Omaha’s Gene Leahy Mall set to open July 1
OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - In less than 20 days Omaha’s Gene Leahy Mall will open to the public.
For about three years the mall has been undergoing a major facelift. On Monday officials showed off what’s new on the mall.
One of the major changes was to bring the mall up to street level. The old mall took people into an urban valley and divided downtown from the Old Market Area. It was also dominated by a lagoon.
“You couldn’t really gather at the old Gene Leahy Mall because they had the lagoon there,” President and CEO of Metropolitan Entertainment & Convention Authority Roger Dixon said. “This is going to transform the downtown area, further going into Heartland of America Park which opens next year and the Lewis and Clark Landing.”
The Metropolitan Entertainment & Convention Authority (MECA) will manage the new mall. They expect a lot of people who work downtown to take advantage of the space.
“With Mutual of Omaha coming in with their tower and bringing 4,000 people, this is gonna be a great spot. There’s a lot of people that work downtown.”
It will also be a great place for people to visit and gather. Katie Bassett is the vice president of parks for MECA.
Bassett led a tour showing off some of the new additions. There will be plenty of attractions for families, a spot you can reserve for birthday parties or family reunions and a brand new state-of-the-art playground.
“It’s not your standard off-the-shelf playground equipment, but everything is very custom, very unique play from a rock climbing wall, to a rope forest, thee large orange arches that kids can climb and really explore,” Bassett said.
There will be a dog park on the mall complete with artificial grass. And a pavilion that will host a variety of events from concerts to dance competitions. There will be a lot of new amenities here, but developers were careful to preserve some features of the past.
“To preserve some of the more historic spots of Gene Leahy Mall including the slides, the arch, the heritage statue up close to 13th and Douglas. Just having some of that nod to the past still too.”
“We did maintain part of the water feature. That’s the lagoon that goes under the 10th Street bridge.”
Omaha will not hold onto the old picture postcard look of the city, replacing it with a different view that they hope will attract more people to the downtown area.
MECA officials say the price tag to renovate the Gene Leahy Mall, Heartland of America Park and the Lewis and Clark Landing is in the range of $325 million. 80% of that money comes from private donations.
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