One last look at Rosenblatt -
Published Tuesday, June 12, 2012 at 1:00 am / Updated at 9:15 am
One last look at Rosenblatt
Henry Doorly Zoo officials will open Rosenblatt Stadium to visitors this weekend.

Fans hoping for one last look can visit from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday through Monday, June 18.

Visitors are welcome to walk on the field, play catch and take photographs.

Admission is free, and no reservation is needed.

The Blatt lives on: See where objects from Rosenblatt Stadium have been or will be repurposed elsewhere.

Photo showcase: A last look at Rosenblatt

Photo showcase: Rosenblatt through the years

Photo blog: See and read more about the history of Rosenblatt.

* * *

College World Series fans longing to get one last look at Rosenblatt Stadium this year won't have to scale fences or sneak around in the dark of night.

That's what some fans did a year ago, when the CWS moved from Rosenblatt, its home from 1950 to 2010, to Omaha's new downtown stadium. The stealth adventures of some fans led to a decision by the Omaha Zoo Foundation, which now owns the stadium, to open the iconic landmark one last time for five days beginning Thursday.

Demolition of the stadium will begin in July.

“The traffic around the stadium last June was more than we had anticipated,'' said Calvin Sisson, executive director of the foundation. “It shouldn't have surprised us, but it did. That's been weighing on our minds this year.

“People know that it's coming down this year, and that could impact their decision on trying to get in there one last time.''

Fans will have that opportunity Thursday through Monday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. No admission will be charged, and access will be limited to the playing field and the third-base dugout.

Sisson said fans may bring their gloves and baseballs — no bats, please — if they would like to have one last catch at Rosenblatt. Or they can wander the field and reminisce.

At the same time, fans should be forewarned. The lush green grass that once was the pride and joy of groundskeeper Jesse Cuevas now looks as any Omaha lawn would after a year of no maintenance.

There are weeds scattered throughout the yellowish tinge of the outfield. Sunday's rain had by Monday perked up some of infield turf a bit.

The stadium is a hollow shell of the place that once attracted CWS crowds of more than 24,000. All red and blue seats have been removed, as have most of the yellow ones.

The padding on the outfield walls is gone, leaving just the skeleton of metal braces to form the playing field's dimensions. The protective screen around home plate has long since been removed.

Sisson said he has no idea how many fans might visit during the five days, but based on last season's response, he wouldn't be surprised if the turnout is large.

“This is our gift back to the baseball community,'' he said. “We want people to come in one last time and take a look around. It's a sad day, but it's also a time to consider just how far we've come.

“We want people to come and remember.''

Visitors are asked to park in the stadium's northwest parking lot along 13th Street and access the field from the left-field gates. Volunteers from the Concordia High School Booster Club and Roncalli High School Baseball Association will provide assistance.

A limited number of commemorative pens and key chains crafted from the oak from lockers that used to stand in the umpires' locker room will be available for sale. Other Rosenblatt memorabilia uncovered during the stadium's cleanup also will be for sale, as well as a limited number of seats.

Fans will have the opportunity to have their pictures taken in a pair of original wooden seats against a backdrop of the new Infield at the Zoo Monument wall. The original location of home plate will be preserved in the zoo's plans to build Johnny Rosenblatt's Infield at the Zoo.

Key features of the project include having the base paths re-created at 60 feet to allow children to run the bases. The main entrance will borrow from the architectural elements of Rosenblatt's grandstand design, and the foul poles will be maintained in their present location.

The zoo hopes to have the project completed in time for the 2013 CWS.

Motioning around the stadium, Sisson said, “This won't be here next year.'' Which is one reason he's given the volunteers some special instructions. Over the years, Sisson watched CWS players scoop up dirt from the infield as a memento.

“I've told our volunteers that if someone is taking a handful of clay and putting in their pocket or a box to just say, ‘I hope you enjoy it.' It's going away, and we want the public to enjoy what they can while they can.''

Contact the writer:

The Blatt Lives On

Many objects from Rosenblatt Stadium have been or will be repurposed elsewhere:

Road to Omaha statue: TD Ameritrade Park

Video board: Omaha Burke stadium

Right-field scoreboard: Omaha Northwest baseball diamond

Lights: Omaha Northwest baseball diamond

Home plate from final game: Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Infield tarp: Used on the city softball field in Imogene, Iowa

Main red Omaha Rosenblatt Stadium sign and Home of the NCAA Men's College World Series sign from the back of the Rosenblatt video board: Purchased by Ticket Express. The red sign will be installed in front of its office at 90th and Arbor Streets before the CWS pending approval from the city's Planning Department. A site for the second sign hasn't been determined.

Arched Rosenblatt sign above main scoreboard: It will be displayed in the Infield at the Zoo project as part of a monument wall.

Bleachers: Council Bluffs St. Albert's Al Leber Field

Seats: Sam Crawford Field in Wahoo, Omaha Public School and city baseball fields, Ponca School District and Rapid City, S.D. ballfield, among others

Flagpoles: Omaha Baseball Village at The Old Mattress Factory

Many small items and memorabilia were sold at an auction last June.

Contact the writer: Steven Pivovar    |   402-679-2298    |  

Steven Pivovar is a staff writer for The Omaha World-Herald and primarily covers Creighton athletics and the College World Series.

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