Hubert Humphrey is credited with having said the Twin Cities would become "a cold Omaha'' without the presence of major league sports. The origin of this is alleged to have been in 1976, as the debate over a new home for the Vikings and the Twins was heating up.
Hubert died in 1978 and thus was not around when that new stadium opened in 1982. The timing of his death did make it a layup for the politicians behind the project to name the building the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.
I don't buy 1976 as the start of the "cold Omaha'' phrase when it comes to the Twin Cities and pro sports. I'm certain that Sid Hartman was using it and crediting the Omaha slur to Hubert well before the mid-'70s.
Certainly, the Twin Cities have made quite a renewed commitment to pro sports since the start of this century. The NHL returned in the fall of 2000 with a splendid arena in St. Paul. The Twins battle for a new ballpark came to fruition with the opening of spectacular Target Field in 2010. The largest serving of public largesse will be going to the Vikings, as construction of the $975 million-dollar Taj Ma Zygi gets underway next year with an anticipated opening in 2016.
There is also hope for a $100 million renovation of Target Center, home of the Timberwolves since the fall of 1990. And we have such facility fever around here that there's also going to be an urban ballpark in St. Paul to house the Saints, an independent league team with talent superior to the Dundas Dukes in most summers.
There's going to be a modest upgrade to TCF Bank Stadium, in only its fifth year as home of the football Gophers, to help serve as home to the Vikings for the dome-less seasons of 2014 and 2015.
So, no complaints from here, but guess what? "Cold Omaha'' doesn't exactly work as a source of ridicule these days.
Folks tell me there are all kinds of people walking around Omaha with all kinds of money, thanks to an affiliation with Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway. It's also a booming agriculture and food center.
The way Omaha has been spending money on facilities indicates a population of folks willing to invest in the excitement that significant sports can bring.
The College World Series opens today with a split doubleheader: Mississippi State vs. Oregon State and then Indiana vs. Louisville. On Sunday, the other bracket plays: North Carolina vs. N.C. State (how good is that) and then UCLA vs. LSU.
There are games every day through next Saturday, with the best-of-three finals starting on Monday, June 24.
I've never been to the College World Series. My friends who have been there say been there say it's a great event, with Omaha and its people as tremendous hosts.
The NCAA baseball title was decided in Kalamazoo, Mich. and Wichita, Kan. in its first three years. It was moved to Omaha in 1951. And there it has remained -- for 50 years in Rosenblatt Stadium, and now in TD Ameritrade Stadium. That's a $128 million ballpark that can hold 35,000 and was funded specifically so that Omaha could retain the College World Series.
It's not the home to Omaha's Triple-A farm club (the Storm Chasers) in the Pacific Coast League. That team plays in Werner Park, another new ballpark that cost $36 million with a capacity of 9,000 ... the right number for a Triple-A team.
Omaha was in the American Association from 1955-59 as the Cardinals, didn't have a team in 1960, and then returned in 1961 as the Omaha Dodgers. The reason for that was the arrival of the Twins in Minnesota, and thus the end of the Dodgers' longtime farm club, the original St. Paul Saints. Omaha has been the top farm club of the Kansas City Royals since that franchise started in 1969.
CenturyLink Center in downtown Omaha opened in 2003, at a cost of $291 million. It seats 18,975 and is home to Creighton Blue Jays' men's basketball and Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks hockey.
For now. There's a movement afoot to get an on-campus, 7,500-seat arena for the Mavericks as they move into the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (which immediately will become the best college hockey league in the country this fall).
Next month, July 11-14, the U.S. Senior Open will be held at the Omaha Country Club. Jon Roe, the retired, long-time golf writer at the Star Tribune, played there recently and said it is a wonderful track. It opened at the current location in the mid-1920s, was redone by the great architect, Perry Maxwell, in the '50s, and underwent another renovation of multi-millions starting in 2005.
The reaction to the Senior Open has been "nuts,'' according to someone involved in planning the corporate hospitality and concessions.
Omaha and Lincoln -- the two biggest cities in Nebraska -- are connected by 54 miles of Interstate 80. That has been undergoing a non-stop renovation that finally will be completed this fall, with three lanes in both directions ... and a 75 mph speed limit.
The main University of Nebraska campus in Lincoln is new to the Big Ten. It's already a power in football, in women's sports and in many of the men's lower-profile sport. The major task is to become a winner in men's basketball with dynamic coach Tim Miles.
Already, the Huskers have a grand practice facility. In November, they will open play in Pinnacle Bank Arena, an $180 million-arena seating 15,000. It's being built by the city in the new Haymarket section of Lincoln that is only a few blocks from campus.
And here's something: The public sale of 13,500 tickets per game is done. Sold out for the season. For Nebraska basketball.
Cold Omaha? Lukewarm Lincoln? Those Nebraska cities seem far from that these days.
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