We're three days away from the opening of the new $32 million Ralston Arena. The facility is set to host USHL hockey games and UNO basketball among several others. Tuesday Mayor Don Groesser gave the media a tour of the new arena, explaining what sets it apart from others in the heartland.
“It's kind of a dream come true for us,” said Groesser. It’s such a feeling of satisfaction that we've accomplished our mission."
The arena will be home to Lancers hockey, UNO men's basketball, Omaha Beef football and the Omaha Roller Girls.
The arena contains 3,800 seats, 12 luxury suites and two floor-level club rooms. Meaning more than 4,000 people can fill the arena for events.
But what sets it apart? Groesser says it starts with size. Right now the Century Link Center holds more than 17,000 people. Civic Auditorium holds anywhere from 6,000 to 9,000, depending on the event and Mid America Center in Council Bluffs can hold up to 10,000 people.
“We're a small arena, we're not going to have the big shows, the 17,000,” said Groesser. “And it's all free parking, you're not going to pay for parking we're right here off 72nd street, only 2 miles from the interstate so you're 20 minutes from anywhere here in town.”
The building is also energy efficient, using geothermal heating and cooling. Groesser says they will save $10,000 to $20,000 on utilities because of it.
Officials plan to have as many as 180 events a year in the arena. And they’ve signed contracts with several sports teams that extend to 2016. The first is a concert headlined by Rodney Atkins on Friday.
The general public is invited to an open house at the arena from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.