LINCOLN — Memorial Stadium has a rival on the Lincoln skyline.
As drivers travel Interstate 180 toward downtown, their eyes are drawn left to Memorial Stadium, home of Nebraska's football team, and then right to Pinnacle Bank Arena, the new home of Husker basketball. The difference in heights of the two is only 7 feet. Memorial Stadium is about 135 feet tall on its west end, and the arena is 128 feet tall.
The arena is the final piece of a sports triangle playing host to three of the most popular University of Nebraska-Lincoln teams: basketball, baseball and football.
The $370 million, taxpayer-funded project is establishing an identity that blends with the West Haymarket district in downtown Lincoln but still stands apart from the neighborhood. Lincoln voters approved the arena in May 2010, and construction began in September 2011.
It is scheduled to finish on Aug. 14, a month ahead of schedule.
“We wanted to create a dynamic view,” said Stan Meredith, DLR Group's principal architect for the project.
Meredith and a team of architects, including architects from BVH in Lincoln and DLR, went about creating that view by blending copper and cream colors near the base of the building to reflect the Haymarket. As the arena rises above the industrial-turned-entertainment district to share the sky with Memorial Stadium, it becomes zinc-plated to create a more modern look.
Inside, the arena has large windows and a roomy concourse designed to feel airy and open.
The goal for architects was to combine the retro feeling of the Haymarket with the look of a 21st century arena desired by Lincoln residents, Meredith said.
“Good architecture is timeless,” he said. “But it's also an expression of the time it was built.”
The project will give Lincoln an opportunity to host an estimated 120 events a year, and the arena already has scheduled concerts featuring Canadian crooner Michael Bublť, country artist Jason Aldean and pop singer Pink.
But the arena isn't the only new development in the district.
Two private developments are going on at the same time that are valued at more than $70 million, said Dan Marvin, secretary for the West Haymarket Joint Public Agency, which is composed of University of Nebraska-Lincoln and city officials.
One of the developments will be a $55 million project that includes a Hyatt Place Hotel planned by WRK LLC.
The development will feature an entertainment district known as the Railyard, condos and an $800,000 digital screen called the Cube that could display electronic artwork or show movies, said Brett West, WRK director of development.
The area will draw young people from UNL as well as Lincoln's young professionals, West said. He thinks the Railyard in particular, which features bars, restaurants and an outdoor plaza, will draw a lot of interest.
“(The) Railyard area is modeled after the Power and Light District in Kansas City (Mo.),” West said. “It's right across from the front entrance of the new arena, so you can come to events and go out to the outdoor plaza space after they're over.”
At the arena, construction workers are putting on the final touches to have it ready for Aug. 14.
All the major systems are in, but there is still plenty of touch-up work to do, arena general manager Tom Lorenz said.
Flooring needs to be installed and a final layer of concrete needs to be poured in the parking garages; some areas need to be painted and some drywall needs to be installed. A few zinc panels still need to be put on the facade, and bronze railing and brick adornments will go on the ramps to the stadium and the parking garage, Lorenz said.
Contractors are expected to finish so UNL's summer graduation can run smoothly on Aug. 16 and 17. “There is no doubt in my mind they will finish on time,” Lorenz said.
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