Events Center Vote - Part Two: Omaha - KSFY News - Sioux Falls, SD News, Weather, Sports

Events Center Vote - Part Two: Omaha

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An old proverb says a wise man learns from the mistakes of others.

With an important vote coming up for people in Sioux Falls, we at KSFY thought we'd check out surrounding communities with events centers to learn from their experience.

What worked, what didn't, and why.

Katie Taube takes you to the Century Link Center Omaha.

There are 400 acres among the Century Link Center Omaha complex, including hotels, restaurants, artwork and riverfront parks.

But to really appreciate the property - you need only look back ten years ago - when this property was the Old Union Pacific Railyard site - one of three locations considered by a committee formed to make an events center in Omaha a reality.

The other sites 6 blocks south and another out west of the city.

The president and C.E.O. of the Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority Roger Dixon tells us at the time the committee met a lot resistance.

"They were fearful of taxes because of the burden of repaying debt on these facilities," explains Dixon.

But in May of 2000 voters in the city chose to build on the railyard site, funding what would be the Century Link Center Omaha with city bonds and 75 million dollars in donations.

The vote passed by a 60 percent margin and the Century Link Center Omaha was built.

"This facility put Omaha on the map, we wouldn't have the amenities we have," says Dixon.

The site had no roads, no parking, no infrastructure.

Everything was built new.

4,500 surface parking spots now surround the complex.

An initial study showed the center should have 12,000 seats, but the committee decided to start with 16,000.

Dixon explains, "Within 3 years we added seats that were funded with our own capital and that takes us to 18,300."

Dixon tells me the Century Link Center Omaha was first predicted to lose 2 million dollars a year, but the center would prove to make money every year - money that's invested back in the center to keep it state of the art.

But the Century Link Center Omaha hasn't always been an easy investment for the city.

"It has been a struggle, the benefits far outweigh the struggles. There are numerous facilities we wouldn't have without it," says Dixon.

Omaha's Old Market District has been a hub of restaurants and shopping for going on 30 years.

And while the building of the Events Center helped contribute in that area, it also led to new developments in town.

They keep popping up on the north side of town.

Hotels, the Ameritrade Ballpark, olympic swim trials, huge concerts and family shows - all possible because of the center.

"If this facility was built on the west side, you would see a decline downtown, I think this could be the most important thing Omaha did to continue to grow," says Dixon.

He also stresses every city is different.

He believes the Century Link Center Omaha helped give Omaha an identity in the country.

And he has advice for the people in Sioux Falls working to make our proposed center a reality.

"I would urge them to push the envelope. There are costs but also benefits. If you build something comprable you're not going to have that edge."

From the vote to opening day it took about three years to build the complex.

Again we don't mean to imply that what Omaha did will work for Sioux Falls - it's just to share the experiences of other cities working toward a similar goal.

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