CenturyLink Center vs. Pinnacle Bank Arena: Star wars for Omaha, Lincoln? - Omaha.com
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Justin Timberlake, left, who will play Omaha's CenturyLink Center, and Jay Z, who is booked for Lincoln's Pinnacle Bank Arena, performed together in February at the 55th annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles.(THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

CenturyLink Center vs. Pinnacle Bank Arena: Star wars for Omaha, Lincoln?
By Kevin Coffey / World-Herald staff writer

The Eagles, Pink, Elton John and Jay Z are facing off against Lady Antebellum, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Brad Paisley and Justin Timberlake.

It's not some bizarre major-label gang fight in a recording studio back alley. It's the lineup of artists filing into Lincoln and Omaha arenas in the coming months.

Hip-hop superstar Jay Z, who on Friday announced a Dec. 1 concert at Pinnacle Bank Arena, is only the latest in a line of high-profile announcements for Lincoln's brand-new arena.

Though it looks like a rivalry is developing between Pinnacle Bank Arena and CenturyLink Center Omaha, officials from both arenas as well as a concert industry expert say that's not the case. Both venues have strong concert calendars, and events are unfolding exactly as they expected.

“It's like a new restaurant opens in the neighborhood. Everybody goes to it,” said Roger Dixon, president of the Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority, which runs the CenturyLink Center. “I'd like to be the only cat on the block, but we're not.”

Pinnacle Bank Arena general manager Tom Lorenz agreed.

“Everyone wants to talk about is, 'Is there this war between us and CenturyLink?' It's not,” he said. “We're going to have more shows between us, and more people have more access. This helps both of us.”

Pinnacle Bank Arena kicks off its concert calendar Friday with Michael Bublé, followed with 10 more artists through February. CenturyLink Center has eight acts booked in the same period.

Of the 11 shows booked in Lincoln, three of the artists — Jeff Dunham, Jason Aldean and Bon Jovi — already played Omaha this year.

“It sounds like everything out touring is stopping in Omaha or Lincoln,” said Gary Bongiovanni, a concert industry expert. “In that sense, it's a good time.”

Bongiovanni, editor of concert industry publication Pollstar, said both arenas are luring top-level talent, and both are doing very well. Though artists tend to be pulled in by a new arena, “Omaha is holding its own,” he said.

Dixon said he's not happy about losing out on a star like Jay Z, but he's not worried. Promoters AEG and Live Nation told MECA to expect to land fewer concerts, and Dixon said he expects that the next year or so will be a slower period.

“Eventually, things are going to settle out. Some shows are going to do well there (in Lincoln), some shows aren't,” said Dixon. “It's a nice facility. They've done a very nice job.”

Lorenz also acknowledged that Pinnacle Bank Arena's fast start, which includes 10 concerts in 80 days, won't last forever.

“We can't keep up this pace, and things will even out some,” he said. “But it's certainly fun to have this in the beginning.”

Once things settle down, it's possible that the arenas could compete to stay afloat, Bongiovanni said, but if both arenas remain popular with the public, that probably won't happen.

“If one of them falls on their face because of poor customer service or lack of amenities, it could be bad for them, but I don't see that happening,” he said. “Omaha's been operating very successfully for awhile, and the Lincoln arena knows what they're doing.”

Dixon said the Omaha arena pursued every one of the acts on Pinnacle Bank Arena's schedule, but artists came out and told them they wanted to play the new building, which he likened to “a shiny new toy.”

Pinnacle Bank Arena's newness is one of its biggest assets, and it's what arena officials have used to pursue acts. Pinnacle Bank Arena isn't undercutting the CenturyLink Center, Lorenz said.

“It's about energy and excitement,” he said. “Artists are just like fans. They want to be where it's exciting, and we had the great fortune of them choosing to come here lately.”

Both arenas' anchors are sports teams — University of Nebraska at Omaha hockey and Creighton University men's basketball at one and University of Nebraska-Lincoln men's and women's basketball at the other — which will attract fans and pay bills.

Concerts, which Dixon once called “the goose that lays the golden egg,” can be real moneymakers for an arena, and both facilities will benefit in the long run.

“You're in a good spot. You've got two good arenas,” Bongiovanni said. “It does sound like both are doing very well. The question is whether the public support is enough to keep both buildings happy.”

Officials at both arenas think so, and they're already looking into booking more acts for next year. The CenturyLink Center has also already looked into 2015.

“The cool part ... is that Nebraska's economy is strong and people do have the disposable income to spend at both of our venues,” Lorenz said.

Pinnacle Bank Arena

Concert capacity: 15,500, according to Pollstar

Opening: Friday

First five concerts:

Michael Bublé, Friday

Jason Aldean, Sept. 19

The Eagles, Oct. 4

Miranda Lambert, Dierks Bentley, Oct. 10

Pink, Nov. 9

Cost: $184 million (plus $191 million to redevelop West Haymarket)

Owned by: City of Lincoln

Managed by: SMG, entertainment and convention venue management company from suburban Philadelphia

CenturyLink Center Omaha

Concert capacity: 18,200, according to Pollstar

Opened: October 2003 (then named Qwest Center Omaha)

First five concerts:

Cher, Oct. 3, 2003

Fleetwood Mac, Oct. 9, 2003

Aerosmith and Kiss, Nov. 6, 2003

John Mayer, Nov. 12, 2003

Matchbox Twenty, Nov. 17, 2003

Cost: $291 million

Owned by: City of Omaha

Managed by: Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority, nonprofit local operating authority for the arena, TD Ameritrade Park and Civic Auditorium

Contact the writer: Kevin Coffey

kevin.coffey@owh.com    |   402-444-1557    |  

Kevin covers music, whether it's pop, indie or punk, through artist interviews, reviews and trend stories. He also occasionally covers other entertainment, including video games and comic books.

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