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Chi Health Center Omaha interior event and sporting venue. Stadium seating filled during a concert performance with lighting above

Client Q&A: 20 Years of Top-Tier Events & Partnership

Don Barnum

Reflecting on the past 20 years, the City of Omaha’s investment in the CHI Health Center Omaha | Convention Center and Arena is a clear success story. The venue has attracted world-class events to the city and become a catalyst for development in the area, further enriching the surrounding community. Our innovative and flexible design has stood the test of time and enabled the Metropolitan Entertainment & Convention Authority to book a wide variety of top tier performances and athletic events year-over-year, including hosting the NCAA Women’s Volleyball Final Four Championship.

Join us as we revisit this project via a Q&A with our client partner, Roger Dixon, President/CEO of MECA; Don Barnum, Global Sports Leader, DLR Group; and Greg Garlock, Principal, DLR Group.

What did you set out to achieve with this project? i.e. what were the overarching goals for the facility and its impact on the City of Omaha?

RD: Many in the Omaha community complained about the lack of entertainment offered in our city. Our goal was to make our facility the “go-to place” to be entertained.

Tell us about the project design. What were the key design features for us to consider and get right with this project to ensure success?

GG: Flexibility was the key. This facility needed to support everything from basketball to hockey to a concert and even events no one could envision at the time, like the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials. The thoughtful design components that offered this flexibility while providing premier guest and worker experiences have been vital to its long-term success.

How has the project exceeded your expectations? Do you have any data points linked to the original goals of the project?

RD: Even 20 years later, this venue continues to attract national sports and entertainment events. In the planning stage of this facility, the expectation was that we would lose money in the first ten years. We generated a profit from the first year and continued to do so every year thereafter.

What about this facility helped it attract top tier performances and events, and continue to do so for 20 years?

RD: The ease of loading an event in and out and the ample parking in the back of our facility has garnered a national reputation. Ease of load in and out equates to less man-hours and thusly reduces costs!

What attributes of the facility have made it attractive to the NCAA and USOC for so many events?

RD: Having close to 200,000 SF of exhibit space connected to our arena gives those events ample room for additional capacity or activations – an amenity most other cities cannot offer.

Tell us about the significance of reaching this 20th Anniversary milestone.

RD: Time flies when you are successful. We pride ourselves on maintaining this venue’s top notch condition. Omaha has always been a city worth visiting – events at this facility have inspired millions of people to make the trip. MECA is just proud to play a part of this.

GG: The longevity of this facility speaks to DLR Group’s forward-thinking design approach. We understood the significance of the City’s investment and worked with them then and throughout the past 20 years, to establish a vital event venue that supports the dynamic development and growth plans for the area.

How has partnering with DLR Group positioned MECA Omaha for success with this venue?

RD: DLR Group listened to our staff and designed this facility to accommodate the many different uses we (at that time) could only dream would happen here.

How has this experience helped build the DLR Group Sports practice and brand?

DB: This facility was the first major project completed by the newly formed Sports practice at DLR Group in 2003. It is a foundational project that is still a viable example of our design and problem-solving abilities due to its status as one of the best arenas in the US.

Sum up the experience in a few words.

RD: A good partner!

DB: Great client + great design + great community = highest quality project.

Learn more about the project.

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Don Barnum
Connect with me to start a conversation ➔ Don Barnum, Global Sports Leader


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