Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Watch out Qwest, Lincoln is getting a new arena

It's been mentioned in passing for a few years, but it wasn't until a few weeks ago that the push was on for a Lincoln arena. The reason was because, during yesterday's election (yes, there was an election yesterday... yes, I'm serious), a bond issue was on the ballot in Lincoln to approve $25 million in bonds to help finance constructing the arena.

Now, the Lincoln arena's main draw is going to be Nebraska basketball, and anyone who has been to the Devaney Center can attest that the team needs a new home.

But they're also going to aim to pull in concerts. Concerts that the Qwest Center in Omaha also wants. And concerts that the Mid-America Center will also be competing for (although for some stupid reason, ye olde OWH didn't give much mention to the MAC... I didn't write the stories on this issue and I'm just as confused as you are as to why that was).

So, when a major concert tour looks for a place to play around here, they're going to have three options. That's at least one too many as far as I'm concerned.

I think the Lincoln arena is a bad idea. Having a 16,000 seater (Lincoln), a 17,000+ seater (Qwest) and 8,000 seater (MAC) within this tiny radius is ridiculous. The MAC isn't as big of a factor, but divying out another slice of that pie is going to hurt everyone.

I think the Lincoln arena's estimate of how many concerts they can pull in every year is way too high. Both because it seems they're basing their estimates off of how many the Qwest gets every year as if the number of concert tours are going to double, and because I still feel like Qwest is going to be preferred because it's familiar and it's a larger city.

So, basically I think the Lincoln arena isn't going to do as well in with concerts as its organizers think it will. But the Qwest will suffer a bit because some of the shows it would normally book will move on down I-80.

I'm not suggesting either of these places are going to fold because they won't draw as many fans for concerts. Both arenas' bread and butter is going to be college basketball. It's where they draw the most people on a regular basis. But concerts and other similar events are still a chunk of both places' business.

I have no idea what will happen to the MAC, which does have a niche with its smaller size. But its bigger brothers are still available to book smaller shows and block out upper-bowl seats, which the Qwest does often.

What do you think about the whole thing? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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Some things that people were curious about that weren't mentioned in the OWH article (again, I didn't write it, so some of the questions that I would have asked didn't end up in there).

• Would a concert ever play at the Qwest and the Lincoln arena two nights in a row?

Highly unlikely. Most bands have in their contracts that they can't play within 100 or so miles of a performance for 90 days after the performance. That's because a venue wants to be the only performance in the region, so it's a draw for nearby fans. Having a venue in the next town over means those fans wouldn't travel. So, you'll see artists play Des Moines then Omaha then KC, but you'd never see Des Moines then Omaha then Lincoln then KC. Wouldn't happen. But it would be possible that a band plays Lincoln on one leg of a tour and comes back months later to swing through Omaha. That happens already.

• People travel from Lincoln to Omaha all the time for Qwest shows. Do you think Omaha people will head to Lincoln for shows?

Well, Lincoln fans come to Omaha a lot because we're the only game in town, so to speak. But when Lincoln starts picking up shows, I doubt you'll see a big exodus from Omaha on a concert night. Hardcore fans will probably make the trip, but I don't know how many other people will. Unless it's a Husker football game, I don't know many Omahans that like to go to Lincoln for anything, especially when there will be a feeling (at least at first) that the band might eventually come to Omaha on another leg of its tour. I also foresee some bitterness at Lincoln having its own arena that gets Omaha people pissy. But I could be wrong. We'll see.

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For some perspective, here are some OWH articles in case you're interested:

Lincoln arena could find niche
Arena long felt crowded by big boys
Voters give arena a green light

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