LINCOLN — The University of Nebraska Board of Regents will be asked Friday to sign off on financing changes for two major proposed construction projects.
A hockey arena proposed for the University of Nebraska at Omaha campus no longer would be financed by its developer. Rather, NU would issue $35 million in revenue bonds to pay approximately 46 percent of the facility's $76.3 million estimated cost.
UNO Athletic Director Trev Alberts said the change reduces financing costs for the project. Scott Woodbury Wiegert, also known as S2W, would remain the developer, as previously designated.
Meanwhile, the regents will be asked to allow NU to issue $40 million in bonds toward a $110 million cancer research tower. The tower is part of a larger plan for a $370 million comprehensive cancer center for the NU Medical Center.
Original plans called for the tower, which would be university-owned, to be financed with $60 million in private gifts and a $50 million appropriation from state government. Lawmakers had made the appropriation contingent upon NU raising private funds.
NU officials say the bonds will serve as a "bridge" to allow the project to tap into the state funds before pledged donations are collected. Earlier this year, state officials denied NU's request for access to the state funds based on upon pledged donations, saying cash in hand was required.
NU officials say "well over $60 million" in private funds have been pledged toward the project. And the bonds, they say, will give them the cash to meet the requirement for state funds.
"The bonds will serve as a bridge for gifts that have been pledged to the university over a period of several years — a common practice in private philanthropy and with major university projects — thus complying with the requirements of LB 1089 (the appropriations measure) and allowing us to move forward on this critical project," said NU President J.B. Milliken.
The changes in the UNO arena financing plan were included in a program statement, a step in the construction planning process that gives the regents an opportunity to review a detailed description of a construction project and the need for it.
The switch to the financing through NU instead of a private developer means the project no longer is eligible for tax-increment financing, said Alberts. TIF allows a portion of property taxes on a development to be used to finance some of its cost. But publicly owned facilities do not owe property taxes.
The plan calls for $35 million from private donations and still includes $6.3 million in funds from "other" sources, including the City of Omaha. Alberts, however, said no decision had been made on how the city might contribute to the project.
Other arena details included in the program statement include a construction launch as early as October, with completion by June 2015; at least 1,800 parking stalls in lots surrounding the arena, which would be located south of Center Street along 64th Avenue; and a "guarantee" that the practice ice sheet would be available for public use at least one-third of the time.
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