The Big Ten baseball tournament has been an interesting experiment as of late. After years of being held on campus sites, the conference decided to go big and make its tournament a destination beginning in 2013. One such destination was TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha back in 2014, and it will be again this spring.
However, on Tuesday it appears the B1G has figured out what most knew — rotating the tournament was a horrible idea. Attendance was terrible at Target Field in Minneapolis in each of the two seasons it played host, but it was exactly the opposite in 2014 in Omaha.
That tournament set attendance records, and now it has a chance to become a fixture of the Big Ten sporting calendar. On Tuesday, the conference announced that the tournament will not only be back in 2018, but that it will also be the home of the baseball tournament annually from 2019-22.
“We are pleased to announce that TD Ameritrade Park will be the home of the Big Ten Baseball Tournament in 2016 and from 2018 through 2022,” Big Ten Commissioner James E. Delany said. “It’s been a terrific venue for us with incredible fan participation and we’re excited to be back.”
Just how receptive to the tournament were the folks of Omaha? It set not only Big Ten, but national records.
The attendance of 19,965 for the championship game on Sunday, May 25, ranked as the largest single-game conference tournament attendance in NCAA history. The five-day total tournament attendance of 62,020 marked the largest in the history of the event. Four days of the tournament featured attendance of more than 10,000, including Wednesday (10,400), Thursday (11,756), Saturday (12,319) and Sunday.
With a normal capacity of 24,505, TD Ameritrade Park is the perfect venue for this event. It isn’t cavernous and it isn’t too small either. Nothing dampens the excitement of tournament play than tuning in on television and being able to count just about every person in attendance at the tournament.
Moving towards making this a permanent destination is also smart for those who want to make the trip in advance. Being able to book trips in advance and know where the tournament is on a yearly basis should help the Big Ten create something unique in college baseball.
It also throws a major bone to the Western part of the conference, especially given all the focus on the East Coast teams in recent years.
What isn’t known is where that single year, 2017, will see the Big Ten baseball tournament emanate from. The conference says they will release that information at a later date, but Target Field and its poor attendance record should be crossed off the list if the powers that be were smart.
Given today’s announcement, it is clear the Big Ten is taking its baseball tournament very seriously, so look for something unique to happen with that 2017 announcement…perhaps Yankee Stadium?