Union Omaha Franchise Eyeing New Football Stadium and Legislature Called for Financial Contribution
OMAHA, Nebraska (Nebraska Examiner) — Union Omaha is hoping to build a $100 million football stadium in the city’s north center that will be accompanied by new housing, possibly a hotel and other entertainment amenities.
Legislative Bill 621, introduced by Senator Mike McDonnell of Omaha, will channel up to $50 million in public funds to help make this vision a reality.
Capacity 10,000 fans
Marty Cordaro, president of Union Omaha, briefly outlined the outdoor stadium plan on Monday during a legislative hearing on a bill that asks the state to contribute twice the amount privately raised. The potential $50 million should come from the state’s cash reserves.
Union Omaha players celebrate victory at Werner Park. (Courtesy of the Omaha Union)
Although LB 621 does not specifically list the stadium’s tenant, which will have a seating capacity of 10,000 fans, McDonnell indicated during the meeting that his score was designed specifically for Union Omaha.
“It’s about the economic impact,” he said.
McDonnell said the stadium project was considered but was not ultimately selected to be among the recommended list of groups to share about $225 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding directed to North and South Omaha.
Women’s professional soccer team
According to Cordaro, the football organization has been studying a new stadium for the Owls for about a year now.
Currently, the 2021 USL League One champions share Werner Park in Sarpi County with the Omaha Storm Chasers minor league baseball team.
USL League One is a professional men’s league sanctioned by the US Football Federation and is the third tier of the American football landscape.
Cordaro said the proposed new stadium will open the door to growth, increased levels of competition and greater attendance.
He said the move would allow the franchise to expand offerings, including the creation of a women’s professional soccer team and a youth training academy for elite players.
Cordaro said some of the city’s most promising young football talent has left Omaha, some with their families, to train in cities like Kansas City.
While Union Omaha is referring to a preferred site, Cordaro said he did not secure the land.
Other development planned
He said the organization is interviewing candidates to develop the proposed stadium, as well as leading a broader vision that includes building housing, retail and other facilities around the facility.
Among the payouts, Cordaro said, will be an expected 195 new jobs and an economic impact of about $17 million a year. That’s according to a study that Cordaro says has yet to be released to the public.
Downtown North would be an ideal location for a new football stadium because, he says, the franchise’s demographics show that fans of the fourth most popular sport in the Omaha metropolitan area live predominantly in Omaha’s east side.
“It gives this northern part of the metro something to call their own,” he said.
While the Owls, only about three years old, used Werner Park as their home field, Cordaro said baseball park Omaha football would not be “sustainable” in the long run.
Takes a village
A member of the Legislative Assembly Committee on Banking, Commerce and Insurance asked Cordaro why Morrison Stadium, home of the Creighton University football team, also located in North Omaha, was not suitable for a franchise.
Senator Mike McDonnell of Omaha (Courtesy of the Unicameral Information Bureau)
To this, Cordaro said that Union Omaha plans to host various community events in addition to creating women’s and youth programs and needs more flexibility in the schedule.
The Banking, Trade and Insurance Committee took no action on Monday on whether the bill should be submitted to the legislature for full discussion.
But Sen. Mike Jacobson of North Platte noted that the stadium project could also benefit financially from separate legislation, also introduced by McDonnell, that would require changes to the Sports Arena Funding Assistance Act.
Will he always need to be fed? he asked.
Steve Swanstrom, President and CEO of Centris Federal Credit Union, touted the addition of “affordable entertainment” that the stadium would bring to the metro area.
“It will take a state, an entire village, to make this a reality,” he said.
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