It wasn't perfect, but traffic — both pedestrian and vehicular — moved well through north downtown Tuesday night in a good dry run for next month's College World Series.
The combination of a college baseball game and a concert that together drew about 30,000 people proved not to be the nightmare it might have been.
Traffic flowed on the streets around TD Ameritrade Park, where Creighton and Nebraska began playing at 7 p.m., and at next-door Qwest Center Omaha, where the Bob Seger concert began 30 minutes later.
“I think it went really smoothly — better than I could have hoped,” said Rebecca Kleeman, a spokeswoman for MECA, which runs the ballpark and the Qwest Center.
“If things are not going well,” she said, “then I hear about them. I didn't hear about them.”
Police said the decision by many concertgoers and baseball fans to arrive early was a big help.
Many people tailgated in parking lots before the game on the unseasonably warm day. Others heeded warnings to park well south and west of the stadium.
“It was kind of like a trickle the whole time,” said Lt. Marcia Janucik, commander of the Omaha Police Department's traffic unit.
After the game, she said Wednesday, fans streamed out of Gate 2, near 13th and Mike Fahey Streets, and many wanted to cross the street right away. “Unfortunately, there's no sidewalk on the west side of 13th Street,” Janucik said. “That's a concern to us, because (pedestrians) walk in the traffic lane.”
For the College World Series, she said, three police officers will be at that corner, directing fans to stay on the sidewalk on the east side of 13th.
Todd Pfitzer, City of Omaha traffic engineer, said a sidewalk won't be built on the west side of 13th at that corner, because it wouldn't take pedestrians anywhere: There's no sidewalk on that side of the street until you get to Capitol Avenue.
Pfitzer was on hand Tuesday night, having parked at Midtown Crossing to take the shuttle to the stadium. He said he didn't see traffic tie-ups before the game.
“It went better than I was prepared for,” he said.
Paid attendance for the Creighton-Nebraska game was 17,588. An estimated 12,000 turned out for the Seger show.
The true test will come in June at the CWS, when two games will be played on many days, per-game attendance could hit 25,000 and the stadium will be cleared between games.
Sidewalks on Tuesday night were packed with outfit choices declaring the destination: red or blue T-shirts and hats for the Bluejay-Husker game and black T-shirts for the Seger concert.
Mike Rabbe, 54, took a 24th Street-to-Burt Street-to-16th Street path to the ballpark. He urged a reporter not to say that combination of streets was problem-free because Rabbe hoped to use it as his exclusive “secret passage” for future games.
“There was nobody” on the streets he traveled to the game, Rabbe said.
He left his home near 150th Street and West Dodge Road about 6 p.m. and was outside the stadium by about 6:30, a typical commute time on most nights without major events downtown, he said.
Tim Engler, 51, of Papillion came to the game with his grandson Andrew, 8.
“I just grabbed the first parking spot I could find,'' Engler said, a metered spot about five blocks from the stadium.
The parking lots at 12th and Cass Streets were full, and a lot at the Mattress Factory could take no new cars after 3:45 p.m., an attendant said.
It appears some motorists didn't want to mess with downtown parking at all.
At 6:40 p.m., the parking garage at Midtown Crossing was filling up rapidly. Midtown Crossing, at 33rd and Farnam Streets, offers shuttle bus service to the stadium.
One fan who asked to be identified only by his first name, Al, said he and a 75-year-old friend parked at Midtown Crossing but took a cab to the stadium because of the long lines. When they left the game, he said, they had trouble finding anyone who could direct them to the Midtown Crossing shuttle spot. They ended up calling his friend's wife, who drove down and picked them up.
Janusik, the police traffic lieutenant, said she noticed that some shuttle buses operated by other services were blocking traffic as they dropped off fans outside the designated dropoff point near the Qwest Center. She said she would be contacting those services to make sure they know the rules.
Dennis Poppe, NCAA managing director for football and baseball, said he was pleased to see how the north downtown area would handle two big events.
“I want to see how we do because I would like to see us push the limits,'' Poppe said. “It's a good thing, in my mind, because this is probably what we're going to have (in June).''
Poppe said he plans to meet Wednesday with officials from College World Series Inc., Omaha police and others to discuss traffic flow.
World-Herald staff writers Kevin Coffey, Dave Elsesser, Steven Pivovar and Sam Womack contributed to this report.
Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org