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2007 Media Releases


Date:
October 17, 2007
For More Information Contact:
Diane Gonzolas, Citizen Information Center, 441-7831


MAYOR SAYS VOTER APPROVAL NEEDED FOR SUCCESSFUL ARENA PROJECT

Mayor Chris Beutler today encouraged Lincoln residents to stay informed on the proposal for a new West Haymarket arena because he intends to place the project before voters in a future election.

"A new arena, convention center and hotel complex would be a major investment in the future of Lincoln," said Beutler. "I believe a new arena will result in long-term economic growth. However, I feel strongly that the only way this project will ultimately be successful is with public support. It is my intent that the arena issue be put before the voters of Lincoln. The redevelopment process will result in a concrete and detailed proposal. The voters of this community should be the ones who decide whether we move forward with that proposal."

Beutler encouraged members of the public to attend one of the open houses being offered 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. The West Haymarket Action Team (WHAT) formed by Mayor Beutler and the 2015 Vision group is sponsoring the open houses to provide information and take comments on the arena concept before the City Council’s consideration of a redevelopment plan for the area.

"I truly believe that this community is at a crossroads," Beutler said. "The studies have been completed and the results in my mind are clear – Lincoln needs to replace Pershing, and the West Haymarket is the best location. But this does not mean that the arena project is a ‘done deal.’ There are many more steps in the process." (More information on the process is provided at end of release.)

"Government and the private sector are working together to create new jobs and keep our young people in this community," said Beutler. "But this effort requires a very substantial community commitment. I’m asking each and every resident to get involved. I want to assure you can make a difference. It is my intent that you will have a vote, and that you will be the ones to make the ultimate decision on the future of an arena project in Lincoln."

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, supported by the pledge of City 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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