In 2013, the Gallup organization came out with the results of its annual “Wellbeing Index,” which rates the “happiest and healthiest” places in the U.S. Topping the list? Lincoln, Nebraska.
“Lincoln’s fantastic,” says Derek Bombeck, the sales development manager for the Lincoln Convention & Visitors Bureau. “We have so many great things going on here. We have all the amenities of a large city, yet we’re extremely affordable. We’re centrally located, and Lincoln is incredibly safe; you can go anywhere, day or night, and feel comfortable.”
What helps to make Lincoln even more “happy and healthy” is the interest and support for sports and sports events. “The community really rallies to support all types of sports,” Bombeck adds. “That helps to create a great championship atmosphere.”
One of the premier sports venues in Lincoln is the 470,400-square-foot Pinnacle Bank Arena, which is the home to University of Nebraska Cornhuskers men’s and women’s basketball. PBA, which opened at the end of 2013, is a $179 million state-of-the-art multi-purpose facility in the downtown Haymarket district, accommodating 15,200 spectators. (PBA, in fact, is the cornerstone of a nearly $350 million West Haymarket Redevelopment Project that continues to transform the city.)
“The Pinnacle Bank Arena is a great, flexible space that welcomes all kinds of events,” Bombeck says. “We look forward to hosting major volleyball and 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 and motocross. The options with this facility are endless.”
In addition to being the home court for Cornhuskers, PBA has hosted the boys’ and girls’ basketball state championships for the Nebraska School Activities Association (NSAA), the Harlem Globetrotters, opening ceremonies for the Cornhusker State Games, the NSAA Girls State Volleyball Tournament and much more.
Top University Facilities
“The University of Nebraska is an anchor for Lincoln as a sports destination, especially for college sports,” Bombeck says. UNL has some of the best athletic facilities in the nation, including Memorial Stadium (called one of the “cathedrals of college football” by The Sporting News), and the 7,900-seat, recently renovated Bob Devaney Sports Center, which is the home to Nebraska volleyball, wrestling, gymnastics, swimming and track & field (including a hydraulically banked track, one of only four in the country).
Located between Memorial Stadium and the Devaney Center is the Nebraska Soccer Field, with seating for more than 3,500. Hawks Field at Haymarket Park is one of the top college ballparks in the country, with chair seating for 4,400 and berm seating for 4,000 more fans. Bowlin Stadium, also part of the Haymarket Park complex, is a premier softball field that can accommodate 2,500 fans and has hosted NCAA Regional tournaments since 2003.
The Bob Devaney Sports Center’s Natatorium is home to some of the most advanced technology available for the sport of swimming. The Natatorium, which seats 1,000 spectators, includes a 25-yard pool, diving well with one- and three-meter springboards, and a five-meter platform and has been the host site for the four-day Husker Invitational meet for the last six years. There also is a 50-meter outdoor training facility with five-, seven- and 10-meter diving platforms.
Also nearing completion is a $21.4 million on-campus Soccer and Tennis Complex. The 28-acre facility will include an outdoor, lighted, full-size competition soccer field that will seat 2,500 spectators, along with other fields, and a tennis facility with 12 lighted outdoor courts and six indoor.
In addition to facilities at University of Nebraska, Lincoln is home to Nebraska Wesleyan University, a Division III school with plenty of sports action. “We use Nebraska Wesleyan’s facilities quite a bit,” Bombeck says. Large events taking advantage of NWU’s top facilities include the National Special Olympics.
NWU facilities also include the 2,500-seat Abel Stadium, home to Prairie Wolves football, soccer and outdoor track & field. The multi-purpose George A. Knight Fieldhouse has indoor track & field and tennis (with four indoor courts in the building). Snyder Arena, with seating for 2,350, plays host to Prairie Wolves basketball and volleyball, and Nebraska Wesleyan Field is part of the Kiwanis Baseball Complex.
“With Lincoln’s excellent facilities, we’ve hosted many national championships for the NCAA and NAIA,” Bombeck says, including last spring the NAIA Women’s Golf National Championships. “Last year we also hosted the NCAA D-III National Track & Field Championships at UNL’s indoor track. And the city, working with the Nebraska Sports Council, will be hosting the State Games of America this summer, which will bring more than 20,000 athletes to Lincoln.”
Speedway Sporting Village
A premier destination for sports innovation and family entertainment in Lincoln is the brand-new Speedway Sporting Village. Indoor soccer, flag football, ultimate Frisbee and bubble ball leagues were scheduled to begin play in December 2014 and the Village’s outdoor fields will be ready by the summer of 2015.
The 95,000-square-foot Field House features a beautiful new playing surface for field sports and includes space for the Nebraska Sports Performance Center and Defy Gravity, an indoor trampoline park. The 50,000-square-foot indoor field can be configured for multiple arrangements, such as one large 9v9, two 7v7, or four 5v5 games. There is a 70-yard regulation indoor football field that consists of a 50-yard main section with two end zones, which allows for high-octane 7v7 football.
The village’s main level also includes retail, meeting rooms and concessions, including a pub for when the adult leagues are in session. The Field House features a 260-foot mezzanine overlooking the entire playing surface so parents and fans can have a bird’s-eye view of the action, no matter how the field is configured. The mezzanine has several party nooks with TVs and comfortable seating and also features an arcade. In addition, the mezzanine connects to a spacious covered outdoor deck that will overlook the championship stadium just south of the Field House.
With a turf field and large bleachers, the championship field will be ready for anything from training, to tournament play, to high school, college or professional soccer matches and football games. Nine additional outdoor fields, plenty of parking and an outdoor plaza area with restrooms and concessions make up the remainder of the Sporting Village.
Speedway Sporting Village Director Andrew Ferguson says this “generational entertainment complex” will “blend sports and the benefits that they can provide with entertainment options for people of all ages. The campus will be alive from morning until late night with unique opportunities to train like a pro or play like a kid!”
The Full Sports Picture
Other venues that help complete the sports picture in Lincoln include the Abbott Sports Complex with over 60 acres of professionally maintained fields. The Championship Soccer Field has seating for 2,500, and the multi-purpose indoor facility holds 11 volleyball courts, four basketball courts and an indoor turf field. Outdoors, there are 20 natural-grass fields of various sizes for players of all ages, in addition to 12 outdoor tennis courts. The complex hosts major soccer, volleyball and basketball tournaments, along with other events, including Mud Runs, Warrior Races and more.
The Lancaster Event Center is a 400,000-square-foot facility that can host a variety of events, including rodeos, agricultural shows, dog shows and more. The Event Center also can host indoor sports such as gymnastics, volleyball and basketball.
In the summer of 2016, more than 26 countries will be represented at the World Tenpin Bowling Association (WTBA) Youth World Championships, which will utilize multiple premier bowling facilities in town. “We’ve also held national BMX competitions,” Bombeck says. “We have a lot of great BMX venues, including Star City BMX, which hosts the Cornhusker National.” Lincoln also is home to the National Museum of Roller Skating, and for more than 30 years the city has hosted USA Roller Sports’ Roller Figure Skating National Championships.
“We have so many great venues and facilities here, and when not playing, we have so much to see and do,” Bombeck says. “Plus, we offer all sorts of assistance for tournament and event owners and organizers. We’re confident athletes, families and organizers will be very happy here.”
Learn more at www.lincoln.org