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June 19, 2004

Omaha Is A Home Run For The College World Series

FROM THE BIG CITY OF THE CORNHUSKER STATE (Omaha, Nebraska) comes its 55th straight year as host of the College World Series.

Omaha has gained some modest fame for a few attributes through the years. For instance, its motto is “We feed the world.” The city is the home of food giant ConAgra, and a major producer of pasta, potato chips, pancake mixes, frozen dinners and—of course—Omaha steaks. The city is also a publishing and insurance center.

These are nice things, but hardly enough to put Omaha on the national radar screen. And that’s where the CWS comes in. City fathers have wisely embraced the tournament through the years, and its popularity has steadily increased.

Last year's total attendance was an all-time record: 260,091. A Creighton study found that 48.5% of fans are from out of state, and the economic impact on the Omaha area is $33.8 million. Not bad for a city of 400,000.

The CWS came to Omaha over half a century ago (1950). It had previously been held in Kalamazoo MI and Wichita KS.

Omaha has become so firmly entrenched as the CWS site that there has been no serious talk of taking it elsewhere. Players do not talk about going to the “College World Series;” they talk about "going to Omaha.”

One fan described the importance of Omaha to the CWS, "If you took it (the CWS) to Yankee Stadium, it would just get lost in a big town like that. It would be just another event. In Omaha, it's something."

Major league stars who have played in the CWS in Omaha include: Dave Winfield, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Will Clark, Rafael Palmeiro and Nomar Garciaparra.

Omaha mayor Mike Fahey underscored the importance of the CWS to Omaha when he said, "I'd rather lose the bond rating (than lose the CWS)."

(this 307 word excerpt—with attendant commentary—was culled from a 790 word article in the New York Times of 6-20-04 and from the 2003 edition of the New York Times Almanac)