Tuesday, January 19, 2010

UNO Gauging Interest in a New Arena - But Why?

Today's Omaha World-Herald reports that UNO is gauging interest in a new campus arena for hockey, basketball, wrestling, and volleyball.  My first reaction was "great"; UNO hockey could sure use a home where they won't get bumped and can share practice facilities.  The other sports can also use the improved facilities, especially once UNO makes the inevitable switch to division 1.

But then my heart sank when I read the details: 
“The new multi-use complex,” the survey reads, “would be the new home for the University of Nebraska at Omaha hockey team. The complex would have a capacity range of 7,000 to 8,000 seats plus a secondary ice sheet that can be used by the athletic department and other community and campus programs. 
8,000 seats maximum?  What's the point of that?  The Omaha area already has two arenas that size that have their own issues; why build a third that's essentially the same size as the MAC and the Civic Auditorium?  Yes, it's on campus and would have a practice facility attached, but building something that's the same size as a building they regularly sold out just seems to be a poor plan to grow the program.

UNO moved into the Qwest Center to grow the program, and found out that building was probably too big, especially with all of the inconveniences of sharing an arena with another school and a city that entices major events to Omaha.  That's not a slam on the Qwest Center; it's great for the city to have NCAA championships to come to town.  It's just not convenient for UNO's hockey team to get bumped on a regular basis.

UNO is embarking on a drive to sell out the Qwest Center against Ohio State in a couple of weeks.  In less than one week of the promotion, a third of the remaining tickets have been sold.  With less than 5,000 seats left, UNO seems assured of a crowd of 11,000 or more even if nobody else buys a ticket. Here's my question:  If UNO can draw 14,000 or 15,000 to the Qwest Center for a hockey game, why would UNO even consider moving into an arena half that size?

Is UNO suggesting that Maverick hockey is as big as it'll ever be?

I'd argue not.  I don't know how big UNO hockey can be, but I'd suggest that the bare minimum capacity of a new arena is 8,315.  Start there if that's all you can afford, as long as it can be expanded.  Better yet, shoot for around 10,000.

But 7,000?  What's the point in that?


Anonymous said...

It is about supply and demand. It is difficult to create a demand for something when there is too much of it. Period.

K J said...

What a lot of people don't realize is that the UNO athletic department gives away several thousands of hockey tickets for free to people every season. Those are people not paying a dime to the hockey program to see games.

You take those away, make everyone pay a fair price for admission and suddenly six to eight thousand in capacity seems perfect for a college hockey environment. We are not North Dakota or any other of the northern states in terms of hockey passion (those teams don't have to give away one single ticket). Let's be realistic here and do the practical thing.

I think UNO and the NE Board of Regents should have come together and done this right after the Ak-Sar-Ben Coliseum was torn down in 2003.