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Omaha ballpark off to rocky start

The proposed new downtown Omaha ballpark for the College World Series made a shaky debut last Friday, with the city’s Urban Design Review Board declining to approve the project as presented to them. Go back to the drawing board and give us a plan with a friendier public face and one with more retail — or be prepared to tell us why not.
Retail and fan accessibility were cited by Omaha’s Urban Design Review Board as the prime reasons final approval for a new College World Series was withheld last week, as the initial plans were criticized for varying too much from the original ballpark plan sold to area voters.

That plan called for a ballpark in use throughout the summer and much of the fall and spring, complete with year-round retail and a pedestrian-friendly design. That’s why members of the review board were dismayed to discover plans for retail had been scaled so only 5,000 square feet remained; that seems a bit low and probably won’t be enough for the ballpark to attract much traffic outside of the College World Series games. In the same light, the current plan calls for a parking lot at 10th Street east of the ballpark, a major entrance into downtown for anyone arriving from Eppley Airfield.

The board was quite clear in its desire to see more retail and a plaza instead of a parking lot on the 10th Street side of the ballpark.

Review board members were particularly displeased with a large parking lot planned east of the stadium along 10th Street. That space, they said, could be used for an entrance plaza to the stadium. Ciaccio questioned how a large parking lot would look along 10th Street, a major entrance point into Omaha.

“We have the backdoor of the facility coming onto the front lawn of the city,” said design board member Dave Ciaccio, a landscape architect.

Because of these perceived issues with the ballpark design, the review board granted approval only for construction to begin on the foundation of the ballpark — which means a scheduled groundbreaking next month can go ahead on schedule.