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Standing room only for UNL students in new arena

At least one Lincolnite is concerned about the city’s plans for its future West Haymarket arena to have “standing platforms” in the student section, rather than seats.

Arena designs unveiled last week indicate the arena will have standing platforms five to seven rows deep, rather than seats. Jane Kinsey, a member of a new Lincoln government watchdog group, questioned the wisdom of making students stand up during entire games during the Thursday meeting of the Joint Public Agency overseeing the project. She said it’s not fair for students to have to stand.

(JPA member Jayne Snyder apparently didn’t see the Wednesday front-page story on this, “Isn’t that the football stadium?” she asked during the meeting. Nope. It’s your arena.)

Stan Meradith of DLR, the architect, said the Nebraska athletic department requested standing platforms, which are typical in arenas nationwide, he said.

“They want their students to stand,” he said. “We easily could put in seats and benches.”

UNL Regent Tim Clare said when the university, the city’s partner, says that’s what they want in the arena, the JPA should honor their request.

“We could put seats there (but) they’re not gonna use ’em, they’re gonna stand,” Clare said. “That’s the way it’s been, that’s the way it is around the country.”

In fact, Clare said Marc Boehm of the UNL Athletic Department was adamant that they want standing platforms on three sides of the court.

As an aside, I found it funny how in the LJS story cited above, the writer quickly pivoted from the students’ standing issue to whether season ticket-holders would have any trouble seeing over the standers.


Cleanup of diesel spill taking longer than planned

According to public documents, the cleanup of a diesel plume in the area targeted for Lincoln’s new arena will take longer than originally planned and cost about $400,000 more than projected.

The arena development is largely taking place on the active railyard west of the Haymarket — where there is a diesel plume about the size of a city block northwest of Lincoln Station. General Excavating of Lincoln was hired to remove the diesel.

The three-member Joint Public Agency overseeing construction of the project will be asked Thursday to approve a change order that will — among other things — give the excavating company more time to do the job. The documents indicate originally the contractor was scheduled to begin work Dec. 22 and finish the remediation of the diesel spill in 55 days, by Feb. 15. But due to delay of approval of the contract, the “notice to proceed” wasn’t issued until Jan. 13.

General Excavating argued weather caused delays, too, but the city said weather delays should have been taken into account when the company submitted its bid, since the work was to be done during the winter and the city had “unseasonably favorable” conditions during most of that time frame. The city is proposing that the JPA grant a seven-day extension due to weather to account for blizzard conditions the first week of February.

The JPA will also be asked to grant a 25-day extension due to BNSF’s delay in completing an overhead power line relocation and no temporary power to do the work.

All in all, the change order will change the target date for the work to be substantially completed to May 10.

“While the West Haymarket Redevelopment Project is on a very aggressive timeline, we understand that there may be additional requests for extensions of time due to unforeseen circumstances,” Ernesto Castillo of the Urban Development Department wrote to the contractor.


Arena board gets OK to use eminent domain to take two properties if needed

The board overseeing financing and construction of Lincoln’s $340 million arena project approved the use of condemnation — or eminent domain — to buy two pieces of property for the project.

After an executive session — a portion of the meeting that is closed to the public to talk about real estate negotiations — the Joint Public Agency unanimously voted to authorize the use of condemnation to “take” property owned by Alter Trading Co. (which owns Alter Metal Recycling, a scrap yard south of the Harris Overpass) and the Watson-Brickson Lumber yard owned by Jaylynn, a limited liability corporation if necessary.

Assistant City Attorney Rick Peo said the city and two property owners have been negotiating for months on what will be a “fairly complex” relocation. He said alternative sites for the scrap yard and lumber yard are difficult to find, and negotiations are “coming to impasse.” Railroad track work must begin this year, and the JPA needs to either acquire the properties or terminate rail services by May 8 to stay on schedule, Peo said. That’s why he said the “possibility of condemnation” is needed to get legal title to the land by then.

“This is a timing issue,” said Dan Marvin, who coordinates arena work for the JPA.

JPA member Tim Clare — a University of Nebraska regent — said he did “due diligence” and talked to the “players” involved in negotiations, and he said the property owners’ representatives were “very complimentary” and understand the situation. He said condemnation would only be used if necessary.

Peo said a condemnation hearing date would be scheduled to award damages, but negotiations would continue in the meantime.

“It buys you time,” he said of condemnation authority.

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