When the Ralston Arena opens, it will welcome two tenants who have been looking for the right fit for some time — the Omaha Lancers junior hockey team and the University of Nebraska at Omaha men's basketball team.
Both organizations have made efforts in recent years to move to a facility that better suits their respective needs.
UNO, which moved to NCAA Division I status a year ago, has most recently been playing in Sapp Fieldhouse.
The Lancers have spent the years since the Ak-Sar-Ben Coliseum closed playing in two different facilities — Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs and the Civic Auditorium in downtown Omaha. Neither building allowed the Lancers to house all their operations — front office, practice facility and game rink — under one roof. At the Ralston Arena, the Lancers have a real home.
“We'll have the best facility from top to bottom of any team in the league,” said Dan Fremuth, vice president of business operations for the Lancers. “We're pretty excited about getting in there.”
When the arena project won approval, the Lancers worked with ICON Architectural Group to lay out the space to best serve the organization's needs. Most of the space under the north-side seating area is dedicated to the team.
“They allowed us to have a lot of input on how that space is mapped out,” Fremuth said. “They gave us a footprint, but we were able to work with them to determine how to use it.”
When construction is complete, the Lancers will take over and finish the project with the organization's own touches.
“We're going to spend quite a bit of money on our end to make everything top-notch,” Fremuth said. “We want to make sure our spaces reflect the effort and dedication that went into building this arena.”
The result will be a facility that will likely prove attractive to potential recruits. Derrin Hansen, UNO basketball coach, has already made a number of visits to the arena with recruits.
“It's been exciting to see it coming along,” Hansen said. “And when you look at the amenities it has compared to where we're coming from, it will be a big boost for the program. It puts us into the realm of the teams we compete with.”
Like the Lancers, UNO had input on its spaces, which include coaches' offices, a locker room, the players' lounge and a training room.
“We really like the space,” Hansen said. “We were able to do much more in there than we thought we'd be able to do.”
Though the Mavericks have moved off campus, student shuttle buses will be available for select games at the Ralston Arena. That schedule has yet to be finalized, but Hansen is looking forward to the atmosphere in the new building.
“It's going to be a great thing for students and fans alike,” he said. “It will be exciting to see what it's like in there on game day.”