Tuesday, February 25, 2014

If the Loss of UNO Hockey Is Going to Hurt the CenturyLink Center, Shouldn't Omaha Have Tried Harder to Keep the Mavs Downtown?

Today's Omaha World-Herald brings us a tale of woe from MECA, who operates the CenturyLink Center, about the ramifications of the loss of UNO hockey after next season.

When UNO hockey leaves the CenturyLink, MECA will be able to save some money when it doesn't have to create ice and keep it cold through the winter, said Roger Dixon, MECA's president and CEO. The dates once reserved for hockey games could open up opportunities for other sports events and concerts.
Still, Dixon said, it likely won't be enough. Though he didn't provide specifics, the end of hockey — in addition to the Civic's closing — means MECA will probably end up cutting some staff positions and will have to find other savings.
The natural reaction from UNO fans is "waaaaa!"  And rightfully so.  I still believe that it was in EVERYBODY'S best interest: city of Omaha, MECA, and UNO, to have the Mavs continue to play hockey at the CenturyLink Center.

Some UNO fans refer to the new Chili Greens arena as the "promised land." I frankly don't see a "land flowing with milk and honey" for UNO; in fact, I worry they are instead headed to the desert.  The new arena, while adjacent to campus, is smaller than the average UNO hockey crowd. So with smaller crowds, UNO seems to be banking on getting their current fans to pay more to make this endeavor possible.  And that's unfortunate.

Unfortunate, because I do believe that the new arena is unnecessary for UNO hockey.  Grow the sport, grow the program.  But it also would have required MECA and the City of Omaha to be more flexible in dealing with UNO.

Today's article shows us that the loss of UNO hockey will have a negative impact on the operations of the CenturyLink Center.  The blame for that loss goes to MECA, for not finding a way to better utilize the facilities they have been entrusted with for the good of the community.  It happened with TD Ameritrade Ballpark, which now sits idle between the Fourth of July and next month, when college baseball season starts.  It's now happening to the CenturyLink Center.

Omaha didn't need the Trailer Park in BFE Sarpy County to keep the Royals in town.  And certainly Omaha doesn't need yet another arena. But we've got a second ballpark, and now Omaha is building yet another arena instead of better utilizing the arena we already have.

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