Writing about Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium is really a two-pronged deal. The ballpark must serve two masters — the College World Series and the Omaha Royals — and as a result it doesn’t serve either particularly well, especially the needs of the O-Royals.
Year Opened: 1948
Capacity: 23,100 (17,700 grandstand, 5,400 general admission) Architect: Leo A. Daly Co. in 1948; Bahr Vermeer & Haecker for expansions and renovations
Dimensions: 335L, 375LC, 408C, 375RC, 335R
Playing Surface: Grass
Websites: oroyals.com, cwsomaha.com
Tickets: Find the best selection of College World Series tickets at ballparkdigesttickets.com
League: Pacific Coast League (Class AAA)
Parent: Kansas City Royals
Parking: Free in adjoining lots for Royals games, paid for the College World Series. The ballpark shares parking lots with a local zoo, and these can fill up on a busy weekend.
Address/Directions: 1202 Bert Murphy Av. Omaha. From I-80, take the 13th St. exit and follow the signs to the ballpark. From downtown, take 10th Street South all the way to the ballpark.
Written By: Kevin Reichard
The last game at Rosenblatt Stadium came on Sept. 2, when the Omaha Royals closed out their home season. In 2012 the O-Royals — or whatever they’re known as — will be playing in a new Sarpy County ballpark, while the College World Series will be played at a new downtown ballpark.
Rosenblatt Stadium works best as the home of the College World Series: the place is crammed and lively on a game day, with every seat filled and thousands of more fans hanging out in the numerous parking lots filled with tailgaters and RVs. It is a place for the average fan: there’s not a plethora of luxury boxes or big-buck seats, and the stands are filled with fans who have attended CWS games for decades.
Of course, politicians couldn’t help but mess with a good thing. Apparently there’s a need for luxury suites and more big-buck amenities for NCAA donors, so Rosenblatt Stadium will be abandoned in 2012, scheduled for the wrecking ball after a new downtown ballpark opens.
Not that there’s anything wrong with the College World Series: it’s a major event that brings a lot of recognition to Omaha. And in terms of hosting such an event, Rosenblatt is actually a cozy home; though the tournament could probably find a home in a larger major-league facility (let’s not forget officials running the Metrodome in Minneapolis once made a run at hosting the series), there’s something charming about the NCAA keeping the College World Series in a midsized city like Omaha. (No, we’re not going to get into the politics of the NCAA and the College World Series.) On that level, we’d expect Rosenblatt Stadium to be a great place to watch the best college teams square off.
So be prepared for a mixed experience if you attend a game at Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium. If you’re there for the College World Series, be prepared for lines — lines to park, lines to enter the ballpark, lines at the concession lines. If you’re attending an Omaha Royals game, be prepared for a valiant attempt to turn a 24,000-capacity ballpark into a halfway intimate venue. The ballpark is not exactly in pristine shape; the concourse underneath the grandstand is a little dingy and there’s a lot of rust all around the older parts of the ballpark. (Of which there are many; the grandstand dates back to 1948.) There are whole sections of the ballpark not open to the public during a Royals game, such as the outfield and side bleachers, and yet a crowd of six or seven thousand gets totally lost in the vastness of the ballpark.
When you walk right in the ballpark you’re presented with a huge Omaha Steak Company concession booth, and it’s hard to pass on some good corn-fed Nebraska beef in the form of steak sandwiches ($7.50) and hamburgers ($6).
There are other concession stands in that outer concourse area, featuring chicken strips, hot dogs, and Dippin’ Dots ice cream.
(Speaking of hot dogs: they’re a must at Rosenblatt. Have two.)
Other specialty stands in the concourse feature Sammy Sortino’s Pizza, funnel cakes, mini-donuts and Sno Kones down the third-base side of the concourse, and Famous Dave’s BBQ down the first-base side of the concourse (where you can also get good beer in the form of Leinenkugel Red and Honey Weiss).
The best parking — the south lot — is reserved for season-ticket holders. However, there’s an abundance of free parking in the general vicinity, as the ballpark shares lots with a local zoo and a visitors’ center.
Omaha Municipal Stadium was built in 1948 after Omaha voters approved a $480,000 bond to built a new baseball facility. The town had been without professional baseball since 1936 when League Park (located at 13th and Vinton) burned down.
However, that $480,000 wasn’t enough to finish construction, even after the original plans were scaled back (a brick exterior was downgraded to a concrete exterior), so the city passed a second $290,000 bond issue.
The building of Municipal Stadium coincided with the resurrection of the Western League in 1946. The Omaha Cardinals played at Legion Park in Council Bluffs until the new ballpark was completed.
In 1955 the Omaha Cardinals moved up to the American Association and stayed in that league until its demise in 1962. The Omaha Royals were part of a reformed American Association in 1969, playing as a farm team of the expansion Kansas City Royals. The O-Royals were owned by parent team Kansas City until 1985, when the team was sold to Irving “Gus” Cherry. In 1991 the team was sold to United Pacific Railroad, with Warren Buffett as a minority owner.
In 1964 the ballpark was renamed Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium in honor of former Omaha mayor Johnny Rosenblatt, whose initial efforts led to the construction of the ballpark.
In 1950 the College World Series was shifted to Omaha and has been played there ever since. The city of Omaha has spent more than $35 million in ballpark renovations to keep the NCAA tournament in Omaha. The last College World Series at Rosenblatt was played in 2010; the tourney shifts to a new downtown ballpark in 2012.