Work officially began Wednesday afternoon on Omaha’s new downtown baseball stadium. A ground breaking ceremony was held in parking lots C and E of the Qwest Center where the ballpark will open in 2011.
Mayor Fahey, Gov. Heineman, and NCAA & College World Series representatives were among the officials in attendance. MECA, which operates the Qwest Center and Civic Auditorium, will oversee construction of the stadium and will operate it when it opens.
Wednesday night, designers held an open house for the public at the Qwest Center. "I'm really excited about it." said Stephanie Pullen. "It was hard to grow at Rosenblatt. It's going to be a great transition."
We heard a room full of quiet dialogue. "It's the most unique baseball stadium for its size," says Martin DiNitto of HOK Sport.
It was quite a change compared to last Spring when the public forums over the downtown stadium turned into shouting matches. Maybe attitudes haven't changed since March. On this night, they just didn't show up tonight in droves.
"What's happened down here is a testament to the vision of the leaders of Omaha," said CWS Inc Jack Diesing Jr.
At the groundbreaking though -- the NCAA walked down memory lane.
"The two friends... Mr. Sokol and Mr. Fahey," said Dennis Poppe. "I felt like the big brother every once in awhile and say behave."
"Sometimes it's painful but we're better for it," said MECA board member David Sokol. Last year, he was involved in a public disagreement with the mayor over the location of the stadium.
"I think I did what any mayor would have done. I really do," said Mayor Fahey. "It's a very compelling argument of why we should build a new one."
With a down economy -- there is one advantage to the timing. $128-million will get you more. "The economy that's not good is going to help during construction because all the commodities are going down," said MECA Executive Director Roger Dixon.
Creighton baseball is expected to play at the downtown stadium but papers haven't been signed.
"I have a lot of affection for Rosenblatt," said NCCA's Dennis Poppe. "I'm going to enjoy these next two years...but I'm so excited about the new stadium."
The $128 million dollar facility will include 24,000 seats, 26 luxury suites, an open air concourse and a large fan fest area. The stadium is already locked in to be the home of the College World Series through at least 2035. It's scheduled to open April 15, 2011.
The Web site omahastadium.com has more information. You may e-mail in any questions and check for updates as construction progresses.