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2007 Media Releases


Date:
October 10, 2007
For More Information Contact:
West Haymarket Action Team (WHAT) tri-chairs:
  • Mayor Chris Beutler (Diane Gonzolas, 441-7831, and Kent Morgan, 441-6363)
  • Wendy Birdsall, 436-2362
  • Cori Sampson Vokoum, 486-9337
  • Terry Uland, Chair, WHAT Public Engagement Subcommittee, 434-6905


WEST HAYMARKET ACTION TEAM INVITES PUBLIC TO OPEN HOUSES

The West Haymarket Action Team (WHAT) is inviting the public to open houses Thursday, October 18, to find out more about the concept of an arena in the West Haymarket area. Those interested can choose from two sessions, both at the Pershing Center: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. or 5 to 7 p.m.

WHAT tri-chairs are Mayor Chris Beutler, Chamber of Commerce President Wendy Birdsall and Cori Sampson Vokoum of Sampson Construction Company. They are leading an effort to explore the replacement of the 50-year-old Pershing Center with a new public arena west of the downtown Haymarket area. The concept also could include a new convention center and hotel. The improvements are expected to generate additional entertainment, commercial, trade and residential opportunities in the area. (Background information is provided at end of release.)

The purpose of the open houses is to provide information and take comments on the concept before the City Council’s consideration of a redevelopment plan for the area. Both open houses will include:

  • A video presentation on the West Haymarket arena concept;
  • A behind-the-scenes tour of Pershing Center;
  • Information on the arena concept and redevelopment plan amendment;
  • Expert briefings with questions from the public;
  • Opportunities for the public to provide survey input and written comments.

Leadership Lincoln will provide volunteers to accompany the tours, facilitate briefings and question/answer sessions and encourage public input and comments. Pershing Center will have a concession stand open to the public.

For more information on the open houses or the West Haymarket Action Team, contact Kent Morgan in Planning at 441-7491. More information on WHAT also is available on the City Web site, lincoln.ne.gov (keyword: WHAT).

BACKGROUND ON WEST HAYMARKET ACTION TEAM (WHAT)

The 2015 Vision group is promoting ten potential pillars or projects that will move Lincoln forward in a public-private partnership model. The goal is to provide new quality jobs and retain young people in Lincoln. One of the pillars is the construction of the West Haymarket Arena to provide current and future generations with quality entertainment and recreation – the same kinds of experiences Pershing Center has provided because of commitments made by the community more than 50 years ago. The potential arena site encompasses the rail yards just west of the historic Lincoln Station, extending north to Haymarket Park and south across “O” Street. The goal is to preserve the spirit and atmosphere that now exists in the historic Haymarket and to lay the cornerstone for future economic, tourist, entertainment and recreational opportunities.

Mayor Beutler and 2015 Vision jointly created WHAT to better define the arena vision and to work on its potential implementation. The 16-member committee began meeting last spring. WHAT includes elected officials, taxpayers, private business owners, neighborhood groups, the Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Lincoln Association, the University of Nebraska and other nonprofit organizations.

WHAT is following a seven-step redevelopment process that has been used successfully here in Lincoln and elsewhere across the country.

STEP ONE: Preliminary Community Validation
This step was carried out over the last several years and included a variety of studies completed by industry experts, engineers, architects and planners:

  • A study by Conventions, Sports and Leisure concluded that, “The quality of Pershing Auditorium is significantly below industry standards.... It is so outdated that substantial investment in upgrades may not be warranted.”
  • After a multi-year effort, the 2005 Downtown Master Plan and the Mayor’s Event Facilities Task Force proposed a new arena to replace Pershing Center, along with a hotel and convention center complex in the West Haymarket area.

As part of these studies, numerous citizen groups explored the need for a new arena and identified the West Haymarket area as the best location.

STEP TWO: Redevelopment Plan
With the help of a team of local experts in environmental issues, infrastructure and financing, WHAT oversaw the drafting of a redevelopment plan amendment for the area, which was approved by the Lincoln-Lancaster County Planning Commission September 26th. The redevelopment plan will go to the Lincoln City Council for a public hearing and action, tentatively scheduled for late October. The adoption of the redevelopment plan does not commit the City to undertake the West Haymarket arena project.

If the City Council adopts the redevelopment plan amendment, the next five potential steps in the process are:

  • The City would issue an invitation to developers to submit proposals.
  • A redevelopment agreement would be negotiated between the City and the chosen developer.
  • A complex financing package would be developed. The use of public funds would require a public vote.
  • The City Council would take action on the redevelopment agreement, including the financing package.
  • If the City Council makes a firm commitment, final design and construction could begin.


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