For the past four years, the Big Ten has played its baseball tournament in Columbus, Ohio's Huntington Park. The home of the AAA-International League's Columbus Clippers served as the first neutral site setting since the tournament's inception (in the past the tournament would be held at the home venue of the higher seed). While the facility provided a great setting, it seems the tourney wasn't able to generate a lot of local fan interest once Ohio State was eliminated.
Perhaps that is why the conference announced that the tournament will take place in two new venues in the next two years. Next year, the tourney heads to the home of the Minnesota Twins, MLB Target Field, and in 2014 will be played at the home of the College World Series, TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska.
Returning to Minneapolis for the first time since 2004, this will actually be the first time that the Big Ten tourney will take place in a major league facility. Opened for the 2010 baseball season, the decidedly-modern ballpark designed by the renowned sports architecture firm, Populus, was chosen by Stadium Journey Magazine as the #5 best sports stadium in 2011. Although it will technically be a neutral site, the Minnesota Golden Gophers baseball team had the honor of playing the first game in the new facility and in the 2011 season were forced to move some of its games to Target Field after the roof collapse of the Metrodome left them without a home.
In 2014, the tourney will head to the home of college baseball's championship. Built to replace the aged, but legendary Rosenblatt Stadium, TD Ameritrade Park was opened in 2011 and was built specifically to keep the College World Series in Omaha. The NCAA then signed an agreement with the city to keep the College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park through 2035. The 24,000 seat capacity park is a stunning facility that serves as the biggest stage of the college game. Oddly enough, the seating bowl does bear some resemblance to Target Field, with its sharp, modern design and really resembles a scaled-down version of a major league park.
Hopefully these new locations will help to reinvigorate attendance for the tournament. Baseball is a bit of an afterthought for the Big Ten markets so choosing these locations for the post-season tourney should help to elevate the visibility. Perhaps moving the tourney will give an "event" feel to the new locations and drive more fans through the gates.