Sunday, January 23, 2011

Shatel Says Arena Progressing, But Not Assured

Tom Shatel of the Omaha World-Herald tapped his sources for an update on the long-discussed UNO arena project, and the general consensus is that many think it's still going to happen, though nothing is finalized. Makes sense to me because I still don't think there is a consensus as to what UNO needs and whether UNO needs it's own arena for hockey.

Frankly, I'm not 100% sure that UNO needs it's own hockey arena, and that's something we might see in the next few weeks as the Mavs have home games the next three weekends following this weekend's split with #2 North Dakota. UNO has shown they are a national contender in hockey at this point, and when #9 Wisconsin comes to town in two weeks, UNO certainly could be in a position to break attendance records at the Qwest Center.

What I'm convinced UNO needs is a practice facility adjacent to the arena where they play the games. That doesn't completely eliminate the Qwest Center as a home, but I kind of doubt that MECA is interested in adding a practice rink to the Qwest Center.  The adjacency is a huge issue; imagine if the Husker football team had to haul all of their equipment around town to practice.  One afternoon, out at Seacrest; the next day, back at Memorial Stadium, and back and forth and round and round. Fortunately, that's not an issue for football, since they have dedicated football facilities.  Husker basketball has found that an issue; hence, the construction of the Hendricks facility in Lincoln adjacent to the Devaney Center.  (Though it's interesting that this is being built there rather than at the new Haymarket arena...)

So the question now becomes:  (a) what does UNO want to build and (b) who's going to pay for it?

It sounds like the 7,500 seat idea is dead, as well it should be.  That's thinking small time.  8,000-plus is the number that seems to have traction.  I'd suggest that the number should be higher still, possibly 9,000.  I even could go with 10,000.  (Any more, and UNO probably should focus their resources on getting practice ice downtown.)  I still believe UNO has room in this market to grow, though I also understand that you can't "build a church large enough to handle Christmas and Easter."  You have to build something that you can fill consistently, because it costs the same to build an empty seat as it does to build an occupied seat.

Who's going to pay for it?  Well, Shatel did find out that UNO isn't looking to government to build any new arena.  In this political and budgetary environment, there's no way that any government entity can be counted on to fund this type of endeavor. Not when local real estate experts predict it'll take another five to seven years before there's any development out at Sarpy County's BFE boondoggle. Not when much of our national, state, and local political debate centers over what government can, should, and must be paying for.

Shatel doesn't say who, but it sounds like that's where the hangup is.  The money people in Omaha are interested, but haven't committed to it yet.  So that's the holdup at this point.

1 comment:

Adam said...

This is an interesting topic and it’s fun to watch the numbers get bounced around all the time.

If you would have asked me a year ago, and I think most fans in the Maverick Kingdom would agree, 10,000 would have seemed like a nice, round number.

A year later, 10,000 seems like it might be a touch small.

I whole-heartedly agree that if you’re going to build a 10k facility, then what’s the point of moving from the Qwest Center?

If I’m Trev, I’m investing a couple hundred thousand in ticket sales. Hire a Assistant AD to oversee sales, and hire a solid crew of 5-10 to bang on the phones. A couple of group reps, a couple of season ticket reps and a couple of mini-plan reps. Groups, seasons, partials…you name it, you sell it. You need people banging on the phone, student workers don’t count. You need experienced folks who know how to sell and who know how to put the pieces together.

Incentivize existing STH’s by offering renewal benefits (maybe an exchange program, a rewards program and a gift for renewing early) and you’ll start to grow your base. UNO’s STH base right now is very fragile but if the right pieces are put together and offered, over the next few years, you could easily see it double.

Additionally, groups and fundraising opportunities are something that could potentially be very lucrative for the University and the program if executed correctly.