Omaha’s downtown convention center and arena, now 17 years old, may need renovations and new parking options within the decade, city officials say.
With those future expenses in mind, the city is advocating passage of a legislative bill that could partially fund facility improvements by doubling the amount of arena financing incentive money the city can receive to pay off its arena and convention center debt.
Legislative Bill 181, introduced by State Sen. Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn, would amend the Convention Center Facility Financing Assistance Act to raise the cap of available so-called turnback tax from $75 million to $150 million.
Under the turnback tax mechanism, the state turns back to the City of Omaha 70% of state sales tax from nearby hotels and sales inside the facility to help pay back the city’s debt on the convention center and arena. The $291 million facility, opened in 2003, was the first project in Nebraska to make use of the 1999 turnback tax program.
The turnback tax has also been used to build Lincoln’s Pinnacle Bank Arena and the Ralston Arena. A portion of the money also provides grants for tourism in areas with high concentrations of poverty, youth violence prevention efforts and community centers in rural communities.