Bill Clinton to speak March 20 at Ralston Arena - Omaha.com
Published Monday, February 3, 2014 at 12:30 am / Updated at 4:45 pm
Bill Clinton to speak March 20 at Ralston Arena

Former President Bill Clinton will speak at the Ralston Arena on March 20.

Tickets will range from $49 for standing-room access to $500 for front-row “meet and greet” seats that come with the opportunity for a photograph with the 42nd president.

Arena General Manager Paul Hendrickson said he sought to book Clinton, 67, not for politics but for entertainment.

Hendrickson said the event is not connected to Hillary Clinton's possible 2016 run for president, which would have her courting caucus voters in nearby Iowa.

“This has got nothing to do with a campaign,” he said. “This has got nothing to do with politics. Nothing to do with that whatsoever.”

Hendrickson said the Clinton event fits with the promise he made after becoming manager a year ago to have the Ralston Arena provide a wide variety of entertainment opportunities to the Omaha metro area.

The show will be presented in the round, with the stage set up in the center of the arena — the same as for last Friday's appearance of Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly.

The arena will be configured to seat more than 5,700.

The content of the show is up to Clinton, Hendrickson said.

“We have absolutely no input into that,” he said. “He's going to talk about whatever he wants to talk about. We're just more than happy that he's going to be here.”

Hendrickson said he and his staff worked for six months to secure the visit. Asked if he talked to the former president directly to book him, Hendrickson said he spoke with “a whole variety of people” to make it happen.

As president, Clinton got a reputation for avoiding Nebraska.

Nebraska was the last of the 50 states Clinton visited while in office — he showed up only in the waning weeks of his eight-year presidency.

On that visit in 2000, he spoke at the University of Nebraska at Kearney and toured the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument. He also visited Offutt Air Force Base near Belle­vue and attended a fundraiser in Omaha before heading back to Washington.

After leaving office, he has visited several times.

In early 2001, he was spotted at Eppley Airfield when the jet he was traveling on stopped for fuel.

In 2003, he paid a quick, quiet visit to the offices of InfoUSA Inc. in Papillion en route to a big shindig for Democrats in Iowa.

Three years later, he spoke in Omaha at a Girls Inc. fundraiser.

Hendrickson said that after taking over management at the Ralston Arena he set out to build the customer base by serving different tastes.

He said he also wanted to raise awareness of the new arena by booking big names.

He said the arena has great sports tenants — the Lancers hockey team, the Omaha Beef indoor football team and the University of Nebraska at Omaha men's basketball team — but there are few names bigger than Clinton.

“Not that Bill O'Reilly and the rest of them weren't big names, too,” he said. “But when you put the word president in front of someone's name, it kind of takes it to a different level.”

After leaving the White House, Clinton established the Clinton Foundation aimed at improving global health, strengthening economies, promoting healthier childhoods and protecting the environment by fostering partnerships among governments, businesses, nongovernmental organizations and private citizens.

In 2005, he established the Clinton Global Initiative to convene global leaders to create and implement innovative solutions to the world's most pressing challenges.

Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Wednesday. Visit www.ralstonarena.com for more information.

Contact the writer: Joe Dejka

joe.dejka@owh.com    |   402-444-1077

Joe's beat is education, focusing on pre-kindergarten through high school.

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