The City of Ralston will borrow $700,000 to take ownership of a small concert and events space within the Ralston Arena.

The money will allow the city to purchase the Side Room, a 400-person space on the southeast side of the arena that’s used for concerts, wedding receptions and other events.

The city sold the venue to a private investor in 2013 because of a $700,000 gap in the arena’s budget for items like furniture and TVs.

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“We needed tables and chairs and speakers and televisions and all kinds of stuff; somehow that money wasn’t built into the whole (arena) project,” Mayor Don Groesser said in a recent interview.

Taking control of the venue will eliminate lease payments and property tax bills, which will save Ralston money in the long term, city leaders say.

The City Council on Tuesday approved authorization of the loan. A purchase agreement with WA Enterprises LLC, the group that owns the space, will be considered Feb. 4.

The city’s lease for Side Room expires in August 2023. It would pay about $1.2 million in lease payments and property tax fees if it waited until then to borrow money and purchase the space, said Tim Bohling, Ralston’s finance director.

By ending the lease and buying the venue ahead of schedule, the city will pay about $830,000 over seven years for the loan and interest fees. That’s expected to save about $350,000, Bohling said.

Ralston has been paying about $10,000 a year in property taxes on the Side Room, Bohling said. Those payments will end once the venue is city-owned.

“It really gives us an opportunity to save a lot of money in the city and move forward,” Groesser said.

The purchase agreement, which has not been approved, says the deal won’t close until after March 17.

The space that’s now known as the Side Room began as an apparel store for the Omaha Beef and other local sports teams, but the store never performed as expected.

The current iteration debuted in 2017 with a performance by the band the Wallflowers.

Omaha is getting a new concert venue. Here’s how its size compares to others in the area, 402-444-1127

Reece covers Sarpy County for The World-Herald. He's a born-and-raised Nebraskan and UNL grad who spent time in Oklahoma and Virginia before returning home. Follow him on Twitter @reecereports. Phone: 402-444-1127

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