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Baxter Arena (previously known under the working name UNO Community Arena) is the sports arena owned and operated by the University of Nebraska Omaha located in Omaha, Nebraska. Completed in 2015, Baxter Arena serves as the home of several of the university's sports teams, known as the Omaha Mavericks. The arena opened to the public on October 23, 2015 when the Mavericks men's ice hockey team hosted Air Force, winning 4–2.
In 2012, Omaha mayor Jim Suttle announced that the Omaha Civic Auditorium would close in 2014 due to excessive maintenance costs. The closing of the Auditorium would leave the Omaha without a mid-sized indoor venue, and would also have a major impact on the Mavericks ice hockey team. While the team played its home games at the city's main indoor venue, CenturyLink Center Omaha, it regularly practiced at the Auditorium. It was already one of the few NCAA Division I hockey teams without a dedicated practice facility. Additionally, the CenturyLink Center was increasingly being seen as too large for the hockey program.
The university then began planning for a new arena, selecting a site at the Aksarben Village development, which has become integrated with the UNO campus in recent years. The arena received approval from the University of Nebraska Board of Regents on March 15, 2013. It was originally budgeted at $75 million, but the final cost came in at $81.6 million. Nearly half of the cost was expected to be covered by donations, and UNO announced in June 2015 that it had sold the naming rights to Baxter Auto, a group of auto dealerships in Omaha and the surrounding region, for $400,000 per year over 10 years.
The arena is expected to more than cover its required debt service. UNO's financial projections assumed that the arena would host only four non-university events per year. However, the venue will be available to lease for events that would have been hosted by the Auditorium before its closure. At least three area school districts, including the Omaha city district, are planning to move their high school graduations to the arena by 2016.
The new arena is also the full-time home to the Omaha men's and women's basketball teams and a secondary home for the women's volleyball team from its opening. The volleyball team played its first game in the arena near the end of the 2015 season on November 1, and also played its final home game of the season there on November 10. Both basketball teams will play their entire 2015–16 home schedules at the arena.
The arena currently has a fixed seat capacity of 7,898. It has 17 luxury suites, 750 club seats, and a 750-seat student section. It also has two separate ice sheets—one in the main arena for games, and a second that serves as a dedicated practice facility for the Mavericks. Unlike most venues of this type, the practice rink is the most visible to those entering through the main gate—according to Mavericks athletic director Trev Alberts, "This will probably be the first and only arena you’ll see where the focal point of the entire arena is the community ice." UNO has committed to provide at least a third of the venue's ice time for community purposes.
- ↑ Omaha Athletics (October 23, 2015). Mavericks, Baxter Share Spotlight in 4-2 Win. Press release. Retrieved on October 29, 2015.
- ↑ "UNO triumphs over Air Force in first ever game at Baxter Arena", The Gateway. Retrieved on 17 February 2016.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 UNO Community Arena. University of Nebraska Omaha. Retrieved on February 17, 2015.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Nebraska Regents Approves Plan for new UNO Arena. College Hockey News (March 15, 2013). Retrieved on February 17, 2015.
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 Burbach, Christopher. "UNO's Rising Arena, Finances Both Solid", October 6, 2014. Retrieved on February 17, 2015.
- ↑ UNO's new athletic arena gets a name. Omaha World Herald. Retrieved on 3 June 2015.
- ↑ Omaha Athletics (July 28, 2015). Mavs Unveil 2015 Volleyball Schedule, Ticket Plans. Press release. Retrieved on July 29, 2015.
- ↑ Omaha Athletics (July 15, 2015). Omaha Releases 2015-16 Men's Basketball Schedule. Press release. Retrieved on July 29, 2015.
- ↑ Omaha Athletics (July 14, 2015). Omaha Women's Basketball Schedule Released for 2015-16. Press release. Retrieved on July 29, 2015.
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