Published Thursday, September 19, 2013 at 12:00 am / Updated at 3:55 am
Price tag for new UNO arena increases by $11.6 million

The University of Nebraska at Omaha's new arena will cost $11.6 million more than originally estimated, due in part to rising construction costs and a revised split-bowl design.

The new $87.9 million price tag includes the $6.3 million the City of Omaha has agreed to pay for infrastructure improvements near the new arena at 67th and Center Streets.

UNO will ask the Board of Regents on Friday to approve the revised cost and a financing plan that asks for permission to issue up to $73 million in bonds.

The program statement approved by the Board of Regents in March estimated that UNO would finance $35 million of the project, with an additional $35 million from private donations.

Erin Owen, director of university communications, said the $73 million bonding request is for “flexibility.”

UNO arena timeline

Oct. 15, 2012: UNO proposes to build a 7,500-seat hockey arena at 67th and Center Streets, on the south end of UNO's expanding campus. The arena would eventually be the home courts for UNO's volleyball and men's and women's basketball teams. Cost is estimated at $65 to $80 million. Story

Oct. 27, 2012: UNO picks a development partner for construction, Scott Woodbury Wiegert LLC, also known as S2W. Regents approve. Story

July 18, 2013: Regents approve agreement with City of Omaha in which Omaha contributes $6 million toward arena construction. Story

UNO plans to increase bonding for the project by only $4 million, to $39 million total. Private donations will now cover $39 million, she said.

“When we were writing the program statement, it would have been impossible to know how much cash-flow financing we would need until the design was final, the budget set and the timing of all cash flows with regard to the project were known,” Owen said in an email.

William Conley, vice chancellor for business and finance, did not return a call seeking comment.

Owen said UNO intends to pay for the $11.6 million in additional costs with $4 million more in bonds, $4 million more in private donations and $3.6 million in university funds.

She did not provide details Wednesday on where the university funds will come from.

Heritage Services, an organization that harnesses the wealth and clout of prominent Omaha philanthropists, and the University of Nebraska Foundation have committed to raising the additional funds to reach the $39 million in private money required, said Robb Crouch, spokesman for the foundation.

“Heritage Services and the University of Nebraska Foundation are working collaboratively to secure these private funds for the project's success,” he said.

The arena will be home to UNO hockey, men's and women's basketball and volleyball teams, as well as concerts and community functions.

The hockey team currently skates at the CenturyLink Center, the men's basketball team plays at the 3,500-seat Ralston Arena and the women's teams play at the on-campus Sapp Fieldhouse.

While the plan initially called for between 7,000 and 7,500 seats, the new design calls for maximum seating of 7,500. The arena also will house a separate ice rink for practice and community use.

Split-bowl seating will allow for closing off the top bowl during smaller events, and the facility will have student, club and suite seating. Overall, the arena will be 4,600 square feet larger than the original estimate.

Owen said that the final design is more versatile and that the arena will be well-suited for sports, concerts or other community events.

The improving economy has increased construction costs, which contributed to the increase in price as well as the design changes, Owen said.

“The initial costs were based on a concept, not a literal design. Now we have one.”

UNO also will ask Friday for authority to apply for a liquor license at the arena.

The license is “part of the arena operating financial plan and critical to the financing plans,'' according to the board agenda.

Contact the writer: Kate Howard Perry    |   402-444-3185    |  

Kate writes about Nebraska's community colleges, state colleges and university system.

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