Baxter Arena opened to considerable buzz last fall, but it was not enough to keep the University of Nebraska Omaha‘s venue from running in the red.
At a cost of roughly $88 million, Baxter Arena opened last year as to primarily serve as the home of UNO Mavericks hockey and men’s basketball. It was a particularly hyped opening for the hockey program, as Baxter Arena is includes both a main ice for home games and a dedicated practice rink.
Though the facility received a good deal of use in its first year and garnered more revenue than expected, it wound up finishing with a $1.5 million deficit, and a similar loss is expected for the upcoming year. The end results were not as promising as some had hoped, but Baxter Arena operators and university officials are stressing patience.
The word from the university chancellor John Christensen and other officials is that the arena’s first year leaves plenty of room for improvements, mainly when it comes to cutting operational expenses during university events. It is anticipated that Baxter Arena’s bottom line will improve over the next several years, but in the meantime the university will work with the plan it has in place to cover shortfalls. More from the Omaha-World Herald:
Conversely, UNO’s total annual budget exceeds $220 million, so this year’s arena subsidies amount to a fraction of 1 percent. So far the costs have been covered relatively easily using discretionary funds Christensen has at his disposal.
Given how the new arena has enhanced campus life, increased alumni engagement and helped recruit new students, Christensen said he has no problem justifying the expense. And he said the financial challenges will be addressed.
NU officials say system President Hank Bounds also stands firmly behind the arena — and is putting his money where his mouth is. Bounds has committed $2.3 million of NU system reserve funds between now and 2022 to help meet arena bond obligations.
“In the business world, we call this a developmental-stage enterprise,” said David Lechner, the NU system’s top finance officer. “Yeah, there are going to be bumps and bruises and the numbers won’t flow across as nice as we’d like to see. But we are growing, we are trying, and the guys (at UNO) are doing a pretty bang-up job of getting an operation started and growing to Division I. I support this effort, and I know the president does, too.”
Prior to last year, the programs that play at Baxter Arena were split among several venues, with hockey at the CenturyLink Center Omaha and basketball at Ralston Arena.