Last night, WOWT-Channel 6 reported that the Omaha Nighthawks are investigating the feasibility of building a 50,000 seat stadium in partnership with UNO at Chili Greens. Even though the Nighthawks set a UFL attendance record at Rosenblatt last Friday, Rosenblatt likely is going to be a little too small to help make the UFL viable long-term. I assume that when TD Ameritrade Park opens next year, it may only increase capacity by 1,000 or so unless they find a way to install bleachers in left and center field. Since the UFL is banking on getting attendance over 20,000 on average, the size of these stadiums mean that the Nighthawks have to consistently be sold out or pretty close every game to remain viable.
Could Omaha fill a 50,000 seat stadium for the UFL? Maybe; never put anything past the city of Omaha. But first, this deal is dependent on two things: UFL survival and UNO going division 1. The UFL has long terms plans to grow, and Nighthawks operations director Don Igo told WOWT that NBC is interested in televising the UFL if they expand to 12 teams, especially if the NFL can't resolve their labor dispute with players next season. If that happens, the UFL becomes viable in the intermediate timeframe.
We know that UNO is inching towards division 1 status as well, but does that make a 50,000 seat stadium viable as well? I just don't see how it could be. TD Ameritrade Park is coming in at around $140 million for a 24,000 seat stadium. Minnesota just built a 50,000 seat stadium at a cost of $288 million, so I assume that the bare-minimum cost of a stadium of this size is going to be $200 million or more. I don't see the city of Omaha being able to make a significant investment like this. I don't see UNO being able to make an investment like this. And I'm skeptical that the Nighthawks could make it work. Borrowing $200 million over 30 years would require a $12 million mortgage payment each year, and who would sign onto that? I don't think many bankers would take a 30 year commitment from a 2 year-old league. UNO certainly couldn't make that deal unless they were ready to not only bypass 1-AA, but go directly to division 1-A. (Well, as long as we're completely suspending reality, they could simply replace Nebraska in the Big XII!)
Now while I think the Nighthawks and the UFL can work in Omaha, I simply don't see how this plan could work in Omaha. Developing a way to install 15,000 temporary seats in the outfield at TD Ameritrade Park might be a more cost-effective solution for the Nighthawks. (Or UNO as well, though I think that Al Caniglia Field could be expanded enough to suit 1-AA football.) Of course, I've been wrong before, so I could be wrong on this as well.
Speaking of which...has Sarpy County ever said how they're paying for the Boondoggle?
Update: Tuesday 9/28- Tom Shatel on the World-Herald talked to Igo, who said that a 50,000 seat stadium is a dream at best. Sounds like channel six's report was based on idle speculation by a couple of fans and nothing more than that.