Friday, July 15, 2011

UNO Rethinking Vision for Facilities

Courtesy MECA
Trev Alberts admitted this week that the push for a new hockey arena for UNO took a step back with all of the turmoil this spring. Between the outrage over the end of the football and wrestling programs, the move to division 1 for all other sports, and the formation of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, it's no surprise to me that UNO is taking a step back.

Something else happened to UNO's vision for a hockey arena.  Over 26,000 fans showed up for a weekend series against Wisconsin. Over 11,000 showed up for a game two weeks later against Denver. Nearly 8,000 showed up for a playoff game. And when the season was over, the average attendance of 7,994 people per game turned out to be larger than the speculated capacity of the new arena.

Here's my thought at this time. UNO likely needs a new arena...but for basketball and volleyball.  Men's basketball is already moving to the Civic. That's a temporary move pending a more permanent solution. But frankly, I think UNO hockey is poised to make all of the talk of a new campus arena irrelevant.

Bottom line:  I think UNO hockey is very likely to remain at the newly renamed CenturyLink Center Omaha (formerly known as the Qwest Center).  I think UNO hockey attendance is poised to continue growing, and nothing short of 10,000 seats a night is going to work for UNO. The cost of building that size of facility is likely prohibitive when the CenturyLink Center is already there. It no longer can be said that the "Qwest Center is too big for UNO."  The Qwest Center has a new name, and UNO hockey has finally grown into the downtown arena.

UNO will probably build a much-needed practice ice facility. Maybe it will be attached to an area for basketball. That arena is unlikely to be practical for UNO hockey.  Basketball probably can make a 4k arena work well.  Hockey needs nearly three times that capacity. And why build a new facility when an NHL-caliber arena already exists.

With Dean Blais in charge of the UNO hockey program, the sky is the limit. There's no sense for UNO to place an unnecessary cap on the program by building a smaller facility.  UNO should mothball their plans for a hockey arena for the time being, and work to make UNO hockey better downtown.


gsmith601 said...

Very good points. I tend to agree.

Sam said...

I think UNO is better served by looking at the new facility in Ralston -- home of the Omaha Lancers, capacity 3,500 -- as a home for the basketball and volleyball programs.

The size is right (presumably 4,000-5,000 for basketball and volleyball), and the location is better than CenturyLink or the Civic.

As for the hockey program, are they best served by playing downtown? It is going to come down to more than arena size -- it will come down to dollars and cents.

Alberts and company are preaching about the long-term stability of the athletic department, but we still have not seen any concrete action.

Dumping football has stopped the hemorrhaging of money from UNO's budget... but, now can they turn a profit?

I still think an on-campus facility -- a place they can rent for events, and a place that gets them out from under the shackling terms at C-Link -- is the best option.