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Monday, February 01, 2010

Lincoln, Neb., unveils financing plan for arena,includng railroad relocation

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February 14, 2001

In broad strokes and fine detail, officials have revealed how they will pay $340 million for "the biggest project in the history" of Lincoln, Neb. -- turning a windswept rail yard into a home for a new downtown arena, the Lincoln Journal Star reports.

Among the broad strokes: For the first time, the city disclosed the price to move three railroads from the edge of the Haymarket: $51 million. The deal with the railroad also includes paying for a new Amtrak station and closing a pair of crossings on J Street. Partnership possibilities that were floated as possible components of the arena plan could change somewhat. The city would still partner with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, which would agree to play men's and women's basketball games at the arena for at least 30 years.

But the city has opened the door to creating a sports marketing partnership with a company other than International Stadia Group, which had been mentioned repeatedly as the vision of a new arena evolved.

The city calculated it would pay $207,000 to plant grass and $265,500 to restore rail yard canopies.

In what Mayor Chris Beutler called "a very solid financial plan," officials detailed what the arena will cost, and how the city will pay for it. A new arena has topped Beutler's agenda and that of many civic and business leaders for some time. Pershing Auditorium is viewed by many residents as no longer adequate to the needs of a growing city. A new arena and surrounding improvements would fuel economic development and provide jobs, proponents say.

The city and UNL plan to form a joint public agency, which would issue general obligation bonds to finance the arena and supporting infrastructure. The city would own the 16,000-seat arena. Husker basketball teams would play in it. The city would repay about half the debt through higher hotel, bar, restaurant and car rental taxes. Arena revenue would pay another quarter of the debt.

The city also disclosed the cost to move railroad tracks out of the way. The city would pay BNSF $45 million to move -- $1 million for the land and the rest for relocation costs. The city would also swap 18 acres of its land for 41 acres of BNSF property. The city has tentatively agreed to pay Union Pacific $2.8 million to move out of 14 acres. Also, the city would pay to rehab UP's bridge over Salt Creek to accommodate trains traveling at 40 mph.

The agreement requires the city to close rail crossings south of the Haymarket district - on J Street, at Second and Third -- and release BNSF from legal liability for any environmental damage.

The city would pay $1.7 million to move and rebuild the Amtrak station.