Photos by Matt Finnigan, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.71
TD Ameritrade Park Omaha 1200 Mike Fahey St Omaha, NE 68102
Year Opened: 2011 Capacity: 24,505
Omaha Shines in College World Series Return
Very few cities host sporting events with such aplomb and enthusiasm that the sporting event becomes part of civic DNA. Omaha is one such city and the College World Series is one such event. The CWS has been held in Omaha almost annually since 1950, and all but the first three have been played in Omaha (1947-48: Kalamazoo, MI; 1949: Wichita, KS.). It was not held in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
CWS games are played in TD Ameritrade Park, the CWS’s home in downtown Omaha since 2011. Although Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium, which hosted the CWS from 1950-2010, no longer exists, the local organizing committee, College World Series of Omaha, Inc., has masterfully transported Rosenblatt’s spirit and feel to TD Ameritrade, approximately three miles north of where Rosenblatt stood.
This year, the CWS returned with some changes that affected the fan experience. COVID-19 protocols eliminated general admission seating in 2021, so all 24,000 of TD Ameritrade Park’s seats were reserved. All tickets were paperless for the first time in 2021, as well. Fans and stadium staff adapted well, deftly managing crowds entering the ballpark. CWS organizers and volunteers have successfully maintained the event’s feel and traditions, even during the waning days of a global pandemic.
Food & Beverage 5
Fans will easily find their favorite ballpark foods at TD Ameritrade. All beef hot dogs ($5 for large / $3.75 for small), cheeseburgers ($7.50), chicken tenders and tater tots ($11), french fries ($4.50), pretzels ($6.50), and pizza by the slice ($7) can be found at permanent concessions stands throughout the stadium. A kids meal, which includes a hot dog, string cheese, goldfish crackers, and a juice box is offered for $6.
For those looking for something beyond standard stadium fare, TD Ameritrade has plenty of options. The Nachomahas, nachos with grilled steak, queso, sour cream, black beans, and salsa ($18) can feed multiple people (or one hungry teenager). Oklahoma Joe’s serves its famous BBQ at a stand underneath TD Ameritrade’s primary scoreboard in right field. Pulled pork ($11), pulled chicken ($11), and chopped brisket ($12) sandwiches are served with chips, while loaded nachos ($12) come with a choice of those meats.
Beer drinkers will not be disappointed in TD Ameritrade’s selection. Domestic canned beer sells for $8 and local craft beer sells for $9. Keg Creek Brewing’s Red Brick Ale, the Kinkaider Brewing Company’s Grapefruit Radler, and Kros Strain Brewing’s Fairy Nectar IPA are offered throughout the ballpark. Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy, Miller Lite, Coors Light, and Bud Light are also sold.
TD Ameritrade sells Pepsi products, charging $6 for a stadium cup and $4.50 for a regular size.
All transactions at TD Ameritrade’s concession stands are now cashless, so fans should be prepared to pay with credit/debit card, or with a cash transfer app.
Fans from the eight participating schools bring energy to this NCAA Championship event, as do local attendees and throngs of youth baseball players in Omaha for their own tournaments. The fans are knowledgeable about college baseball and are passionate about their teams. As the CWS progresses toward its denouement, intensity builds and fans grow louder. The games themselves are typically competitive, with fans reacting appropriately to action that could advance a team deeper into the CWS or end a team’s season.
Beach balls are prohibited in TD Ameritrade Park. Enterprising fans nevertheless smuggle them uninflated into the stadium. A few puffs of air later and only between innings (per custom), beach balls are volleyed through the stands to the raucous delight of everyone – except for the polite and patient ushers and grounds crew members who confiscate and destroy them.
The “neighborhood” that forms around TD Ameritrade Park during the CWS is a baseball enthusiast’s dream.
The Omaha Baseball Village, Old Mattress Factory Bar & Grill, and Blatt Beer and Table sit across the street from TD Ameritrade’s right field wall. The Baseball Village is a temporary hamlet of vendors and food, adjacent to a beer garden. Baseball equipment manufacturers such as Oakley, Wilson, and Under Armor peddle their wares here, as do throngs of merchandisers selling hats and t-shirts commemorating the CWS. The Old Mattress Factory, also known as “the Matt,” hosts a large beer garden in its parking lot to the south of the Baseball Village. And Blatt Beer and Table frequently sees long lines form, as fans wait for tables at the closest pub to the stadium. Blatt has a rooftop patio from which patrons can almost see directly into TD Ameritrade, along with a Zesto ice cream shop.
Beyond the stadium, Downtown Omaha has its own draws. For instance, the 3,000-foot Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge spans the Missouri River just to TD Ameritrade’s east; the Iowa-Nebraska state line is marked midway across and the span offers great views of the ballpark and the Omaha skyline. It is also a must-visit for runners seeking an interesting route. The historic Old Market neighborhood is a five-minute drive from TD Ameritrade. There, fans will find more than 45 bars and restaurants in historic buildings that stand along brick streets. One highlight in the Old Market is Hollywood Candy, where classic candy and soda, vintage records, and pop culture antiques are all sold.
