Omaha Summer Arts Festival is moving from its usual home along Farnam Street this year.

Not that long ago, north downtown was the site of railyards, a contaminated lead refinery and some rundown buildings.

A lot of attractions have arrived since then: TD Ameritrade Park, CHI Health Center, hotels, restaurants, a nonprofit film theater and artist colonies, among others.

This weekend, three high-profile events will join the mix. ArchUNITE, an all-day Archdiocese of Omaha gathering that’s expected to draw about 15,000 people, will be at the CHI Health Center on Saturday. At the same time, two longtime signature events of summer will be nearby: the Summer Arts Festival, in a temporary home while the Gene Leahy Mall is being renovated, and the Santa Lucia Festival, a popular celebration of Italian culture.

“This really is exciting,” said Kristyna Engdahl, spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority, which operates the CHI Health Center.

Engdahl said MECA has handled multiple large events over the years, most notably the confluence of the College World Series and the Olympic Swim Trials.

“Folks got around with minimal issues (then),” she said. “So we feel prepared for this weekend.”

Parking will be the top concern of people attending each event, said Engdahl, event planners and city officials.

It will be plentiful, they promise. Surface lots B and D near the CHI Center will be open to the public, as will the parking garage on the south side of the arena. Lot A will be open for select people attending ArchUNITE. There’s also street parking throughout the area.

“You may have to walk a little bit,” said Sherry Kennedy Brownrigg, senior partner of the Kennedy Brownrigg Group, the marketing and communications firm that’s coordinating ArchUNITE for the archdiocese.

She said people with limited mobility or health problems should be dropped off in front of the arena. Uber and Lyft also are on alert that more local and out-of-town people probably will be seeking rides to north downtown on Saturday.

Some outstate groups probably will elect to spend at least one night here, Brownrigg said, because ArchUNITE starts early in the morning and could run until about 10 at night.

“One thing we’re super-excited about is all the buses coming from outside of Omaha,” she said. “So many people are coming, from every parish across the archdiocese.”

That includes O’Neill, which is about 200 miles northwest of Omaha, making it the farthest west church in the archdiocese.

Not everyone is likely to stay for the entire ArchUNITE, so parking spaces will become available at times during the day.

Peak times for parking probably will include afternoon hours, which are prime time for Santa Lucia concerts and concessions on Lewis & Clark Landing and strolling the arts festival near the ballpark on Mike Fahey Street between 10th and 14th.

In addition, the Catholic festival’s top draw probably will be the appearance of popular comedian Jim Gaffigan, who will perform at about 2:15 p.m.

Brownrigg said her team has been working with the Omaha Police Department on other crowd control and safety issues.

She thinks ArchUNITE will be a life-changing event, not only for those who attend, but for those who don’t. The day will include a Mass, times for confession, a presentation by Archbishop George Lucas, activities for kids and teens and a theatrical program in addition to Gaffigan. Hundreds of area Catholics are volunteers for the day.

“I can’t wait to wake up in this archdiocese on June 9, because I think we’re going to be different,” Brownrigg said. “The joint experience can’t help but spill out on all the others in Omaha.”

Betsie covers a little bit of everything for The World-Herald's Living section, including theater, religion and anything else that might need attention. Phone: 402-444-1267.

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