Dream becomes reality with Baxter Arena

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By Zane Fletcher and Nick Beaulieu 
Editor-In-Chief and Heady Copy Editor

In a night centered around successive unveiling, none drew more applause from the sellout crowd of 7,898 than the final illumination of the house lights at Baxter Arena.

Even for those who had previously experienced the arena in light – season ticket holders, early arrivers to the game and the like – the anticipation was heightened during the extended, darkened opening ceremony.

As the light dawned on the first “Maverick hockey time” in the new arena, the crowd roared its approval of Baxter – their home.

The night was filled with much pomp and circumstance. Members of the 1997-1998 inaugural team were present – includ-ing integral players Jason White, Jason Mitchell and Mike Skoglund.

The team was present for what would be a special series of events, starting with the raising of the Frozen Four banner. Head coach of the 1997 team Mike Kemp, along with current head coach Dean Blais and Athletic Director Trev Alberts carried the banner to seniors Aaron Pearce, Brian Cooper, and Tanner Lane (accompanied by captain Jake Guentzel) who then helped hoist the trophy.

An especially unique moment came when the Don Leahy signature on the ice was revealed. Not only be-cause it was a tribute of the highest honor to the man who many refer to as “the grandfather of UNO hockey,” but because it serves as a symbolic stamp of ownership.

This is our ice in our building. It for many provided a symbol of relatability to other major sports pro-grams around the nation that have done similar trib-utes. This one was ours.

When Trev Alberts took the took the reins of the Omaha athletic department in 2009, there was much distress over his controversial decision to cut both the football and national champion wrestling teams.

Little did the public know his long-term plans, what they would mean for the university and the city as a whole.

It’s odd to think that a simple building could mean so much to a group of people, yet it is no simple assumption that Baxter Arena’s unveiling is one of the most important moments in the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s long history.

From their inaugural sea-son, the Mavericks have spent time playing at both the Civic Auditorium and the CenturyLink Center. Never has Omaha had a building to call their own – until now.

To many involved, it’s not even about the hockey or the high ranking which was just sugar on top of this special week-end. Name a sport and it’s a safe assumption Baxter will be packed. Universities are defined by their facilities. Cameron Indoor? Easy, that’s Duke. The Big House, Michigan.

It’s about knowing we have a central place to archive our memories. Arenas have a memory of their own. A place where we can say “Remember that December night in Baxter back in 2015?” with our buddies over a beer while reminiscing.

No longer must we have make-shift clothes racks sporting our gear in an awkward spot like at the Clink – we now have a team store. We have a con-cessions area nicknamed “the Crease.” The student section – newly given the moniker, “the Bullpen”– was sold out quickly, packed to the brim and lively.

It’s a cultivation of the little things that make everything about Baxter so great.

It is a splendid bit of irony that the sponsor whose name is lent to the building has such a fitting slogan.

Everyone who has listened to Omaha radio, or viewed local television programming, is familiar with the mantra, “Baxter, it just doesn’t get any better.”

After a weekend of festivities at our new pond, it is with a reflective eye that this advertisement seems to fit so well. Yes, the arena isn’t completely finished. Yes, it’s not the biggest, or brightest, or flashiest.

Yes, it came with great cost. But this is our house. This is our time. It just doesn’t get any better.

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