In a week of firsts at the Ralston Arena, it might have been the second musical act performed there that most wowed the crowd.
Sunday afternoon, Ralston Mayor Don Groesser, along with his brother, John Groesser of Grimesland, N.C., and a cousin, Bill Green of Suttons Bay, Mich., provided a barbershop rendition of a song called “Showtime.” They performed before more than 4,000 people gathered to watch the official opening of the new arena at 73rd and Q Streets.
“That's what this week has truly been all about,” the mayor said after the impromptu performance that garnered thunderous applause and more than a few I-didn't-know-he-could-do-that looks.
“It's showtime at the Ralston Arena,” he said, “and we want everyone — the whole entire metropolitan area — to know that this facility is for them.”
After an open house Wednesday for Ralston residents and a concert Friday night by country singer Rodney Atkins, Sunday was the general public's first look at the $36 million, 3,500-seat arena. It will be home to the Omaha Lancers hockey franchise, the University of Nebraska at Omaha men's basketball team, the Omaha Beef Indoor Football League team and the Omaha Rollergirls roller derby squad.
Those streaming through the doors Sunday said they were impressed by what Ralston was able to pull off.
“It's really cool,” said Rocky Maas, a former Omaha Lancer who now lives in Papillion and whose 16-year-old son, Branden, plays for a youth hockey team that will have its home ice at the venue.
“From the hockey side, we've been to a lot facilities in a lot of places, and this is just amazing for us to see in Papillion's backyard,” Maas said. “This is exactly what we've needed.”
The Lancers will play their first home game at the Ralston Arena on Friday.
“I can't even put it into words,” said Lancer Jake Randolph as he signed autographs for fans wearing black and orange Lancer gear. “The Lancers have such a great tradition and this is just another, big, historic point in it and I'm glad to be a part of it.”
Atkins' concert drew about 1,800 people and gave the arena's staff a good idea of how to put together more shows in the future, said General Manager Curtis Webb. “We've got the first show under our belt, we know the things we've got to grow on, and we're going to make that happen.”
Webb said there are a half-dozen concerts in the works, and the arena's banquet operation has Maas booked five weddings. Public skating will begin in the next month.
A lot of people came together to get the arena built, Mayor Groesser said.
“It's a testament to the citizens of Ralston. It's a testament to our wider community about what can happen when we all work together.”
Area arenas competing for events