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Without another $4 million, Nebraska arena won’t have Zambonis

Sean Leahy
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There's a new ice rink coming to Ralston, Neb. next month. Located just outside of Omaha, the facility will be home to the USHL's Omaha Lancers, the Indoor Football League's Omaha Beef and the men's basketball team from the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

On Oct. 26, the Lancers are scheduled to host the first event at the facility, meaning the yet-to-be-completed project will need all of its amenities finished in time for the home opener. And since it's hockey and a sporting event, they'll also need Zambonis and a scoreboard.

It's just that those items weren't purchased because they ran out of money.

From the Omaha World-Herald:

The City of Ralston had enough money to build a $32 million ice arena, but not enough to buy the Zambonis to resurface the ice.

The arena project at 72nd and Q Streets, approved overwhelmingly by Ralston's voters in May 2011, did not have the funds for the facility's furnishings and equipment — including hockey nets, basketball flooring and all electronics and scoreboards.

Now city officials have made a late move to approve an additional $4.25 million to cover those expenses as the arena nears its October grand opening.

The additional bonds will drive up the project's total cost by 13 percent to $36 million.

Ralston Arena was planned out to hold just one tenant: the Lancers. It's since grown into a multi-use facility, driving up costs and leading the project's main consultant to say, "I don't think we had any idea what we needed. We had to fast-track the arena construction to meet the timeline for the Omaha Lancers' first game."

From good pal Chris Peters at United States of Hockey:

We've heard about cities pouring funds into major league stadiums, with rarely the return promised to the community in the planning stages. If you're unfamiliar, check out Field of Schemes. However, the allure of adding a multi-purpose facility to a relatively small community is undeniable for both city officials and taxpayers.

Still, this arena was approved with only a Junior A hockey team as its primary tenant. The Lancers are one of the finest organizations in Junior hockey, but that's a bit of a reach when utilizing taxpayers' money.

Making matters worse, it shouldn't do much for voter confidence that the people they put faith in to handle their money could make such careless errors. In the planners' defense, other things cropped up, like changing their minds on some of the initial plans for catering at the facility, that helped contribute to the shortfall.

The City of Ralston is currently running a donation campaign in order to help pay for the Zambonis. They're also still looking for naming rights for the facility. Things are going swimmingly, you see.

The Lancers open up on Oct. 26, so that's a month and a half before residents will be asked to shovel the ice during stoppages and between periods if a bag filled with $4.25 million isn't found.

Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy

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