As a student here at UNO, Baxter Arena brings images of hockey and basketball games, of student involvement fairs and concerts. New to the campus last year, the arena made quite the entrance, even hosting President Barack Obama in Jan. It has become a place that students know, but one that the community has also noticed.
Unfortunately, the arena’s first year ended up $1.5 million in the red, something that officials were a little surprised by. With all of the events that took place there in the last year, it’s hard to understand why so much money was lost.
“There are a lot of things we learned, a lot of positives, but with any entity, you’re going to run into some expenses you didn’t see,” Brent Meyer, Associate Athletic Director Brent Meyer said.
Last year didn’t turn out the way it was expected to, but like any new project, it is impossible to be 100% sure of the costs and revenue.
Vice Chancellor of Athletics Trev Alberts said a lot of the costs were one-time costs, and it often gets compared to a starting business, but he said they are “much more prepared to be successful.”
When planning events that are going to be held in the arena, there is an “interesting challenge” because there are set schedules for sports in what is known as the prime times (Friday and Saturday nights). It is hard to plan for events around the sporting schedules, as well as the schedule of the touring events and how many people they expect to come.
Both Alberts and Meyer agree that the “sweet spot” for events at the arena are between 4,000-6,500 fans.
Meyer’s said a lot goes into planning the events, and that it’s all “relationship driven and understanding the promoters.” He said it’s a fast business, promoters buy a show and then immediately have to find a location to host it so the relationship between location and promoter is crucial.
He said for Baxter Arena, they go above and beyond to help ensure each event gets the attention it deserves.
Alberts agrees, and also said it is important to hold events college students can relate to.
“The fact that we’re on a college campus is a huge benefit. We need to have the kind of shows that the students at UNO are interested in seeing,” Alberts said.
Events students are interested in seeing include concerts, such as Flo Rida last semester, put on by Maverick Productions, or Korn and Breaking Benjamin, held this past weekend.
The arena is in high demand, booked in advance as far as 2019.
“The demand is high, and that’s why we’re so optimistic for the future,” Meyer said.
Alberts said Baxter Arena is just another way to help get UNO’s brand out there, and that “we want to grow with UNO.”
“We have these amazing facilities [in the Omaha area] such as the best zoo in the world, the Holland Center, TD Ameritrade. Baxter Arena and Holland Ice can match these.”
To help reach more of the student community, they are currently thinking of ways to incorporate MavRec into the arena.
“The building is an anchor to draw people,” Meyer said.
Although many people think of the arena as a place for the athletic department, it is there to help encourage “alumni, community engagement and student engagement.” The athletic department is an integrated department, and involving the community is the next goal.
Of course, with the year ending in the red, there were some budget cuts for the athletic department, “roughly 10% operational cuts” Meyers said.
“We’re like anyone else when the budgets are difficult. We have to be realistic and make appropriate cuts,” Alberts said.
They won’t be budgeting for a lift from the arena next year.
Alberts and Meyer believe in adding value to the community, and it’s safe to say the arena is definitely a great investment in the future of UNO.
“If we aren’t doing that, we don’t really have a whole lot of value,” Meyer said.
Here’s a breakdown of some costs the arena faces during events.
To flip the floor from the ice that the hockey players skate on to the wooden floors for basketball, volleyball and other events are held on is approximately $3,000 every time, due to the costs of bringing in workers to put down the flooring.
For concerts held at the arena, the costs come with handling the different equipment that is needed, as well as the staging.