“Lincoln has a tremendous opportunity for a long-term return-on-investment.”

Lincoln Bridge pano digital sky

LINCOLN, NE – A new report from a national consulting firm finds that a convention center in downtown Lincoln would be a catalyst for significant economic growth, with net new spending - personal income, job creation and tax revenues - of just over $18.5 million in economic output annually.  

This report is coupled with LB709 introduced in the Nebraska Unicameral by Senator Anna Wishart today that creates a new convention center fund for cities of the primary class, which includes Lincoln. If passed, that bill would allocate $60 million in one-time funding to build a new convention center in a qualified census track in the city.  There is great excitement and momentum for downtown Lincoln as we continue to move these conversations forward.

Last year, a coalition of organizations and community leaders led by Visit Lincoln, the Downtown Lincoln Association and Lincoln Rotary Club 14 commissioned the report by CSL International. Presentations made across the city found overwhelming support to bring a new convention center to the downtown area. 

A draft of the Phase II of the study was provided to the coalition leaders last week and recommends, based on unmet market demand, building a two-story, 129,600 square foot convention center with total project costs estimated to range between $111million and $120 million.  

Phase I of the study released last year, identified five potential locations for a downtown convention center. The five include the former Journal Star production building at Ninth and Q streets; the current site of Midwest Steel at Eighth and N streets; a site adjacent to the Cornhusker/Marriott Hotel; the site of the current downtown post office next door to the arena; and a location in the Telegraph District east of downtown.

The study identified unmet market demand for convention space showing relative to event facilities in ten other communities of a similar size. The study found “existing spaces in the Capital City are deficient in terms of total sellable event space and largest contiguous space.” 

“The proposal for a convention center in Lincoln represents yet another opportunity for the City and private sector partners to launch a game-changing, catalyst project to grow economic opportunity and our quality of life,” said Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird. “While there are many decisions yet to be made regarding the proposed convention center, the City is committed to leading a robust public engagement effort that provides our residents a role in determining how a successful public-private partnership should be structured to ensure the most successful implementation of this project.”

“Lincoln has a tremendous opportunity for a long-term return-on-investment, and to once again improve the destination skyline much as wassuccessful with Pinnacle Bank Arena” said Jeff Maul, Executive Director of Visit Lincoln and Vice President of the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce. “A new downtown convention center will retain and attract new conventions and other non-local businesses to the City and County, which will generate significant new spending, supporting personal income, job creation and tax revenues.”

“LIBA believes the vitality of our community comes from economic growth,” noted Bud Synhorst, President, and CEO of the Lincoln Independent Business Association. “A convention center would be a significant step forward for Lincoln’s economic growth.”

According to the study, “Nearly 80% of surveyed event planners indicated positive interest in hosting an event at a potential Lincoln Convention Center, with half indicating that they would “likely” or “definitely” use such a facility. This exceeds the average response rates given for 65 similar studies that CSL has conducted over the last ten years. Other findings from the second phase of the national report indicate:

●    Event, Attendance, and Room Night Levels: A new Lincoln Convention Center is estimated to host more than 200 events during a stabilized year of operations generating more than 112,600 attendee days and 25,800 hotel room nights.  
●    Economic Impacts: The event activity above is estimated to generate approximately $18.5 million in total economic output annually.  
●    Income and Job Creation: The facility would support an estimated 230 jobs per year with an economic impact of over $7.5 million.  
●    Fiscal Impacts: Net new spending is also estimated to generate revenue in the form of state sales tax, state hotel tax, County hotel tax, City sales tax, 
●    City hotel tax, and City prepared food tax collections. In total, the project would generate nearly $1.3 million in tax revenue per year.  
●    Construction Impacts: Construction of the Convention Center is also estimated to generate significant economic impact and job creation for the area. Over a two-year period, the construction process is estimated to generate nearly $37 million in net new direct spending, $62 million in total economic output, and support 440 full-time equivalent jobs.  

“We’ve needed a space for the growing market of conferences and conventions and resoundingly, planners have indicated they’d support a new facility in Lincoln,” added Maul.  “Not only would this help us bring back many meetings of state organizations and associations, but we’d anticipate a significant growth in regional and national events. The Lincoln Chamber of Commerce and Visit Lincoln are thrilled to be a part of the public/private partnership that will make a downtown convention center a reality for our community.”

“I’m especially thrilled with the fact that a convention center in downtown Lincoln would bring a steady flow of people to the area,” said Todd Ogden, President & CEO of Downtown Lincoln Association. “We love the crowds that live event venues bring, and adding a regular schedule of tourists throughout the year would be of real benefit to the hotels, restaurants and shops downtown.”

A new Lincoln Convention Center would be a positive catalyst for the community in a variety of other ways in addition to conferences and conventions. These include attracting new people to the city, offering meeting and gathering space for local activities, leveling the peak and valley nature of athletic and concert events downtown, spin-off development of adjacent property and enhancing the overall quality of life for Lincoln. The new facility would not only be a catalyst for Lincoln and the surrounding area, but for the entire state as well.