New Sports Entertainment Isn’t Cheap For Nebraskans

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Omaha’s new TD Ameritrade Park during Creighton’s first home game at the stadium versus the Huskers last week.

Video and Photo Story by Kat Ladwig | NewsNetNebraska

Nebraska now has two news sports complexes, with a third on the way – the new NCAA College World Series ballpark and another new minor league baseball stadium in Omaha and, by 2013, a new sports arena in Lincoln. But sports entertainment doesn’t come cheap.

Each project required heavy funding.  It cost $180 million to complete both the TD Ameritrade Park and Werner Park,  about $14 million more than originally estimated, according to a recent article in the Omaha World-Herald. The Lincoln Haymarket arena is expected to cost $344 million, the Lincoln Journal Star reported.

Lincoln’s arena site could rise with clean-up costs. Part of the money comes from a city-wide restaurant and occupation tax of 2 percent and a hotel tax of 4 percent in Lincoln. This means that for every restaurant or pre-made food center, a 2 percent tax is added to a customer bill on top of the existing sales tax. The same concept goes for hotels within Lincoln city limits.

Businesses in the Haymarket neighborhood will likely receive more revenue from those attending events at the nearby arena than businesses elsewhere in the city0. That’s why some managers, such as Jeremy Schafer of Lazlo’s restaurant, don’t mind the restaurant tax that began at the start of this year.

“I think it’s going to increase business and increase traffic overall that comes down into the Haymarket,” Schafer said. “It will not only be good for businesses that are here, but also for businesses that want to start up.”

In Omaha, other businesses are seeing the same pattern with nearby businesses attracting money from the patrons of the city’s new stadiums. Omaha implemented a similar strategy to Lincoln’s to pay for  Werner Park and TD Ameritrade Park, home to the NCAA College World Series, by charging additional taxes on food, rental cars and hotels.
General Manager Sarah Cordes of the Holiday Inn, located across from the new TD Ameritrade Park downtown, said the stadium taxes have not affected the hotel’s coffee shop and restaurant so far. She doesn’t foresee the taxes being a problem in the future.

“I could definitely see an increase in business coming with the opening of the Ameritrade Park. There’s already a large amount of people coming in and out of lobby, lots of transient customers,” Cordes said. “Overall, the city was looking for something like this to hold things other than baseball, like other big events coming like the music festival coming up. Just in general Omaha needed this to compete with Kansas City and even Des Moines, or people would start moving more toward those cities.”

Philip Miller, a sports economist and stadium expert at the Minnesota State University-Mankato, disagrees that neither Omaha nor Lincoln needed to buil new facilities to compete with other cities.

“[There’s] been a bit of backlash in last 20 years with quickened skepticism on building new stadiums,” Miller said. “The consensus is that by building these stadiums for sports teams we’re just replacing other projects. [The city is] not creating anything in terms of jobs or income. The construction is just substituting for other construction that could be happening in the city.”

Construction workers completing the sidewalk outside TD Ameritrade Park just days before the opening ribbon ceremony.

Miller also mentioned that competing events at the Omaha entertainment outlets could lower  attendance by the city’s residents. For example,when the NCAA College World Series comes to town it may detract attention from the other attractions in the city, which could bring more revenue to Omaha.
NCAA gets as much money as possible out of these host cities as possible. What you don’t see is the money leaving that is going toward the NCAA in subsidies such as costs and tax money,” Miller said. “Also, when big events come to town, you can scare other events away.”

The city isn’t depending solely on attendance fees to pay for the sites. Locally based online brokerage firm, TD Ameritrade, will buy the naming rights for about $1 million annually for 20 years. Another $14 million came from the Qwest Center for convention center and property rights for the next 15 years.

The West Haymarket Park in Lincoln is still deciding the process for naming and property rights for the new arena, according to Lincoln Chamber of Commerce member Wendy Birdsall. The progress of rights to the Haymarket Arena can be followed online at
Rosenblatt Stadium before demolition crews started tearing down the complex. TD Ameritrade Park and Werner Park in Omaha were part of the dual plan to replace Rosenblatt Stadium.

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