LINCOLN — The City of Omaha's taxpayers “and others” could be asked to contribute about $10 million toward the $76.3 million cost of a UNO hockey and basketball arena, according to a proposal seeking the NU Board of Regents' approval next week.
Bill Conley, vice chancellor of business and finance at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, said the majority of the $10 million figure reflects the cost of infrastructure, such as streets, sewers and the like.
He emphasized that the cost estimates remain preliminary and will be further refined as the project comes closer to reality. He also did not identify who the “others” might be. They could include the university or other public or private entities, he said.
UNO officials are asking the regents for the green light during the NU governing board's meeting Friday in Lincoln.
The regents will be asked to authorize University of Nebraska President J.B. Milliken to sign a letter of intent with an as-yet unnamed private developer that would construct and help finance the facility.
The arrangement would allow the project to take advantage of “financing vehicles and tax strategies available only to private owners.” One example would be tax-increment financing, or TIF, in which a portion of property tax revenues resulting from new construction are used to pay for infrastructure. If the project were strictly university-led, it would not qualify for TIF, Omaha City Planning Director Rick Cunningham said.
UNO eventually would take ownership of the new building through a lease-purchase agreement.
As described in the proposal to the regents, the arena would have about 7,500 seats. It would feature two sheets of ice to allow an array of activities — hockey, men's and women's basketball, volleyball and events such as graduations and concerts — with a minimum of conflicts.
The proposal indicates that $31.3 million will be provided by private developers and $35 million from private donations.
UNO Chancellor John Christensen said the regents' approval is required before UNO can develop more detailed cost estimates. The figures given are to provide a general idea of how the deal would be structured.
Representatives of HDR Inc., the architecture and engineering firm working with UNO on the project, will join Christensen, Conley and UNO Athletic Director Trev Alberts in briefing the regents on the proposal Friday.
HDR has already briefed Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle about the arena project and its costs, Conley said. Aida Amoura, Suttle's spokeswoman, said that the Mayor's Office has discussed the arena project with UNO officials but that no requests for city financial assistance have been made.
The arena is among several construction projects that the regents will consider Friday:
» The University of Nebraska Medical Center will ask the regents to approve agreements with the City of Omaha and Douglas County to provide $40 million toward the construction of a $370 million comprehensive cancer treatment center. The local financing recently spurred controversy among some state officials, who said that when they agreed to contribute $50 million toward the prosject, they had not understood that UNMC also would ask the city and the county to provide money.
» University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Harvey Perlman will ask for authority to seek a private developer that could incorporate student housing and retail stores into a 1,270-stall parking garage to be built at 18th and R Streets on the edge of the downtown Lincoln campus.
The regents previously approved the $16.7 million garage in June, but Perlman has asked for permission to amend the plan, based on the success of a newly constructed building in downtown Lincoln that includes city-owned parking and privately owned residential and retail space.
The idea was first presented to the regents in September but was tabled to give UNL officials time to address some regents' concerns about possible problems resulting from private ownership of campus housing.
World-Herald staff writer Juan Perez Jr. contributed this report.
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