Creighton University is seeking $60 million to help complete the CL Werner Center for Health Sciences Education, as well as a baseball/softball complex and campus beautification work. (Courtesy of Creighton University)

This story was originally published in the Nebraska Examiner.

LINCOLN — Officials with Creighton University and the College World Series made a pitch Tuesday for $60 million in state funds to help finish a trio of projects, including a new baseball field for the university’s team and the CWS.

One project is completion of the $90 million C.L. Werner Center for Health Sciences Education, which was portrayed as a way to address Nebraska’s workforce shortage in nurses, physicians and other health-related fields.

Another was a series of projects to beautify the university’s Omaha campus and convert some streets to pedestrian use.

The third project was to build a complex of baseball and softball fields near Charles Schwab Field that would serve as practice fields for CWS teams, home fields for Bluejay baseball and softball teams, and community use, including youth baseball tournaments.

“I think a strong Creighton makes for a strong Nebraska,” said the Rev. Daniel Hendrickson, Creighton’s president.

He told members of the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee that Creighton will match the $60 million dollar-for-dollar if the Legislature decides to fully fund the request contained in Legislative Bill 444.

Hendrickson said projections indicate that by 2040, more than 3,800 health sciences graduates from Creighton, who are originally from outside Nebraska, will stay in the state to begin their careers.

State Sen. Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn, who introduced the bill, said it would help address the state’s biggest challenges, lack of workforce and population growth.

Out-of-state students

Hendrickson pointed out that 80% of Creighton’s students come from outside the state, and of those, half remain in Nebraska for first jobs or professional school.

He said $14 million of the funds requested would be used to equip classrooms and laboratories in the health services center, which is scheduled to open this fall.

The baseball field, which would use $13.7 million, would become the new home of the Creighton Bluejays baseball team and serve as a practice field for teams playing in the CWS.

“The College World Series is desperate for new practice fields and batting cages,” Hendrickson said.

Baseball field a ‘new experience’

Jack Diesing, the longtime president of the board of CWS Inc., said the field would become a “new experience” for the college baseball fans within walking distance of Schwab Field.

When asked by Bayard Sen. Steve Erdman if the baseball field would be built if the state didn’t provide funds, Diesing responded that it was “very important” that state money is obtained.

He said building the facility was important in maintaining Nebraska as the home of the  “Greatest Show on Dirt,” which Omaha has hosted for 72 years.

Hendrickson said that the men’s baseball team may occasionally still use Schwab Field — its current home field — but that the 24,000-seat stadium tended to be too large for most home crowds.

Youth tournaments

Creighton is seeking $11.4 million for the softball field. Hendrickson said the baseball/softball complex would also be available for community use, including youth baseball tournaments, which attract teams from 40 states during the CWS.

The remaining $20.9 million would be used to increase green space on the CU campus and renovate Burt Street, from 20th to 27th Streets, to enhance its use for pedestrians and cyclists.

The Appropriations Committee, which is crafting a state budget, took no action on LB 444 after the public hearing.

The state is awash in surplus funds, and on Tuesday, the committee heard four other bills seeking funding between $500,000 and $30 million a year for economic development projects.

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