The first phase of the Entertainment Market Study concludes that the existing entertainment facilities meet current demands, but to remain competitive, the community should discuss building a new multi-purpose facility with an arena seating about 10,000 people. That recommendation is included in a report from KPMG of St. Petersburg, Florida, which is leading the project team studying the hospitality, convention and entertainment business in Lincoln and Lancaster County.
"The good news is that our facilities are meeting our current needs," said Mayor Don Wesely. "But the report sounds the warning that the city must look at our future needs. We must determine how we can maintain our current market share, stay competitive with other cities and meet the needs of our growing community."
The project team began the study in January by touring facilities in Lincoln and meeting with members of an advisory committee. In addition to KPMG, the team includes representatives of Sinclair Hille and Associates of Lincoln and Leo A Daly of Omaha. The market analysis was the first phase, and the team will now begin a strategic facilities assessment and a financial analysis.
The recommended building concept includes total exhibit space, including the arena floor, of 50,000 to 60,000 square feet and meeting and ballroom space of 12,500 to 15,000 square feet. The study also concluded that renovating Pershing Auditorium would be cost prohibitive because of its age, functionality, site limitations and physical condition. Pershing, which has a seating capacity of 7,500, was built in 1956, when the city had a population of about 115,000.
"Pershing Auditorium has served this city well for 45 years, but it simply doesn’t have the flexibility that today’s events demand," said Wesely.
In its overview of existing facilities, the report notes Pinewood Bowl Amphitheater is underutilized and concludes that by offering alcohol sales at certain events, "the facility will be in a more competitive position to attract more concert activity." Other facilities included in the study are the Lied Center, the Devaney Sports Center, Memorial Stadium, State Fair Park, the Lancaster Event Center and the new baseball and softball complex now under construction.
The consultants also recommend that a new building:
The $110,000 cost of the study is being shared by the City of Lincoln ($50,000), the Chamber of Commerce ($50,000) and the Downtown Lincoln Association ($10,000). A final report is expected to be issued in April.
Members of the Entertainment Study Advisory Committee are Kerry Eagan, Administrative Officer, Lancaster County Commission; Mark Essman, Convention and Visitors Bureau; Butch Hug, UNL Athletic Department; Doug Kuhnel, Pershing Municipal Auditorium; Polly McMullen, Downtown Lincoln Association; Annette McRoy, Lincoln City Council; Leon Meyer, Lancaster County Agricultural Society; Jerry Shorney, City Parks and Recreation Department; John Skold, State Fair Board; Amy Tipton, Pershing Auditorium Advisory Board; and Bob Vaughn, Lied Center for Performing Arts.