A Preview of the Arena Financing Plan

June 24, 2009

I had an extensive conversation with City Finance Director Don Herz yesterday about the potential financing of an arena project if it were approved by the voters next Spring.  I gave him a call because we had been running an unscientific poll on www.klin.com which indicated that our listeners would be opposed to going forward with the arena project if it meant a property tax increase by a rough 2-1 margin, and I wanted to get an update as to whether that sort of financing scheme was even a possibility.

Herz told me that the city is not yet ready to roll out the full financing plan because they’re still waiting on firm commitments from private contributors (read: IMG/ISG).  Herz confirmed to me that the city also still fully expects and plans to go forward with the project without any additional property tax burden on Lincolnites.  There will, however, still be a couple of  public financing tools that will likely be used. 

The first is the turn-back tax that was authorized last year by the Unicam (LB 912).  That bill allows the state sales tax on all new hotel/motel rooms within 450 yards of the arena to be turned back to the city over the course of 25 years.  So, the current plan is for the city to ask the voters to authorize a $25-30M bond next Spring.  Herz believes that bond amount will be easily retired during the pendency of the turn-back period (the conservative estimate is that there would be a 5% interest rate on those bond payments as well). 

The doomsday scenario would be the turn-back taxes not covering the bonded amount, forcing the city to make up for the shortfall in its future budgets.  I do note that in the Mayor’s press release linked above, the estimate was that about $700,000 would be turned back per year.  If that’s the case, it seems the city would have a hard time paying back $25-30 Million over the course of 25 years. For those without a calculator, $700,000 x 25 years =  $17.5 million (that number does not include adjustments for inflation).

The city would also likely use its authority to levy occupation taxes to bolster the turn-back revenue, particularly on restaurants, hotel rooms and rental cars.  This would likely be authorized by the City Council after (or if) voters approve the arena bond.  These taxes operate essentially as an additional sales tax and are used frequently in other cities around the country.

Of course, this all hinges on IMG/ISG wanting to play ball.  Herz told me that he’s hopeful we’ll know more about IMG/ISG’s role “very soon”, but in talking to the Mayor today, it’s clear he still doesn’t anticipate rolling anything out until this fall.  I think we all know that if IMG/ISG decides it’s unwilling to fund/own/be on the hook for profit and risk, this arena isn’t going to happen. 

That’s a little preview of what I anticipate the Mayor and Dan Marvin, the new arena coordinator, will be rolling out in the coming months.  I wonder if this changes the way the voters will look at the arena issue. Perhaps they’ll now feel more comfortable with the taxpayers’ role in financing this project.  Further, even if folks will be comfortable with the financing, there are still certainly plenty of criticisms to be addressed.  After bringing this up today, I had multiple calls and emails from listeners who don’t necessarily have concerns about the taxpayer burden but still think that the Haymarket is not the place to locate the arena.  That one baffles me a little bit, but we’ll take that conversation up another time.


Antiques Road Show: County Board Edition

June 18, 2009

You may have heard our discussion yesterday about the County Board’s debate regarding a county inmate’s lost Husker sweatpants.   The board ended up reimbursing the inmate $12 for the pants despite Commissioner Bernie Heier’s insistence that the pants were only worth $10. 

Well, upon further consideration, we decided the County Board could capitalize on this attention focused on their assessment ability as it pertains to everyday items.  We let the Drive Time Players run with it, and before we knew it, we got a new reality show for the folks at Channel 5 City TV.

More on Lincoln’s Peers

June 15, 2009

As you can see in the post below, we did some research using census numbers to find ‘peer cities’ to Lincoln based strictly on population.  The results were a mix of comparing city populations and MSA populations to  that of Lincoln, and we feel pretty comfortable we’ve got ten of the most comparable areas in the country based strictly on the population makeup of the cities and corresponding MSAs.

As it turns out, Police Chief Tom Casady was listening during the on-air discussion and he found the ‘peer city’ list interesting too, but for a different purpose.  On his blog today, he’s broken down some of the crime rates of those cities and compared them to Lincoln.  Several interesting things can be extrapolated from the numbers.  First and foremost, it seems as though the understaffed police force we hear about is a reality, at least when compared with our ‘population peers’.   

Also, check out the crime rate in Shreveport.  Now you know what people talk about when they refer to the ‘social costs’ of gambling–although you’d think the numbers in Reno might be higher as well.

