Home of the Omaha Rays?
This past week, I drove through downtown Omaha as the College World Series was being played and I couldn’t help but wonder as drove past the scene: shouldn’t Omaha get a Major League Baseball team? With all the money that was pumped into getting a new stadium to keep the CWS in Omaha, why not go the whole nine yards?
I know the arguments against this action: Omaha-Council Bluffs ranks 58th on the list of US Metropolitan Areas. Omaha doesn’t have the corporate support, a major concern given that 70% of baseball season tickets are held by corporation. All those things are fair, and it’s not like Omaha hasn’t failed when it shared the Kings basketball franchise with Kansas City. Plus, if Omaha gets a major league team, good luck getting anyone to show up in Papillion for minor league ball. But it’s not because of Omaha that Omaha should get pro baseball; it is because of the rest of baseball.
Darren Rovell poked MLB ribs when he asked people to tweet photos of major league stadiums at him so he could point out the discrepancies between announced attendance and actual attendance. Tampa Bay has one of most consistent teams over the last five years and can’t draw a crowd or get a stadium built. The Oakland A’s tarp off the upper deck and had plans to build a stadium in Fremont, California fall through. If Bud Selig isn’t interesting in contracting teams, there should be a major league franchise playing at the Trade.
And it’s not like Omaha hasn’t grown in the last few years. In fact, local unemployment is low and Omaha made a Forbes list of top cities for young professionals, so it has some chops. But still, Omaha didn’t get there by being lavish and extravagant.
How can Omaha win a major league team? Simple: have the best plan. Show MLB a plan to market yourself to individuals and families, tailored around packages of tickets that include parking and food. ($40 for Dad and a kid, $15 for each additional person). Of course, this may have to involve dreaded PSL (which, incidentally, were the instrument that got the Cleveland Browns back in the NFL), and Omahans won’t line up to buy those. But Omaha should try to take advantage of baseball’s poor marketing tactics by showing them a better plan.
But consider if it was the Rays that relocated to Omaha. It would mean a competitive team right away, with 18 games a year with the Red Sox and Yankees to help keep the people coming out to the ball park. Of course, the regional rivals (Twins, Royals) would only come to town for one homestand a year, but the AL East could make up for it. The A’s would be the more natural geographic fit.
What this really goes back to is Omaha’s typical Midwest desperation to keep the College World Series on an annual basis. Personally, I think Omaha should have built a less extravagant park (or renovated Rosenblatt) and tried to get an agreement to be in a rotation for the CWS every three year and a regular rotation for the women’s volleyball final four. Not that I think the city spent foolishly on TD Ameritrade Park; they actually spent perfectly on it, and I’d like a chance to go to it and see a baseball game more than just two weeks a year.