Every June, the City of Omaha rolls out the red carpet for more than 300,000 friends from near and far, from Corvallis, Ore., to Baton Rouge, La., to Chapel Hill, N.C.
We spruce up storefronts, prune trees and plant flowers, buy hot dogs, promote specials and get ready for the College World Series.
We do this because we like baseball and enjoy giving visitors a positive impression of our town. And because we’re more than a little proud of our reputation as good hosts.
We don’t mind the $40 million-plus economic infusion these visitors provide, of course, or the branding help the city gets every time the ESPN television cameras show their national audience where the “Road to Omaha” leads.
It’s the kind of bang for buck that led us to build a new, $131 million ballpark to secure a 25-year deal with our series partners from the NCAA, the kind that encourages Oklahoma City and others to seek a similar deals for softball and other championships.
Many Midlanders grew up around the ping of the bat. They remember the salad days when CWS tickets were given away to Scout troops and at grocery stores.
They remember souvenir shops that popped up overnight near the stadium and the people who turned homes into summer haunts.
They still smart a little when passing the hill where the ballpark once stood. And they smile at the Henry Doorly Zoo offering locals and visitors a chance to relive a bit of the old stadium’s history.
If you’re a visitor, Omahans want you to enjoy the bustling atmosphere downtown, with hotel rooms, restaurants and entertainment a short walk away. And we still like being stopped and asked for dinner recommendations, because this is home.
But mostly, Omahans want visitors to share their love of the game. The idea that you can take two kids to a ballpark and talk to dad about when he played. Or to mom about her exploits on the softball diamond. Even to just appreciate the time to laugh and eat and watch a game.
Since 1950, some 8 million fans have passed through the CWS gates at TD Ameritrade Park and Rosenblatt Stadium before it.
Whether you’re a first-time visitor or an old baseball hand, Omahans want to congratulate you on making a great choice to attend the NCAA’s best championship event.
No matter which team’s jersey you wear, Omaha welcomes you and your family to the annual spectacle that has for generations marked the arrival of summer — and our city’s time in the sun.