Sunday, August 21, 2016

Bankruptcy Looms Around Sarpy County's Ballpark Boondoggle

Today's Omaha World-Herald provides us with an update of development around Werner Park in Sarpy County on the edge of town.  And frankly, it's the same:  "Next verse, same as the first!"  Nothing's happening, other than the SID used to build the infrastructure around the "Trailer Park" (as I like to refer to it) appears to be heading towards bankruptcy.  No development means that the SID can't pay off the $12 million that was borrowed to build roads and install utilities.  Alamo Drafthouse?  Built elsewhere, closer to Omaha and the Interstate.  Pennant Place?  Didn't happen.  Not even an Arby's, it would seem.

Sarpy County officials make it a point to say that the ballpark itself isn't in financial trouble.  Which is true, though their statements come with a huge asterisk.
“Our revenues are coming in even without any development at the ballpark. They’re coming in and covering our debt payments.”
The asterisk?  One of the key components paying for the ballpark is a hotel tax, and that's a tax that was used to fund other things in the past.  Nothing new there at all; I wrote about it in 2009. There isn't any word as to what happened to the programs that used to be funded by the hotel tax, but you know it's coming from elsewhere in the county's tax revenue.  A big shell game.

Oh, and attendance out in BFE Sarpy County?  It still continues to be lower than the last years at Rosenblatt, averaging four more people a night in 2016 than in 2008.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Finally. Omaha's Civic Auditorium is Coming Down

This week, demolition of the long-obsolete Civic Auditorium began.  Some are sad about it, especially feeling nostalgic about the building's glory days when a 9,000 seat arena was big enough for most concerts and even the NBA.  I'm not, mind you.  Don't get me wrong; the Civic Auditorium served the city well in it's day.  But it's time was long past.

When the CenturyLink Center opened up, it was clear that the Civic's days were numbered. Events at the new arena had a big-time feel to them - even when the crowd could have fit into the Civic.  More importantly, the new place brought in events that simply wouldn't have come to Omaha otherwise.  U2, Springsteen, Garth Brooks, George Strait, Olympic Swim Trials and the NCAA basketball tournament.   Two weeks from now, I'll don a Hawaiian shirt for the Jimmy Buffett concert.  Sure, not every event appeals to everyone, but there's no denying that Omaha isn't better for having these events come to town.

Many UNO hockey fans are nostalgic for the Civic; I'm not. If anything, I'm still nostalgic for the CenturyLink Center.  The Civic was a functional starter home for UNO hockey, but that's all it was.  It's time is in the past.  Now the property is going to be redeveloped into something more valuable for the city.  It's a better use for the property.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Can Keith Williams Stay as the Huskers Receivers Coach?

When news breaks, it's almost inevitable that someone is going to go on Twitter with a truly awful #HOTSPORTSTAKE.  On Sunday, after CornNation's Brian Towle broke the report of Nebraska assistant football coach Keith William's arrest for suspicion of driving under the influence, the worst takes started with concerns about recruiting.

I truly understand where the thought comes from:  Williams has done a fine job with his on the field coaching and has seemed to be a pretty effective recruiter. But all of that is secondary in this situation, as football implications have zero relevance as to what happens with Williams.

Let's clear up a couple of misconceptions folks have: first, according to police reports, this is Williams' third incident with driving under the influence.  It's not "one mistake"...but his third time making a very serious mistake.  Second, it wasn't just one-too-many beers; Williams was double the legal limit when tested, which according the blood alcohol chart, indicates that he'd had at least three or four too many.

"Is this going to hurt recruiting?"  Well, duh.  It's already happened.  Done and done.
Williams set an awful example for his players and showed huge irresponsibility.  No matter what Nebraska decides to do with Williams, this is out there.  And that's even before we consider the legal ramifications:  third offense DUI would seem to involve some serious jail time and a loss of driving privileges. Want to worry about recruiting?  OK, how is Keith Williams going to get to a rural area to look at a recruit?  Take a bicycle on the plane?  If taxis or Ubers aren't available, he's not going to be able to do his job?

I see one way Keith Williams salvages his coaching career at Nebraska, and that is that as soon as he's released from police custody, he heads into alcohol rehabilitation for as long as it takes.  (At a minimum, he's going to be suspended multiple weeks anyway.)  He needs to own up to his mistake, and look his players in the eye and tell them how he failed them and how he failed his family.

Then, and only then, is it even possible to discuss whether Keith Williams can coach for the University of Nebraska ever again.