Stan Benis is the new general manager at the Ralston Arena.
Following Ralston City Council approval of his hiring on March 18, Benis went to work at the 3,500-seat venue the very next day.
“He got right to it,” Ralston Mayor Don Groesser said. “Just what we were looking for. What you learn right away about Stan is that he’s a nice, personable guy. The indications so far are that he’s on the same page with us and he’s very excited to go forward.”
Benis comes to Ralston with more than 30 years experience in the industry. Most recently, he was a production manager with Caesars Entertainment Corporation, serving the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
He also served as the director of event operations at the Qwest Center (now the CenturyLink Center) in downtown Omaha and, from 1977 to 2002, he was the manager of the Omaha Civic Auditorium.
That local connection was a major factor in Benis’ hiring, Groesser said.
“The fact that he’s been around town and he knows the market is great,” Groesser said. “He’s got a lot of friends in the industry, too, and we saw that could be very helpful.”
Following his hiring, Benis said he’s been keeping an eye on the Ralston Arena since the idea for the venue was first conceived.
He said the facility is a perfect fit for Ralston and the larger metropolitan Omaha area.
“It’s a nice little space for the city,” Benis said. “You hate to use the word niche all the time to describe it, but it does have that quality. What’s most important for us is to find our market and make it work. The big concerts, those are going to go to the big space down on the river, we’re not going to try to compete with (the CenturyLink), but there are a lot of smaller shows that we can attract and we plan to do that.”
Benis said he doesn’t have any one preference for filling the dates on the arena’s calendar. At the moment, he said the facility’s sports usage is a major plus, but music and other shows will also have a place.
“When it was first built, I really liked that they were going for the spot as an ice facility,” he said. “And the Lancers have been great partners here. But we have a great venue for a small concert or other show in that select market of the 5,000 attendance mark that will be attractive to an up-and-coming guy.”
Benis said he also looks forward to the completion of the 87-room Holiday Inn Express which will be just north of the arena and is expected to open late this summer.
This week, the arena will play host to the USA Hockey High School National Championships, a major youth event that Benis said is a perfect way to showcase the arena.
“I wish we’d had the hotel open for this,” he said. “Because that’s exactly what we can do when it does open. People who come in for these youth tournaments, they want to stay close and with the restaurants and entertainment we have around the facility, they’re going to enjoy being here. (The hotel is) going to create a great little community on this corner.”
Benis has signed a five-year contract with the city that will pay him $70,000 annually.
He is the third full-time person to hold the general manager’s job at the arena. Benis takes the mantel from Paul Hendrickson, who resigned the post last month after a year on the job.
Ralston Police Chief Ron Murtaugh was the interim general manager while the city searched for Hendrickson’s replacement.
Curtis Webb was the first general manager and was hired in December 2011, saw the arena opened in October 2012 and then resigned the next month to take a similar position in Minnesota.