Goodbye, South 13th Street. Welcome to North 13th Street.
Instead of Stadium View Sportscards right across from the ballpark, you get the Dugout apparel store. Instead of Starsky’s bar down the way, it’s Slowdown around the corner.
And it’s not Zesto for ice cream — it’s a Clancy’s Pub/Zesto tent this year.
The College World Series is about to settle into its new north downtown confines, and the neighborhood is getting ready for its big moment. Despite Omaha’s 61-year experience hosting the series, the city has never experienced a CWS like the one that begins with opening ceremonies Friday.
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Fans coming downtown can expect a more controlled environment thanks to new “clean zones” rules that restrict vendor activity and the flow of beer.
With the CWS coming to a growing entertainment district, the action will be more spread out than at Rosenblatt Stadium — different CWS events are planned a mile or more apart. The tailgating crowd is searching far and wide for new spots, and some are settling several blocks from the ballpark.
“We’re going to have to change how we do things,” said longtime tailgater Mark Samstad, who will be gathering with his 25-person circle of friends on private property near 13th and Nicholas Streets.
Although Samstad and others worry the scene will feel sterile, people can expect downtown streets to be hopping.
The merchandise vendors, storefronts, hospitality tents and beer gardens are lining up by the dozens around the neighborhood.
And north downtown has developed enough that it offers more to do compared to the Rosenblatt scene. So instead of fans splitting for their favorite bars, north downtown businesses expect nightlife to sprout around TD Ameritrade.
What’s changed: the new neighborhood
Since this is north downtown, you can expect a bit of an eclectic mix as the area’s indie music and independent film promoters tailor their art to fit the masses of baseball fans.
The scenes will be new. The atmosphere will be different. And somewhere in the competition for dollars and attention, the next great College World Series tradition just might be born.
“We’re certainly going to miss the old place,” Zesto’s co-owner Mike Kelley said of Rosenblatt Stadium. He bought city property directly across from TD Ameritrade Park and will have a temporary ice cream/beer tent until the new Zesto is built. “But there’s a tremendous amount of excitement about the new deal.”
Around the stadium, fans will notice new signs and images of series greats with the theme “History Happens Here.” The Fan Fest area will be bigger than it was at Rosenblatt, and part of Fahey Street will be closed off south of the stadium to allow fans to flow into the festivities.
The clean zone was part of Omaha’s bargain with the NCAA to build the $131 million stadium and sign the CWS to a 25-year deal.
Directly outside the stadium, the NCAA will control any sales and activities. Then, in a several-block radius, the City of Omaha is enforcing rules to regulate beer gardens, control the placement of temporary vendor tents, limit signs and keep parking on paved areas.
What’s changed: tailgating plans
The tailgaters, who had their routine nailed at Rosenblatt lots, have been sweating where to position their groups in a neighborhood where their options are limited to controlled public parking lots or striking deals with private property owners.
Samstad, who lives in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., combed north downtown when he was in Omaha on business earlier this year and persistently worked the phone.
Samstad’s group again will line up eight pink lawn flamingos, one representing each team. As was a tradition at Rosenblatt, a flamingo’s head will be bagged each time its team is eliminated.
“We’re going to have our own little village,” Samstad said.
Mastercraft property owner Bob Grinnell had decided to not do anything for the series, then figured he would open his property to some low-key tailgate parties after someone he knew kept “gnawing” at him.
“It’s about continuing the great world series thing that this town has,” he said.
Activities are planned across the north downtown area. At least one apartment across from TD Ameritrade is being offered for rent during the series. Greenstreet Cycles, less than a block from the ballpark, is packing up its bicycle stock and renting the property to sporting goods vendors DiMarini Sports and Wilson Sporting Goods.
A distribution firm a block from the stadium is renting its loading dock for private parties, calling it Dockerville, in reference to Rosenblatt’s former Dingerville RV spot..
What’s changed: Beer gardens
Within close reach of the stadium, fans will find six public beer gardens, compared with the eight Rosenblatt had last year, and this year’s tents will be tied in with the neighborhood’s established bars and liquor license holders. In addition to the six beer tents close to the ballpark, five businesses farther away plan to offer a beer garden or outdoor alcohol sales.
And the parking, while spread out, will be more prevalent and organized than Rosenblatt’s yard and neighborhood parking.
Jenny Peters, who is planning an attraction called the Omaha Baseball Village outside the Old Mattress Factory Bar and Grill, said she expects fans to wander a lot as they get accustomed to the new neighborhood.
The parking lot will be full of food and drink, merchandise vendors, corporate parties, big-screen TVs and a music stage. Baseball legend Pete Rose is coming June 20.
The baseball village is promoting its location on “the new 13th Street.”
“People are going to have to look a little further rather than just following the crowd along a path,” Peters said.
She added: “They’re going to have to start new traditions.”