At a news conference today at Pinnacle Bank Arena, Mayor Chris Beutler welcomed the athletes, coaches and fans coming to Lincoln for the State High School Basketball Championships over the next two weekends. For the first time, all championship games as well as some preliminary rounds will be played at the Arena. The girls tournament is today through Saturday, and the boys tournament is March 13 through 15.
Also participating in today's news conference were Rhonda Blanford-Green, Executive Director of the Nebraska School Activities Association (NSAA); NSAA Assistant Director Jon Dolliver; and representatives of SMG, the Lincoln Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) and the Downtown Lincoln Association (DLA).
"It's been a year of historic firsts for the Capital City, and we are excited to show high school basketball fans from across the state the new face of downtown, the Haymarket and the West Haymarket," Beutler said. "In addition to the new Arena, our guests will be staying at new hotels, eating in new restaurants, parking in new spaces and enjoying new amenities like the Railyard and its ice rink. It has always been our goal to make this area a destination where all Nebraskans can gather, celebrate and make new memories."
Attendance last year was almost 50,000 for the girls tournament and more than 86,000 for the boys tournament. The UNL Bureau of Business Research has estimated that the tournament has an average economic impact of about $5.3 million to the City.
Visitors also will see new streets as well as continuing construction in the West Haymarket. Other downtown projects include the renovation of Centennial Mall and streetscaping work on "P" Street from 11th Street to Centennial Mall. The "P" Street project also includes improvements on the east side of 14th Street between "O" and "P" streets and the creation of Civic Plaza at 13th and "P." Businesses are open during construction. Pedestrians should use the approved walking paths through the construction sites.
"Lincoln is honored to host the tournament for four more years, and tournament visitors will continue to see changes each year," Beutler said. "Next year, they will enjoy a more pedestrian- and bike-friendly 'P' Street retail corridor as well as the iconic Jun Kaneko public art in Civic Plaza. They will witness the re-birth of Nebraska's Centennial Mall and the continuing transformation of the West Haymarket."
The boys tournament next weekend will include the debut of a new campaign to encourage recycling at the Arena. Mayor Beutler said the Arena is one of the most sustainable, energy- efficient arenas in the country, and crowds will be encouraged to "Experience a Green Arena." The initiative is the result of a collaboration among the Nebraska Environmental Trust, the UNL Athletic Department, SMG and UNL's Jacht Ad Lab.
About 1,400 new "smart" parking meters were installed downtown a year ago, and the meter rate is now $1 an hour, making parking garages the cheapest downtown parking option. The new meters also accept credit, debit and pre-paid parking cards and dollar coins in addition to dimes and quarters. Parking meters are enforced Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
SMG is offering $3 all-day event parking at the large festival space north of Pinnacle Bank Arena off Sun Valley Boulevard. The lot is a short distance from the arena and is connected by a pedestrian bridge. SMG also is offering $5 all-day event parking at the "premium" garage attached to the arena. The SMG parking is available on a first-come, first-served basis.
The City is offering $5 all-day event parking for the tournaments at the Red 1 Garage at 555 "R" St., just south of the Arena. The all-day rate at this location is only $4 online at parkandgo.org.
In all other City garages and lots with the "Park and Go" signage, the first hour is free. The rate is then $1 per hour with a maximum of $9 for all-day parking. The facilities are:
All public parking with the exception of that purchased online is on a first-come, first-served basis. Parking for oversized vehicles can be arranged by calling Pinnacle Bank Arena at 402- 904-4444 or PolygonCorp at 402-770-7659. More information is available at 402-441-PARK (7275) and at parkandgo.org.