Review by Mike
Werner Park in Papillion, NE is the home of the Omaha Storm Chasers of Triple-A East. I took a chance and stopped by the ballpark on a morning drive through the Omaha area and, seeing cars in the parking lot, tapped on the gift shop door for a while until a nice fellow let me in and gave me free reign to wander the ballpark.
Opened in 2011, Werner Park replaced venerable Rosenblatt Stadium, remnants of which can be found in the parking lot of the zoo built on the site, closer to downtown (see "Peanut Gallery" below). Often when a team replaces a classic old ballpark dripping in history, they fail under the "newer doesn't mean better" doctrine of progress. Although I never saw a game at Rosenblatt, I can say that they've done a fine job with Werner Park. This feels like a full-on modern AAA stadium.
A large seating bowl wraps from foul pole to foul pole, with grass berms and bleachers in the outfield. The 360 degree concourse allows fans to stretch their legs and get some laps in during the game. The area directly behind home plate is available for standing with an excellent view, the press box providing shade above, while the double-decked luxury suites have been pushed off to the 1st and 3rd base lines.
Speaking of Rosenblatt Stadium, it was also home to the College World Series for over 60 years, but that event did not move to Werner Park. Instead, a huge 24,000 seat baseball stadium was built in the heart of downtown Omaha that also serves as home to the Vanderbilt University baseball team. Why both teams and the CWS don't play at either one or the other of these shiny new stadiums is a mystery to me, although I imagine there is an interesting story behind it.
There are some quirky features such as the undulating outfield fence that actually bows in towards home plate in the power alleys before curving back out to a deeper centerfield. There is a "dugout suite" built into the left field wall, where folks can sit and watch the game through the fence, which I would imagine assures a cool atmosphere and a terrible view at the same time. A small carousel provides some color.
The only downside to this lovely stadium is the location, out in the hinterland, surrounded by parking lots, planned and growing housing communities and the interstate. Once inside, it's a really nice stadium, with some nods to history and an eye to the future, plus a friendly guy in the gift shop. I have rarely seen a new ballpark that pays as much tribute to the old, as the lovely murals painted on the exterior attest to. Please check out the Peanut Gallery below to see the entire exterior wall devoted to Rosenblatt Stadium's Omaha Royals.