Lincoln, Nebraska: America’s Sports Center
15 Jan, 2014By: Juli Anne Patty
Central location. It’s a word you hear a lot, about a lot of different destinations. But it doesn’t get more central than Lincoln, Nebraska. Located, more or less, at the center of the United States, the capital of Nebraska offers convenient travel from every corner of the country, but that’s just the beginning of Lincoln’s appeal.
A Tradition of Excellence
The University of Nebraska Cornhuskers have anchored Lincoln firmly in sports history, creating a legacy of athletic excellence that influences every event they welcome to town. What’s more, Lincoln is both a college town as well as the capital, which means it provides big city amenities, hometown charm and serious sports focus.
“When your event is in Lincoln, it’s likely the only one. People are excited to attend sports events and our visiting athletes know what it feels like to be the main attraction,” says Derek Bombeck, sales development manager, Lincoln convention and visitors bureau. “Budget is another draw for us. In Lincoln, you get the amenities of a tier-one city at a second-tier price.”
A Downtown Sports Destination
Lincoln is a city that knows how to make the most of all its resources, and in that spirit, Lincoln voters approved a $25 million bond in May 2009, which paved the way for a $344 million project that would revitalize the underutilized historical Haymarket district. The West Haymarket project includes new hotels, restaurants, a civic plaza and the 470,400 square-foot, $179 million, state-of-the-art multi-purpose Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Home to Cornhuskers men’s and women’s basketball, Pinnacle Bank Arena, which opened in Sept. 2013, will also offer world-class home to sports events looking for a championship quality venue.
“The Pinnacle Bank Arena is a great, flexible space that will welcome all kinds of events,” says Bombeck. “We look forward to hosting major volleyball wrestling championships. The facility can accommodate ice for hockey or figure skating and with 30,000 square feet of floor space, we can bring in dirt for events like BMX. The options are really endless.“
The new Haymarket District offers an exciting new option for sports event planners by creating a central, walkable downtown destination that is easy for families and guests to enjoy and navigate. Anchored by the exceptional Pinnacle Arena and a plaza where guests and citizens gather for lunch, events and the weekly farmer’s market, Haymarket District also offers hotels, restaurants, galleries and shops within easy walking distance.
The University of Nebraska Bob Devaney Sports Center also received improvements in 2013, including a few you might not expect.
“The main arena got several major upgrades, including dropping from 13,000 seats to 8,000,” says Bombeck. “The facility is perfect now for smaller events, and it offers a lot more luxury.”
Now the home of Cornhuskers women’s volleyball, the Bob Devaney Sports Center boasts five suites, 10MM video boards, new ceiling trusses and a great wall modeled after the Nebraska Coliseum.
Ideal for high school volleyball, basketball, wrestling and gymnastics events, the Bob Devaney Center offers a championship setting for a wide range of events. The Center will host the NCAA Division III championships this spring, and the Lincoln CVB is hoping to bring the Big 10 Championships back soon, as well.
The Bob Devaney Sports Center is more than just an arena, though. It’s also the home of Cornhusker track and field, offering a recently refinished hydraulic-banked track, one of only four in the United States and one of only eight in the world.
Of course, in Nebraska, you can never forget football, and that stadium has gotten its share of attention as well. Memorial Stadium’s major upgrades included adding 8,000 seats and 30 new skyboxes. The Stadium will put its new amenities to use for the University’s passionately followed football games, as well as high school football championships and, in 2015, the National State Games of America.
The two-year bid process for the National State Games involved surveying participants, sponsors and volunteers and resulted in an enthusiastic approval of Lincoln as host. The games are projected to draw as many as 18,000, participants, 5,000 volunteers and 24,000 spectators, which would make them the largest National State Games in history. The event will also create an estimated $20 million economic impact.
Lincoln’s greens are just as renowned as its arenas, and Wilderness Ridge Golf Course is at the top of the list. Its 7,100 yards have hosted events including US Open Qualifying Tournament, the Nebraska Section PGA Championship and numerous college championships. In 2013, Wilderness Ridge hosted the National Amputee Golf Championship, welcoming the world’s best amputee golfers, including athletes from the U.S., China, Japan and Canada.
Non-traditional sports often find a home in Lincoln. The Lancaster Event Center, a 400,000 square-foot facility composed of five interconnected buildings on a 157-acre campus, offers versatile space for equestrian events, rodeos and other sports that require a large and adaptable space. Due to its size and versatility, the event center often hosts more than five events simultaneously.
In 2010-2012, the Lancaster Event Center hosted the World Finals for Women’s Professional Rodeo. Barrel racing has also gained steam with the Barrel Bash national finals coming to the facility the past two years and again in 2014.
Another unique facility, the Abbott Sports Complex, accommodates multiple sports on its 215-acre campus in east Lincoln. This venue features 20 natural grass playing surfaces of various sizes, including a championship soccer field that seats 2,500. The multi-purpose indoor facility holds 11 volleyball courts, four basketball courts and one indoor turf field, and the on-site tennis center offers 12 outdoor courts and six climate-controlled indoor courts. Although soccer, volleyball and tennis are the facility’s main emphasis, running events such as Spartan Races are making good use of the land on the campus.
Motor Sports/BMX Competitions
If action is what you’re looking for, Lincoln is definitely the place to be. Lincoln’s Airpark offers 91 acres of open-space concrete, perfect for autocross and other competitive racing. Since 2009, Sports Car Club of America has hosted its SOLO National Championships in Lincoln. With 1,200 competitors, it is the largest motor sports competition in the world.
The Abbott Motocross Park opened in 2012 and consists of a full-size outdoor motocross track and a separate mini-track for younger riders. This facility has already hosted a multitude of regional competitions including the Best of the Midwest Motocross Championships.
As BMX continues its blazing growth, Lincoln offers the sport an ever-improving home at the Star City BMX. Star City includes a 1,100-plus foot dirt track with a concert starting hill, four straightaways and three banked corners. USA BMX has used this facility for the Cornhusker Nationals in 2010 and 2012, and will host this event again in 2014.
An App for Excitement
Lincoln’s sports venues are obviously on the cutting edge, and the Lincoln’s Chamber of Commerce is making sure that its visitor experience is as well. Working in partnership with Nelnet and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce spent the past year developing a mobile app that helps visitors discover and access all of Lincoln’s exciting attractions, restaurants and events.
The app launched in fall 2013, and it offers event owners a unique way to promote their events in Lincoln. Visitors can search events, restaurants, hotels, etc., as well as use the GPS-enabled map function to locate any selection easily.
Service from the Start
The Haymarket District project demonstrates Lincoln’s commitment to planning ahead, and its CVB is just as committed to that principle. Sports owners who bring their events to Lincoln will find a team of ready and able sports event experts to help execute an excellent event from start to finish.
The Lincoln CVB offers a range of services, including pre-event planning, such as housing and transportation planning, as well as on-site staffing for whatever you might need: event registration, setup, etc. The CVB staff also offers PR and marketing expertise and will help event owners create and execute strategies to attract participants and draw a crowd of spectators.
For more information about Lincoln’s facilities, experience and services, visit www.lincoln.org.