LINCOLN — The Nebraska Board of Regents took significant steps Thursday toward big additions to athletic facilities on both its Omaha and Lincoln campuses.
The board first approved an inter-local agreement with the City of Omaha that marks the next move toward a proposed $76 million complex for the University of Nebraska at Omaha that would include a new hockey arena and homes for the basketball and volleyball programs.
Under the agreement slated to go to the Omaha City Council, the city will be asked to contribute $6.3 million toward the project.
Officials have said the costs they’re looking for the city to cover are largely street and infrastructure improvements around the arena, planned near 67th and Center Streets on UNO’s Ak-Sar-Ben campus.
The regents last March approved issuing $35 million in public bonds for construction. Heritage Services committed to join with the University of Nebraska Foundation to raise an additional $35 million in private donations.
The project has been touted not only as providing home ice for UNO hockey but also adding to the student life experience and providing additional amenities for the community.
Regent Howard Hawks of Omaha noted that the university has agreed to guarantee at least a third of regular-hour ice time to the public.
“It’s an exciting project for UNO and the City of Omaha,” he said.
On a separate vote, the regents approved a $20.4 million new home for the University of Nebraska’s soccer and tennis teams. That complex will be located on the edge of what was State Fair Park.
The soccer stadium would seat 2,500 and open in August 2014. The tennis complex, scheduled to be completed in January 2015, would include 12 outdoor courts, six indoor courts and room for 1,400 fans.
Donations to the athletic department will cover the entire cost of the project.
Regent Jim Pillen of Lincoln, the lone no vote on the project, asked what donors think of the investment, given large recent expenditures on Memorial Stadium improvements.
UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman said the department receives donations without restrictions. It would be unusual for donors to question how they’re spent, he said.
The university anticipates a significant increase in athletic revenue with its full integration into the Big Ten Conference.
The new facilities would allow the university to host Big Ten, regional and national tournaments as well as enhance recruiting, according to the proposal. They also will provide dedicated space for both sports. The soccer team currently plays on the Nebraska Soccer Field at Ed Weir Stadium, the smallest field in the conference. The tennis team plays indoors on privately owned courts and outdoors on courts it shares with the campus recreation department.
“I think this is part of a well thought-out plan for how we’re going to increase our competitiveness,” Perlman said.