As I sat last month enjoying my first College World Series week in Omaha, Neb., an evening game between the North Carolina Tarheels and the Rice Owls, it became clear to me that this nationally u n d e r a p p r e c i a t e d event would be perfect for Indianapolis. Or better said; Indianapolis would be perfect for the College World Series.
Now, before CWS purists begin to chant "57 years!" "57 years!," let it be known that I understand the CWS' roots run deep in the old meat-packing town on Interstate 80.
That said, the CWS experience for teams, and particularly for the 20,000-something fans who pack into old Rosenblatt Stadium, could be better-in Indy.
Why? We all know why ... chapter and verse ... but to make just a few comparisons:
The stadium: Aging Rosenblatt is a classic stadium design with some lessthan-friendly sight lines. A consistently crowded walkway cuts the stadium at midlevel, rendering the first two rows above the walkway useless for those whose plans include actually seeing the game. Support columns that hold a big blue press box obstruct the views from dozens of seats. Replays on the big screen? Not so much. Omaha's residents understand these are issues and are bickering about building a new stadium downtown.
Victory Field is a beautiful, modern facility with great seats, suites, party areas, and a wide concourse. Indy would, however, need to pony up and add outfield seating to appease the NCAA and accommodate the demand for tickets. Advantage Vic.
Stadium site: Outside Rosenblatt, vendors line congested 13th Street while patrons dodge crowds, trucks and police horses on narrow sidewalks. Omaha's NCAA-Fan Fest is small, there are few places to gather, and only one nearby restaurant, which is famous for cheeseburgers and shakes. Parking involves a few local streets or a hike across I-80 to Omaha's version of the Coke Lot. Hotels (if you can find one) generally include generic interstate fare, including the complimentary stale-muffin breakfast. All hotels require a commute following your hike to the Coke Lot.
The Vic ... well, just which of the dozens of restaurants should we walk to? Just which hotel, museum, theater, parking garage, church, department store, skating rink or sports bar should we visit between games? "Look; I can see that we left the light on in our hotel room. Could you be a dear and run back between innings and turn it off?" When a city is hosting ESPN's Erin Andrews for 10 days, it simply must have nice accommodations. Advantage Indy, by the length of a Barry Bonds dinger.
Community: Omaha embraces the CWS in a big way. Like Indy, volunteers are abundant and they have team-hosting down to an art. Like Indy, and with the lone exception of one spectacularly unhelpful Rosenblatt box office manag er, we found Omahaians to be a friendly lot. Advantage: tie.
Attendance: Attendance in Omaha is good-very good. The community comes out, fans come in, and many youth baseball tournaments have sprung up, creating a baseball destination for the kids. All are easily replicable or even enhanced in Indy with the added advantages of a larger local market, several large markets within an easy drive, and good air access. Advantage: slight advantage to Indy. Omaha sells out, but Indy has greater potential.
Intangibles: Indy is an amateursports-crazy city with an unsurpassed track record for not only hosting but elevating national events. Omaha is steeped in the tradition of the CWS.
The Vic has limited recorded organ music. Rosenblatt has local legend Lambert Bartak, the only organist to be tossed from a ballpark by an umpire. Advantage Vic.
Vic fans actually still do "the wave" really well. Advantage Rosenblatt.
Hey Dr. Brand, bring the CWS to the next level. Bring it to Indy.
Goode resides in Zionsville and has been involved with youth baseball for 15 years.