Wrigley Field when our shiny new stadium is playing host to the College World Series.

After all . . . it's the World Series! Gotta hold on to that.

I mean, it's not like the Cubs will bring one home to Omaha any time soon.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

It's not a stadium. It's an opportunity.

Omaha's powers that be -- after long musing about the prospect -- this year finally decided to carpe diem, build a new downtown ballpark and lock in the College World Series for a long, long time.

But now that the ink is dry on the contract and construction is almost ready to begin, it looks like city fathers have just had a "What in the world have we done?" moment and, according to the Omaha World-Herald, decided maybe they've carpe'd more diem than they can chew.

One thing that’s likely to be missing from the final stadium plan is a major commercial area. Though initial concept drawings included shops and a restaurant in the stadium structure, Jensen said concerns about the project’s cost and how often the public would frequent the businesses nixed the idea for now.

That change is a disappointment to Jason Kulbel, one of the developers of the Saddle Creek Records complex near 14th and Webster Streets. He said he is still holding out for a retail area near the stadium along Webster.

He said that’s essential to generating foot traffic, which is what Saddle Creek developers envisioned when they invested $10 million in the area.

“We’re hoping,” Kulbel said, adding, “I feel like we’re fighting the battle of our lives.”
Kulbel said he plans to make that case before Omaha’s urban design review board, which will review the plans at a public meeting at 3 p.m. Dec. 18. The meeting will be held in room 702 of the City-County Building, 1819 Farnam St.

The board was created in 2007 with the help of Omaha By Design to review and approve major city construction projects, thus ensuring uniform design standards. The board, which includes an architect, an engineer, a planner and a citizen representative, could ask for changes in the plans. It must sign off on the design before the city can issue building permits.

Jensen said a small amount of retail space is included in the stadium design. A store at the ballpark could sell team memorabilia, for instance.

However, in developing the final ballpark plans, Jensen said those involved determined that a stadium would be unlikely to draw retailers and feared that large commercial spaces would sit empty.

Condos and loft apartments, on the other hand, draw retailers, Jensen said.

The Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority, which runs the Qwest Center, is overseeing the stadium’s design and operation.

Roger Dixon, MECA president, said the stadium plans most likely will be further tweaked before the Jan. 21 stadium groundbreaking.

“What has been filed with the city is the design at this point in time,” Dixon said.
OMAHA, I KNOW times are tough and getting tougher. And that's exactly why now is the wrong time to go all wobbly on us.

You can't have a big stadium sitting in the middle of North Downtown (NoDo), eating up real estate but generating no economic activity for most of the year. That's insane -- but with no retail and no Omaha Royals, that's what you're going to have.

The folks from Saddle Creek Records stuck their necks out to jumpstart NoDo's development and -- to mix my metaphors -- the city is about to kneecap them. This is a game where you're either all in . . . or you fold.

OK, so a full-bore retail development might not be the smartest thing at this time. But the stadium site needs some retail -- and a relocated Zesto's. Seriously . . . Zesto's. The mom and pop hamburger stand is as much a part of the CWS as cheesy organ music and overpriced bratwurst.

But what else might draw foot traffic -- and car traffic, too -- to the new ballpark year round? What might keep the NoDo momentum going in tough times?

How about this? Pick one retailer and make it a larger one. Choose a niche market that's underserved downtown, but one that's wholly compatible with the College World Series. See whether the store could be part of a comprehensive naming-rights package for the stadium.

RIGHT NOW, I'm envisioning Cabela's Stadium with a scaled-down retail store focusing on product lines not featured at the retailer's big-box stores but which could be part of its online catalog -- say one part American Eagle clone and two parts athletic and team apparel. And I'm seeing "Official merchant of the NCAA Men's College World Series."

If the deal is sweet enough, they just might put up the scratch to build it.

The other thing I'm envisioning is even more important to the economic viability of NoDo and all its retail establishments. And, on a grander scale, Omaha itself.

It's all about synergy and joint ventures. Bear with me here, this will take some explaining.

IN THIS NEW MILLENNIUM, we find all our traditional media in a state of upheaval amid a digital onslaught. This isn't necessarily a crisis. Except. . . .

There's this rather large question hanging over the Internet's conquest of all media: What happens to the Fourth Estate as the digital revolution overruns the positions of local television and radio . . . and especially the hometown newspaper? What's the economic model for local media in an Internet world?

How do local media -- particularly news media -- transition to the 'Net and still make enough money to keep the doors open and the public informed? What would become of a city, its civic culture and democracy itself if local news media became shells of their former selves or, God forbid, shriveled up and died?

How could that be good for anybody?

Who, in a coordinated way, is trying to work the problem? Is the working media effectively partnering with academia to, for one, develop new ways of doing journalism and, for another, effectively prepare tomorrow's reporters, producers and editors?

Obviously, the task is overwhelming. There's nothing but bad news on the doorsteps of newspapers today. Ditto for radio and TV stations.

And in a looming age of budget cuts to academia, what school or think tank is in a position to comprehensively tackle the problem?

THE OBVIOUS ANSWER is it's time to put heads together. We need joint efforts. We need cooperation. We need coalitions. We desperately need public-private partnerships.

And if the partnering is done right, there's something in it for everybody.

So . . . what if (for example) the Omaha World-Herald were to join with the University of Nebraska at Omaha, Creighton University, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Nebraska Educational Telecommunications to form a Midwestern journalism think tank and media laboratory?

What if it became an integral part of the journalism curricula of the three participating universities? What if it became a focus of innovation and invention for an entire industry?

What if it became an unmatched resource for each participating entity, one that would be completely out of reach for any of the partners acting unilaterally? What if it became a source of valuable year-round interns for the World-Herald and NET . . . and precious year-round internships (and practical experience) for mass-communications students from the three universities?

What if that kind of synergy between media outlets and academic institutions became a magnet for the best minds in media and academia? Right here in Omaha.

Fine, now what in the hell does this have to do with a downtown baseball stadium and NoDo development?

I'm glad you asked.

WHY NOT MAKE such a joint-venture institute -- complete with a state-of-the-art digital newsroom, audio/video production facilities and classroom/office space -- an integral part of the stadium site plan? Put the studios where some of the canceled retail space would have gone. Add a satellite-uplink facility, too.

ESPN would love it.

The visiting media would love it.

The NCAA would love it.

Mass-communications students and their professors would love a learning experience as big as the CWS every year . . . on their campus.

Wouldn't the Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau love it if, say, not only were there two weeks' worth of televised CWS games live from downtown Omaha, but perhaps two weeks' worth of SportsCenters as well? If you build the facilities, at the stadium, with a built-in labor pool, just maybe they'll come with half the network.

How many millions in advertising do you think that would be worth every year?

And what economic impact, do you think, would a college campus -- and maybe hundreds of students and professionals -- have on NoDo and downtown year round?

I mean, as long as we're building a big, new stadium, why not make it a field of dreams? And new realities.