I really hope I am wrong on this one.
I hate it when I am right.
But as the final games left in Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha for the College World Series come to a close in the next few days, I am afraid the window is closing on tailgating too.
Those unfamiliar with the College World Series do not understand the tradition and festival atmosphere that surrounds Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium in June. Rosenblatt Stadium has played host to the CWS for over 60 years and after the final pitch on Tuesday or Wednesday, the CWS is staying in Omaha but will be moving to a brand new downtown stadium. Tailgating has been a tradition at Rosenblatt is in jeopardy of becoming extinct once the event moves to TD Ameritrade Stadium in 2011.
Tailgating outside Rosenblatt Stadium is as much of a tradition at the College World Series as the final out of the championship game dog pile. Tailgaters have fallen in love with the charm of Rosenblatt Stadium and many fans discovered the tailgating when traveling to Omaha to root on their favorite college baseball team. Many of those tailgaters would come back to Omaha on years their team was not even participating. The tailgating scene outside Rosenblatt is so special that I placed it on my Tailgating Bucket List. With the move downtown in 2011, all of that, I’m afraid, will be gone.
Sports Illustrated published a piece previewing the differences to expect once the CWS moves downtown. In Naysayers will love new stadium, SI spoke with Dennis Poppe, NCAA managing director for football and baseball and specifically asked about tailgating. Poppe’s response.
“If somebody wants to tailgate, they can tailgate. We just have to put them in the right place, in the right position and make sure it’s acceptable with all those who are going to be around them. It’s certainly a tradition we hope will be maintained.”
I hope you reread the section in bold. That’s the NCAA’s way of having an escape clause, a poison pill if you will, on pulling the plug on tailgating once the CWS moves downtown.
The amount of parking around TD Ameritrade Stadium will be severely limited compared to the parking lot surrounding Rosenblatt. Less space means less tailgating. Less space also translates into higher parking fees. It’s simple supply and demand. And when the NCAA is involved and there is money at stake, you know that the little guy, the average tailgater, will get squeezed out of the equation.
Sure, next year they will make an attempt to accommodate the tailgaters but you know with the limited space not everyone will get in. Why should the NCAA go out of their way to make the new stadium more tailgater friendly when they could encourage those same people to go inside the stadium and pay for $6 curly fries? With the expansion of the popularity of the CWS you know it is only a matter of time that the limited parking around TD Ameritrade Stadium will be reserved for media, VIPs, TV satellite trucks, etc. No more parking for the average tailgater. Please make your way inside our beautiful stadium, thank you very much. We need pay off that $140 million loan one plate of nachos at a time.
My prediction: Tailgating will be all but dead at the CWS within 3 years. You’ve seen what has happened at the Super Bowl. Anyone try to tailgate prior to a BCS Championship game? Get ready college baseball tailgaters. It’s coming. Mark my words.
I hope I am wrong on this one. But when it comes to issues involving tailgating, I rarely am.