It's been 433 days since dignitaries turned dirt at a groundbreaking for the Pinnacle Bank Arena.

It will be 276 days until it's finished, according to the countdown clocks handed out when it started.

But Wednesday, on 12/12/12, officials, construction workers, Husker cheerleaders and nearly everyone involved in the project that started nearly a decade ago, gathered inside the arena shell for another milestone.

The topping-out ceremony is a construction tradition dating back centuries and takes place when the final beam is set into place at the building's highest point.

And as is traditional, the arena's final beam carried an evergreen tree and a flag as it was hoisted into place.  

“The tree symbolizes growth and brings good luck, and our beautiful American flag symbolizes a nation of people committed to hard work and freedom,” Mayor Chris Beutler told the 150 people in attendance. 

And in this ceremony, the evergreen was adorned with Christmas lights, and the beam, signed by more than 3,000 people, wasn't actually put in place, just hoisted into the air.

There was plenty of fanfare -- band members, cheerleaders and workers joined the ceremony.

“This redevelopment is about jobs and, even more importantly, it is about people," Beutler said. "Today, we honor the people on the ground who truly are doing the heavy lifting.

"The arena workers have put so much pride and sweat equity into this project. We cannot thank them enough for the amazing job they are doing.”

The arena construction team has achieved 180 days and more than 500,000 worker hours without a safety incident.

The list of speakers included Beutler, Gov. Dave Heineman, Councilman and arena Joint Public Agency member Gene Carroll, University of Nebraska Regent and JPA member Tim Clare, Hampton Construction President and CEO Bob Caldwell, Chamber of Commerce President Wendy Birdsall, NU athletic director Tom Osborne and Mortenson Construction Project Manager John Hinshaw.

"We are forever changing the skyline of the city," Beutler said. "In my three decades of office, I have never seen a working group so politically, socially and economically diverse become so unified for one purpose."

Osborne said the arena will be one of the best places to watch college basketball in the country.

Clare said they can't change that 44 percent of people voted against the arena, but he hopes they appreciate the arena.

"We can't change their mind, but we hope they at least say that the project has been done right," he said. "We've tried to be transparent and keep our word of being on time, on budget and use local workers."

Members of the Dinsdale family, who own Pinnacle Bank, Husker basketball coaches Tim Miles and Connie Yori and incoming NU athletic director Shawn Eichorst also attended.

Reach Jordan Pascale at 402-473-7120, jpascale@journalstar.com or follow him @LJSPascale.