Pinnacle Bank Arena is an amazing project has hosted some of music’s biggest names, but it’s very expensive project

LINCOLN, Nebraska – The Pinnacle Bank Arena has been a Lincoln attraction for nine years.

“The Pinnacle Bank Arena has been an amazing project,” Tom Lorenz, PBA Manager said.

The arena has hosted some of the biggest names in music, served as a venue for graduations, and been converted into a COVID-19 immunization site.

“I personally think it’s lived up to every expectation and more,” Jeff Maul, executive director for the Lincoln Convention and Visitors Bureau said.

Lorenz stated that with the exception of the COVID years, PBA has averaged over 750,000 annual visits, sold 1.5 million tickets, and generated over $100 million in income from ticket sales alone.

“We certainly had large expectations and I think it’s met all of those expectations and exceeded them,” Lorenz said. Not just us but the economic impact its had in the area with the growth in the Railyard and the Haymarket.”

However, the city and taxpayers will continue to foot the tab for at least twenty years.

In 2010, 56% of voters supported the formation of the West Haymarket Joint Public Agency, allowing the city to issue $300 million in bonds and pay them off with a new occupation tax on companies like as restaurants, bars, and hotels.

In addition to funding the construction of the arena, the JPA paid for the relocation of BNSF Railroad tracks, clearing the way for privately financed hotels, the Railyard, and more.

“I’m really pleased with how the project has turned out,” Dan Marvin, Urban Development Director for the City of Lincoln said. “We’ve probably accomplished more than what we even told voters we could.”

The occupation tax is also generating significantly more revenue than anticipated. According to a chart given by the city, the tax generated around $15 million in 2021 and is predicted to generate slightly under $20 million in 2022. The city’s director of finance estimated that they would not generate $20 million annually until 2036. The tax has been used to pay down $191,4 million of the debt to date, while a further $504 million is due by 2024. This includes around $200 million in interest payments.

This chart, provided by the city finance office, shows revenue from the occupation tax is...
This chart, provided by the city finance office, shows revenue from the occupation tax is bringing in significantly more than projected.(City of Lincoln)

“Any time you ask the tax payers to dole out additional dollars from their bottom line revenues that’s a hard adjustment. It’s a hard change,” Maul said. “But I think the economic impact this has had on all of us; It’s increased sales tax revenues for the city, it’s increased lodging tax revenues, it’s bringing in new visitors to our community.”

We were unable to get an official analysis of the Pinnacle Bank Arena’s economic impact, but we did seek information on the amount of sales tax and hotel tax collected over the past decade. Since 2013, the city’s sales tax revenue has increased by an average of 5 percent yearly. Since the arena’s opening, the amount of hotel taxes received by the city has increased by an average of 10 percent year. Though neither the city nor the county will completely link these hikes to the Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Stakeholders assert, however, that the Pinnacle Bank Arena will continue to attract visitors, reinvent itself, and revitalize Lincoln.

“It’s created a sea change that has ripple effects in the skyscraper you see in that area, the other development in the Haymarket, the housing that’s come in,” Marvin said. “Much of that is a result of the Pinnacle Bank Arena transforming the entire downtown.”

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