I’m thinking we can do more with this list.  Any other comparisons you’d like to see between Lincoln and it’s population peers?  Drop a comment below if you’ve got one, and I’ll do some more research.     

Anyway, check out the Chief’s blog–he does a great job.  Also note that he didn’t hotlink to our blog in that latest entry.  My guess is that he probably doesn’t want to do anything that would promulgate the realization of his greatest fear–that we’re someday going to pass him in daily hits. The blog rivalry continues.  🙂

Arena Comparison: Lincoln vs. Its Peers

June 12, 2009

Jack and I spend a portion of our show on comparing “peer” metro area to Lincoln in terms of their arena situation.  We did not look at just raw city-vs-city populations, but also at metro areas.  If we did just city-vs-city, then Lincoln would be in the same class with Orlando, FL and St. Paul, MN.  Obviously not comprable cities.  So we looked also at each metro area and found those that seemed to be more like Lincoln.  Then Jack found details of what those cities have done with their arenas.  We found the results a little surprising.  But I’ll let you decide for yourself.

Lincoln:  City #74th biggest city in US @ 248,000

Lincoln MSA #156 biggest MSA @ 292,000


Anchorage #66 city/#137 metro(+27)

The George M. Sullivan Arena (commonly shortened to the “Sullivan Arena” and often referred to colloquially as “the Sully”) is an arena in Anchorage, Alaska. The arena opened in 1983 and has a seating capacity as high as 8,935 for boxing, 6,290 for hockey.[1] It is home to the Alaska Aces ECHL ice hockey team, the University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolves hockey team (WCHA), the Great Alaska Shootout basketball tournament, and the Alaska Fighting Championship mixed martial arts events. In 2007 it became home to the Alaska Wild of the Indoor Football League. The Arena is often criticized for its poor acoustics and thus is rarely used for concert acts. It’s also used to host local high school and University of Alaska Anchorage graduation ceremonies. It is east of Mulcahy Stadium across a parking lot.

Fort Wayne #72 city/#117 metro (+41) (2 hours from Indianapolis)

The Allen County War Memorial Coliseum is a 13,000-seat multi-purpose arena in Fort Wayne, Indiana, initially built in 1952 for nearly $3 million in Fort Wayne’s Johnny Appleseed Park. The Allen County War Memorial Coliseum was originally designed to seat 8,000 for hockey or 10,240 for basketball. In 2002, an extensive renovation and expansion was put into motion, which raised the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum’s roof by 41 feet, therefore increasing the arena’s seating capacity to 10,500 for hockey or music concerts and 13,000 for basketball. The structure was designed by A.M. Strauss Architects.

The Allen County War Memorial Coliseum ranked 20th in the world among similar-sized venues by Venues Today, a concert and event industry-leading publication for 2007.[1]

Laredo #89 city/184 metro (-43) (2 Hours from San Antonio)

The Laredo Entertainment Center is located at Loop 20 and Jacaman Road. LEC is the home of the Laredo Bucks and the Laredo Lobos. The 178,000-square-foot (16,500 m2), $36.5 million facility seats 8,002 people for ice hockey and arena football, and up to 10,000 for concerts. It has 14 luxury suites, four meeting rooms and a private club for 200 charter members. It was completed in mid 2002 with the help of the Laredo sales tax increase of .25 percent. Sports that can be played at the LEC include Hockey, Arena Football, Indoor Soccer, Basketball, Wrestling, and Boxing. The arena also hosts many events such as The Laredo Hunting and Fishing Show, Miss Texas USA, Laredo Home and Garden Show, and high school graduation ceremonies. Well-known artists and bands have performed in the arena such as Tool, Aerosmith,KISS,Elton John, Styx, ZZ TOP, Ricky Martin, George Lopez, Enrique Iglesias and many more.

Lubbock #91 city/#167 metro (-26)

United Spirit Arena is a 15,020-seat multi-purpose arena in Lubbock, Texas. The arena opened in 1999. It is home to the Texas Tech Red Raiders and Lady Raiders basketball teams and volleyball team. United Supermarkets, a Lubbock based supermarket chain with numerous stores in West Texas, was a major contributor. Thus, it was granted naming rights. Prior to the building of the arena, the teams played in the nearby City Bank Coliseum.