Attendance at the 2021 CWS shattered several records, including highest total cumulative attendance (361,711), highest attendance for the three-game final series (72,226), and the highest attendance for game 3 of the final series (24,052). Mississippi State’s rabid fan base traveled well from Starkville, many driving more than 800 miles to see the Tigers win the school’s first national title in any sport. The CWS remains a very popular draw.
Fans from all participant schools, and even some schools that do not qualify for the CWS, bring significantly more enthusiasm than is typically seen at a baseball game. This enhances the experience of watching players vie for a national championship.
TD Ameritrade Park sits on the north end of downtown Omaha, enabling fans to come to the stadium in several ways. Downtown Omaha has a large number of hotels from which fans can walk to the ballpark.
Driving is also relatively easy, with numerous parking options near TD Ameritrade. The City of Omaha has an easy-to-use app (available at www.ParkOmaha.com) that can be used to find and pay for parking near TD Ameritrade and throughout the city. Fans in 2021 found parking at meters for $1.25 within a half-mile of the stadium. The stadium complex has 4,000 parking places, many of which are available for $15 per car on a first-come, first-served basis. Tailgating is permitted but fans cannot extend their tailgates into adjacent parking spaces and cannot drive tents into the ground. All stadium lots open at 8:00 a.m. on game days and close 90 minutes after the day’s final game.
There are plenty of other parking lots within walking distance of the stadium. For instance, Creighton University is located approximately a mile west of TD Ameritrade Park along Cuming Street. Creighton permits tailgating and fans can walk across campus en route to TD Ameritrade.
Many parking facilities, including Creighton’s, cannot accommodate RVs and motor homes because of size limitations. There is RV and motor home parking in Omaha; more information can be found at CWS parking information.
Fans not wanting to drive to TD Ameritrade Park have several options. Metro Transit Omaha operates the “Stadium Circular,” a bus route with stops between TD Ameritrade Park and other locations downtown, including the Heartland of America Park, Capitol District, and Old Market. A range of options exist for fans wanting to bus to the games, with more information available on Metro Transit’s website.
Omaha also has a bikeshare program, with a kiosk at TD Ameritrade park and others within walking distance. More information is available at Heartland B-cycle.
Return on Investment 4
The College World Series can be a reasonably priced experience. Single-game tickets in 2021 ranged in price from $20 to $60, depending on the seat location and game time. Normally, a book of 10 general admission tickets sells for $90. Although COVID-19 nixed general admission seating in 2021, organizers expect its return in 2022 to offer fans an even more affordable ticketing option.
Concession stand pricing aligns with other, similar events. Fans cannot bring coolers, or outside food and drink into TD Ameritrade.
Enterprising fans can pay very little for parking at meters near the stadium. Even parking in a nearby lot or garage will cost no more than $15 – $20 – a bargain relative to other NCAA championship events.
The CWS at TD Ameritrade earns a point for the legions of volunteers and workers who fuel the event’s success. From ticket takers to security to ushers to concession stand staff, the people working at TD Ameritrade have helped sustain the CWS’s popularity for decades.
Another point is awarded for the CWS’s embrace of history. While Rosenblatt Stadium was torn down in 2012-2013, its memory and location have been preserved in the parking lot of Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. The zoo, which neighbored Rosenblatt, needed to expand and acquired the land on which Rosenblatt once sat. The expansion happened but zoo administrators ensured that Rosenblatt’s legacy continued by creating “Infield at the Zoo,” a shrine to the CWS’s first Omaha home. There, the old stadium’s “Rosenblatt” sign that arched above the main scoreboard now presides over a miniature turf-and-grass field surrounded by some of Rosenblatt’s actual seats and bricks reclaimed from Rosenblatt. Rosenblatt’s foul poles remain in the parking lot and home plate sits in the location where it sat until 2010. Plaques honor the CWS’s great teams, players, and administrators who helped the CWS become what it is today. The Infield at the Zoo is free of charge and a 10-minute drive from TD Ameritrade.
A third point goes to what is perhaps TD Ameritrade’s most photographed location, the “Road to Omaha” sculpture in front of the stadium’s home plate entrance. This statue welcomed fans to Rosenblatt from 1999 – 2010 before moving to its present home. The 1,500-pound bronze statue was designed by noted sports sculptor and Omaha native John Lajba. The CWS awards a miniature replica of this trophy to each year’s most outstanding player.
Celebrities coming to cheer on their alma maters or favorite teams earn a fourth point. Fans in 2021 mingled alongside such notables as Dallas Cowboys quarterback and Mississippi State alum Dak Prescott, former Denver Broncos quarterback and Tennessee Volunteer Peyton Manning, and former Vanderbilt and Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. Past years have seen other notable supporters of participating teams.
A fifth and final point is awarded for live music. TD Ameritrade features music piping from the organ that originally provided the soundtrack for the CWS at Rosenblatt.
Even a casual baseball fan will enjoy the CWS at TD Ameritrade Park. The atmosphere, access, and reasonable costs are reasons to catch a game. The quality of play, beauty of the stadium, and friendliness of the volunteers and workers are what make the CWS special. Omaha has made the CWS unlike any other sporting event and deserves its role as permanent host.
Follow Matt Finnigan’s stadium journeys on Twitter @mattfinniganco