Gov. Dave Heineman was there, as was Mayor Chris Beutler and University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Harvey Perlman.

Even City Councilwoman Jayne Snyder, who recently announced plans to resign because of health reasons, spoke to those who attended the West Haymarket arena groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday, requiring help to step down from the stage.

They joined other city and university officials in the formality of turning over a spade of dirt at the future site of the $150 million arena.

"I can stand here and hear the crowds cheering," Snyder said. "I can stand here and look at a vision: People milling through the street, festivals, football games, basketball games, concerts, all bringing great economic development to the city of Lincoln."

Noticeably absent, however, were representatives of the only definite tenants of the 16,000-seat arena. Neither Nebraska men's head basketball coach Doc Sadler nor women's head coach Connie Yori were there.

Nebraska Athletic Director Tom Osborne, scheduled to speak at the event, also was a no-show. He later issued a statement saying, "I had something come up this morning that prevented me from attending."

In the months leading up to last year's public vote, Osborne was a front man in promoting the importance of the arena to bolstering Nebraska's basketball programs and in the city keeping and attracting high school state tournaments.

When asked about Osborne's absence, Perlman referred a Journal Star reporter to Osborne.

Dan Marvin, who monitors the arena construction for the Joint Public Agency, said the city and university still are hammering out details of a lease agreement for the arena.

He said he expected the legal agreement, which spells out details such as who benefits from revenues generated by the arena and what access the university has to the building, to be finalized yet this month.

"I've been assured that all the issues have been worked out, that it would be forthcoming," Marvin said of the agreement.

Meanwhile, a white construction helmet reserved for one of the Huskers' mascots, with the words "Lil' Red" taped on the front, lay unused at the groundbreaking site.

Those who were on hand focused on the achievements of the past two years.

"It's great to see the products of partnerships. We know they are critically important, that things don't get done without them," Perlman said. "This project is clearly an example of that."

NU Regent Tim Clare, who serves with Beutler and Snyder on the JPA, described work on the arena as proceeding on time and on budget and said the process for completing the work has been done transparently.

"I'm pleased to inform you that the heavy digging begins next week, on time," he said.

​Reach Kevin Abourezk at 402-473-7225 or


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