Fayettville, NC #132 city/#143 metro (-45) (2 hours from Charlotte)

Since opening the doors of the original Civic Center in 1967, the Crown Center has been the heart of entertainment for southeastern North Carolina for more than four decades. The original structure, a 2,400-seat theatre and 4,500-seat arena, underwent a major renovation in 2006 and has hosted diverse and distinct events running the gamut from Elvis Presley to Elite Dance and Cheer tournaments.
The Crown Expo Center was added in 1987 as a premier convention and meeting space and houses the Cumberland County Cooperative Extension.
The crowned jewel of the complex, the Crown Coliseum, opened in 1997. The 8,500-seat venue is home to the SPHL’s Fayetteville FireAntz, the AIFA’s Fayetteville Guard and a variety of concerts, family shows and motorsport events.

Huntsville #133 city/#130 metro (-33) (100 miles from Birmingham)

The Von Braun Center, which opened in 1975, has an arena capable of seating 10,000, a 2,000-seat concert hall, a 500-seat playhouse, and 150,000 square feet (14,000 m2) of convention space. Both the arena and concert hall are scheduled for major renovations; upon completion, they will be rechristened the Propst Arena and the Mark C. Smith Concert Hall, respectively.

Spokane #104 city/#107 metro (+19)

Built in 1995

The Spokane Arena has a capacity for:

  • 12,638 for end-stage concerts
  • 12,494 for center-stage shows
  • 12,210 for basketball
  • 10,759 for ice hockey
  • 10,471 for arena football
  • 6,951 for half-house shows

The arena has a state-of-the-art audio and video system. It consists of a 15-foot (4.6 m) x 20-foot Viacom Sports 12 mm LED display, which is capable of being used as two separate units. The video board has exceptional color reproduction and the best off-angle viewing available for any LED format. It can even be moved forward approximately 100 feet (30 m) and down to approximately 20 feet (6.1 m) off the arena floor. The arena also features a 350° color LED ribbon board, which is mounted on the fascia of the Spokane Arena bowl. It is capable of displaying text messages, animations, logos, scores and statistics.
Powered by Crown Amplifiers, the audio system is driven by Community RS880 speakers in the Arena bowl, Altec Lansing satellite speakers for the upper seating areas, and Bose speakers serve the concourse, dressing rooms, and backstage hallways.

Shreveport, LA #106 city/#127 metro (-3)

The Hirsch Memorial Coliseum is a 10,300-seat multi-purpose arena in Shreveport, Louisiana. It was built in 1954. It was home to the Shreveport Mudbugs ice hockey team. It hosted the 1981 Atlantic Sun Conference men’s basketball tournament and has hosted the Southland Conference men’s basketball tournament six times.
It is located adjacent to the Independence Bowl stadium and across from Fair Park High School in Shreveport.

Mobile, AL #116 city/#121 metro (-7)

Built in 1960s:

General Information

Conceived from the ground up as a venue for major events, the Mobile Civic Center Arena is designed with the flexibility and convenience you would expect from a facility three times its size. The seven-story domed space, seating in excess of 10,000 people, can be configured to accommodate trade shows, ice shows, and everything in between. Oversized doorways accommodating semi-trailers, open directly onto the Arena floor to facilitate loading and unloading of sound, lighting and other equipment.

Fifteen well-equipped meeting rooms, ranging in size from small conference-style areas to rooms that accommodate 100, encircle the Arena’s main floor.

“The Miracle on Vine Street” Now On You Tube

June 12, 2009

10-11’s Dick Janda said something in 1980 that I still hold true to this day.  Outside of Husker football, the Boys State Basketball Tournament is the second biggest sporting event in the state of Nebraska.

“Whoa,” you say.  What about the College World Series which begins another two week run in Omaha this weekend?

Nope.  While nationally, it’s arguably our most prestigious event, for what it means to the state both historically and culturally, Boys State Basketball is numero uno……(behind Big Red football, of course.)

I could go on, but the real reason for this blog is to share with you a true gem from State Basketball that I had never seen before and perhaps the greatest moment in the history of the nearly 100 year old event.  Fellow radio broadcaster and former state championship winning player Jeff Motz brought this to my attention Thursday.  The famed “Miracle on Vine Street” play that won Lincoln East the 1971 Class A title is now online at You Tube.

