20 March 2009

Let's build two

First rule in government spending: why build one when you can have two at twice the price? - Billionaire S.R. Hadden in the film "Contact"
In the past, Lew Wolff defended the now-dead move to Fremont as staying within the market, claiming "We're not going to Omaha." Funny that he brought up Omaha, as area fathers there are not merely trying to build one, but count 'em, two ballparks.

Omaha, which I'm sure Wolff referenced as a fill-in-the-blank remote location, is home to the Royals' AAA affiliate, the Omaha Royals. The team currently plays in Rosenblatt Stadium, which is better known as the long time home of the College World Series.

Last year, the NCAA put the squeeze on Omaha by promising to keep the CWS in town only if a new, updated ballpark were built. The squeeze worked, and groundbreaking occurred a couple of months ago on a downtown plot near Qwest Center. Currently unnamed, the ballpark is slated for completion in 2011 and will cost $140 million.
You might think the AAA Royals would jump at a chance to live in an updated home, but it turns out that the sleek, new, 24,000-seat ballpark is too big for their taste. The Royals' attentions
turned towards suburban Sarpy County, where a 6,000-seat, $26 million ballpark may be built.

Net result? Two mostly publicly funded ballparks, totalling $166 million. One will be the largest non-MLB ballpark in the country, yet it will only be in use for about 10 days and 15 games per year. The other is a much more modest ballpark, with less capacity than many spring training venues. Add that to the publicly funded Qwest Center, and you have $457 million in venues with only one professional tenant among them. Well, at least the Qwest Center doubles as a convention center. Omaha, clearly the anchor of the Omaha-Council Bluffs metro, is about the size of Oakland. What makes this even more amazing is that the metro itself is smaller than San Jose.