Omaha Ponders RV Park Developer's Plan
An Omaha, Neb., businessman fond of RV camping outside the Rosenblatt Stadium version of the College World Series has plans to bring a new Dingerville to the riverfront.
But it will be the city of Omaha's call whether the “Downtown Dingerville” RV park joins the TD Ameritrade Park version of the College World Series, the Omaha World-Herald reported.
Jay Rybin, owner of Rybin Plumbing and Heating, wants to create an RV park with up to 150 pads two miles from the stadium near Freedom Park — out of sight from TD Ameritrade Park's confines. Rybin said he gets no sense that an RV park isn't wanted.
But several parties with interests close to the College World Series and north downtown aren't exactly going to bat for the idea. The NCAA wouldn't comment. College World Series Inc. and the Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau said they want to know what the city of Omaha thinks of the idea.
Mayor Jim Suttle's spokesman did not return several calls seeking comment. An official with the Omaha City Planning Department said the department needs to hear more about the plans and look into the idea.
“Is there a need? Maybe,” said Dave Fanslau, the department's manager of current planning. “Is it because of the ballpark? Not necessarily. But we'll see.”
Rybin says the idea of a new RV park is a “no-brainer.”
“RVs have always been a big part of baseball — they travel in hordes,” he said. “Baseball families and schools travel by RVs.”
But RVs have had a strained relationship with the College World Series as the Rosenblatt area became more controlled.
The RV tradition took hold at the original Dingerville, an empty lot across the street from Rosenblatt, where RVers and the unofficial Dingerville mayor, Glenarp “Dinger” Allmendinger, made their series home.
Then the city moved them out, initially offering 64 RV stalls in the Rosenblatt parking lot. That area was later cut in half, then closed to RVs entirely as the CWS fan festival grew.
In recent years, the RVs have taken up residence at Council Bluffs casinos or Bellevue's Haworth Park.
Now Rybin wants to tie in with the College World Series as the series atmosphere faces even more control.
Owen Burgin of Council Bluffs, a longtime CWS and Dingerville fan, said he would like to see a new Dingerville spring up somewhere close to the new downtown stadium, even two miles away.
“It has some of the flair, some of the flavor of the old-time College World Series,” Burgin said of Rybin's idea.
Rybin, who has camped outside of Rosenblatt for 11 years, is officially calling his RV park Meriwether Campgrounds, after explorer Meriwether Lewis, and wants to attract more than a series crowd. But he's promoting it is as the new Dingerville.
The site sits at the far end of Freedom Park Road just past the Anchor Inn. The land is under a long-term lease from the city to a corporation that Rybin is involved in; his family originally got involved with the site when it helped establish Freedom Park and its military collection.
The city will have the ultimate say over his plans.
Rybin said he plans to limit stays to 14 days to keep the area from becoming a trailer village. The site would offer power, water and a sewage dump.
Construction is estimated to cost $1 million, and Rybin said he is confident he can get financing. A consultant reported that the park would generate “very strong cash flow.”
At this year's series, Rybin said, he got a tremendous response as he floated the idea to fans. A Louisiana State alum, he said, told him to reserve 20 spots for Tiger fans, or as many as 80 if LSU makes the series.
If the city gives the go-ahead, Rybin said, he could have 100 spots installed for next year's College World Series.
“We don't have to be completely sterile,” Rybin said of the new CWS. “People need to come to this town and have a good time and take home some memories.”
The city is just starting to review Rybin's idea.
Fanslau said the review is at such an early point that he isn't sure what permits or zoning approval the project might need. He said he expects the City Law Department to review the property's lease.
Asked about the importance of an RV site for the College World Series, Fanslau said he doesn't expect any campground or RV park to be close to the stadium.
Dana Markel, executive director of the Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the series increases demand for local RV spots. As to the question of a riverfront RV park, Markel said she would follow the city's guidance.
Kathryn Morrissey, executive vice president of College World Series Inc., said she also would want to hear the city's response.
Morrissey said her organization is looking for “bridges” to carry the best of Rosenblatt Stadium to the series downtown, although what those are has not been fully determined.
Although the interest level for RVs during the series seems to have dropped in recent years, Morrissey said, she planned to keep an open mind about the RV park.
In the north downtown area, she said, the series wants to be a good neighbor. She said the series is an important event, but businesses in the area will be affected year-round by any new developments.
Whatever becomes of the RV plans, tailgating will be welcomed outside the stadium on Qwest Center Omaha parking lots.
“We recognize that this is a very important part of the atmosphere of the CWS,” said Roger Dixon, president and CEO of the Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority, which manages the Qwest Center and will run TD Ameritrade Park.
RVs can park in designated areas for $20 per day, Dixon said. But he said electrical connections are not provided, and overnight parking is not allowed. Dixon said he did not foresee a change in that policy.