Local business leaders continue to press for inclusion of retail at new Omaha College World Series ballpark; the Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority board, which will run the ballpark, says building retail is too speculative in this economy.
Despite the economy, Omaha is in relatively good shape and attracting developer interest to its downtown area — specifically, the NoDo area located near the site of a new College World Series ballpark. It has all the hallmarks of becoming a hot area: cheaper old buildings, a funky arts scene, and lots of youthful enthusiasm.
But the presence of a new College World Series ballpark stuck between NoDo and the rest of downtown threatens to put a damper on NoDo development. Well, not the ballpark per se; rather, the present layout of the CWS ballpark. When originally pitched to Omaha residents, the ballpark was posited as a year-round baseball mecca, complete with concerts, big events and retail.
But the reality is turning out to be quite different. The Omaha Royals (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) are looking at a Sarpy County ballpark after the Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority board failed to sign the team to a financially feasible lease. Creighton University has also resisted the urge to play before a sea of empty seats. So what was envisioned as a ballpark generating foot traffic for five months a year is now assured of crowds for only the two weeks of the College World Series. And as a result, retail has been dropped from the ballpark’s master plan.
Which is irritating the locals mightily. As any mall designer knows, traffic flow is a key to development success — and the developers interested in investing in NoDo are distressed that the ballpark will be doing absolutely nothing to facilitate traffic flow to NoDo. While it seems unlikely MECA and the NCAA will reinstate retail — we are told that every available dollar of revenue is now devoted to building the basic ballpark, with little left over for something as speculative as retail — look for the debate to continue.
RELATED STORIES: Omaha ballpark off to rocky start