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Lincoln Voters Approve Funding Plan for Arena

Thu May 13, 2010 - Midwest Edition
CEG



LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) Voters have cleared the way for a new arena for the University of Nebraska men’s and women’s basketball teams.

A proposal that will help fund a $344 million downtown revitalization project, with the arena as its focal point, was approved by a margin of 56 percent to 44 percent in the May 9 primary election.

The Cornhusker basketball teams will move into the 16,000-seat facility in 2013-14. The teams have played at the Devaney Sports Center on campus since 1976.

Athletic administrators have said it has been particularly difficult for the men’s program to keep up with the rest of the Big 12, in part because of a lack of modern facilities.

Lincoln business and civic leaders voiced strong support for a new arena, saying it also would draw major entertainment acts.

Opponents argued the cost would be too high and that the location was unsuitable. They also said revenue projections were overly optimistic.

Arena backers raised more than 50 times the amount of money as No2Arena, the group opposing the plan.

“We had some good discussion on this, and the citizens of Lincoln are better off for that,” said Scott Wendt, spokesman of No2Arena. “There is always disappointment, but we feel we gave it our best shot and we’re proud of our efforts.”

Voters approved a proposal allowing an estimated $1.5 million in annual sales tax revenue generated by the new arena and nearby hotels to be used to make payments on about $25 million in debt.

Additional funding would come from private contributions and higher taxes on purchases at Lincoln hotels, bars, restaurants and car rentals.

The arena’s $344 million price includes the $51 million cost of moving three sets of railroad tracks from the site. And the railroad deal includes construction of a new Amtrak station.

The proposal also includes new roads, parking garages, a hotel, retail development and an indoor ice skating complex.