A quick review:  East and Papillion were tied at 72 with :02 left at the old NU Coliseum.  East had the ball to inbound under their own basket.  Jack Ball threw a long baseball pass into the East frontcourt that sailed over the head of Copple and nearly went out of bounds.  Rick Samuelson alertly dove for the errant pass and saved it into the hands of Copple who threw up a runner from about 18 feet away that won the game.

“The Miracle” along with Wahoo’s famous 1989 “Richter Roar” dramatic rally against Pius X are mentioned most when it comes to great state tournament moments.

It’s a great piece of Nebraska sports history that I thought was lost forever.  Now preserved on the worldwide web for all to see…..one more time.  Enjoy!

Steve Sipple, Arenas, and Proper Names

June 11, 2009

Forgive us if we were a little excited this morning after Steve Sipple not only mentioned us by name in his Husker Extra blog post today, but also linked to our webpage and called us “a bona-fide must-listen to radio show”.  Given that a few weeks ago in the LJS we were “a Thursday morning talk show” without an actual name, it’s nice to see the love. 

I like Sipple.  Not only do I eat up everything he writes as soon as I can, but I also have come to realize he’s one of the truly nice guys in the media.  Since I’m still a relative newcomer to the hardcore media scene in Lincoln, and particularly sports media, I can tell you that many of the personalities in the field tend to be a touch unfriendly, clique-ish, and often have egos so large that there isn’t much room to take the time to be interested in newcomers.  Perhaps that’s the nature of a competitive media environment, but either way, Steve has never been any of those things in my dealings with him.  It’s pretty refreshing and doesn’t even mention the fact that he’s on top of the Husker football beat like no one else right now.

Steve will join us on our show tomorrow at 7:35 so we can make sure his shout-out wasn’t sarcastic and so he can clarify that we didn’t pay him off, but we’ll also talk about the Tom Osborne/arena issue that seems to be one of the driving forces behind his decision to stay as AD indefinitely.  I find it interesting that Osborne said to Brian Christopherson “we have to know [about the arena], probably within a year, it may go to a vote next spring and maybe not. Maybe people will feel it isn’t even worth bringing up to vote. So if we don’t have a new arena, we’re going to have to do some significant things to (the Devaney Center).” 

That’s noteworthy because there are many who believe the city is only going to be taking its ‘first crack’ at an arena vote next Spring and will try again in subsequent years if the initial vote fails.  That scenario now seems unlikely because it sounds like Osborne & Co. are ready to do their own thing as it pertains to basketball facilities if the voters reject the arena in 2010.  If that happens and Nebraska basketball and Tom Osborne aren’t involved in the arena push going forward in subsequent votes, the arena is never going to get the public support it needs barring some kind of windfall of private funds. 

Tune in tomorrow at 7:35 for more discussion.

Lincoln’s Greatest Hits

June 9, 2009

A couple weeks back, right after we had heard Jerry Seinfeld was coming to Lincoln, we had a fun call-in topic in which we asked listeners to recall the landmark concerts in Lincoln history.  Of course John and I brought up Farm Aid and Elvis at Pershing, but also had great memories from callers including Garth Brooks, Bruce Springsteen, and several others.  Unfortunately, we realized is that now that Pershing Center is relatively outdated and the State Fair hasn’t pulled in the level of shows at Devaney that it used to, amost all of the hot concert tickets happened at least 15 years ago. 

In any case, I’m quite intrigued with this topic, and I’d love to throw together a more complete history of the biggest concerts in Lincon.  I’ve always been a person who remembers events by the music that was popular around the time when they happened (thus, our ‘Back in the Day’ segment).  So if you have any memories, hit me with a comment or shoot me an email.

Also, after that segment, I visited with Bob Downey from the Capital Humane Society and he lent me a CD from his collection:  “Dick’s Picks–Grateful Dead, Live from Pershing Municipal Auditorium on February 26, 1973“.  That got me to thinking, I wonder how many major artists have included live album cuts from shows they’ve done in Lincoln.  I know when Ben Folds played the Rococo about seven years ago, he used the track “The Luckiest” from that show on his Live album.  I swear, you can hear me whistling in the background if you listen closely.

I wonder if I could make an entire album (or, if you’re a little younger, a playlist) comprised of major artists’ live recordings in Lincoln.  If you know of any others, pass them along–I’m going to take a stab at this project.