Council adds its backing to UNO arena; now city just needs to find $6 million -
Published Wednesday, July 3, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 3:10 pm
Council adds its backing to UNO arena; now city just needs to find $6 million

A planned arena for the University of Nebraska at Omaha has the Omaha City Council's unanimous support. Now the city just has to find a way to pay for its share.

“The devil's in the details,” said Larry Jobeun, a real estate attorney representing the university. That includes plans for traffic and parking around the $76 million arena near Aksarben Village, not to mention funding millions of dollars worth of city-financed infrastructure around the site.

More details should emerge in the coming weeks before the council votes on a final plan, which is expected around the beginning of August. The council on Tuesday approved an initial step in the lengthy process to build on the 68-acre site, after hearing testimony from UNO Chancellor John Christensen and Athletic Director Trev Alberts.

“The arena, I think simply said, is a game-changer for the campus,” Christensen said. “I think there is a tremendous community benefit here.”

Mayor Jean Stothert said she supports a plan to contribute about $6 million in improvements around the facility near 64th Avenue and Center Street. UNO will cover most of the cost of the 7,000- to 7,500-seat arena, with private donors providing $35 million and the city providing new and improved infrastructure.

Councilman Chris Jerram said “there's plenty of time between now and the next vote” to iron out more specifics, including how exactly city government will get involved — and, Jerram said, the nuances needed to make that work.

Garry Gernandt, meanwhile, said he would not support the project if it delayed or stopped projects in his South Omaha district.

Cassie Seagren, Stothert's deputy chief of staff for economic development, said the city's commitment will be funded without a tax increase or a delay in projects prioritized in Omaha's plan for capital improvements.

“I would just say we're exploring all (funding) options at this point,” Seagren told council members Tuesday.

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