Follow the math of Omaha Lancers President Ben Robert, and the question of whether February’s outdoor hockey doubleheader at TD Ameritrade Park will sell out turns into an exercise of determining when, not if.
“I believe it will sell out,” he said. “When we play the Lincoln Stars, we put nearly 8,000 in our (former) barn (the Civic Auditorium), and when UNO plays North Dakota, they can put 15,000 in their barn (CenturyLink Center). Omaha is a wonderful hockey city that supports the game, and now you have this ... show me a hockey fan that doesn’t want to go.”
Tickets for the Mutual of Omaha “Battles on Ice” at the 23,000-seat TD Ameritrade Park go on sale to the public Monday. The doubleheader — Lancers-Stars at 12:30 p.m. and UNO-North Dakota at about 4:15 — will be played Feb. 9.
One ticket is good for admission to both games, with fans allowed a one-time “in and out” privilege, which would most likely be used to warm up in vehicles between games.
Tickets, available at the CenturyLink Center box office and through Ticketmaster, start at $30.
Pre-sales, to UNO and Lancer season-ticket holders and TD Ameritrade suite holders, were strong, all parties said, but the specific numbers haven’t been divulged.
“I’d be surprised if it weren’t (eventually) north of 20,000,” said Harold Cliff, president of the Omaha Sports Commission. “It would be wonderful to have a sellout.”
Outdoor hockey games have generated strong fan interest. More teams — professional, collegiate and others — have begun staging them recently with continued box-office success.
“We’ve had a lot of people calling us on how they can get in on tickets, and I think we’re going to have a lot of North Dakota fans coming down, too,” said Trev Alberts, UNO’s athletic director. “It’s an easy trip for them — hopefully we won’t have too many of them and hopefully our team and our fans will do their part so the ones who are here aren’t heard too well.”
Cliff said planning and development have stayed on track and run smoothly since the doubleheader was announced in February. The site of the playing surface has been altered by perhaps “a couple of feet,” he said.
The ice sheet will run generally from “dugout to dugout” of the baseball stadium, meaning the seats closest to the ice will be along what are usually the right-field and left-field lines. Tickets in six sections on each side of the stadium nearest the goals are $80 each. Seats nearest what would be home plate in the baseball configuration are $70. Other seats are $60 and $50, in addition to the $30 seats.
Typically, UNO hockey tickets range from $17 to $22 while Lancer tickets for adults range from $16.75 to $18.75.
“The price points are designed on what the venue has to offer, and they aren’t necessarily what you would expect at a baseball game,” Cliff said. “The big thing is that one ticket is good for two games.”
Some of the lowest seats don’t have a clear view of the playing surface because of the dasher boards. Some obstructed-view seating will be available.
No temporary additional seating will be added so that the condition of the playing field for baseball remains as close to optimum as possible — Creighton plays home games there in the spring, with the College World Series following in June.
“The (outfield) bleacher seats are the farthest away and are the least expensive,” Cliff said. “A lot of seats may be a fair distance away, but you are in the ballpark.”
Just being there is the charm of outdoor hockey games anyway.
“I went to the (NHL Classic) in Pittsburgh and it was raining,” Robert said. “And there were (68,111) fans there who didn’t care. This (outdoor hockey) is just a fun way to celebrate the sport. To me, it’s like throwing a party in the dead of winter and everybody looks forward to it.”
While some outdoor games have included ancillary entertainment options, Cliff said the “Battles on Ice” will keep the focus mostly on hockey. After all, both games could have a major impact in the regular-season standings for each team.
“We’re going to let the fans enjoy the Old Market area,” Cliff said. “The main thing is we’re trying to keep it as a family- focused event. And they are real games with points up for grabs. They aren’t just exhibitions.”
Alberts and Robert both praised the involvement of Mutual of Omaha, the Omaha Sports Commission and the Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority.
“From the beginning there’s been a commitment to do something special with hockey in Omaha,” Alberts said. “And they’ve been supportive. It’s a challenge to put a hockey rink on a baseball field, and I’m sure we’ll learn there were some things we could’ve done better, but there’s a great team in place and I know they’re considering every variable and have contingency plans in place.
“Hopefully it won’t be 75 degrees — or 10-below.”
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