A University of Nebraska-Lincoln student advertising agency will take the lead in marketing, branding and promoting the new Pinnacle Bank Arena.

In the past year, at least a dozen new restaurants have opened or announced plans to open downtown. While many of those restaurants have had their eyes on the area for years, at least a few say the arena played a role in deciding to go for it.

In the late 1800s, trains carried people and goods to the western edge of the city, giving birth to restaurants, hotels, saloons and stores. More than 100 years later, a new, $184 million Pinnacle Bank Arena is luring stores, restaurants, bars and hotels.

Nebraska wants to have an opponent in place by the end of March, one from at least a mid-major conference. “It’s a challenge for other teams, because they preferably don’t want to open up a new arena," Nebraska associate athletic director Marc Boehm said.

It has risen swiftly, in glass and steel, spawning economic activity, transforming the energy of a city, and now, it looms straight ahead as motorists on Interstate 180 approach downtown Lincoln.

It will cost the city about $597 million over 35 years to pay off the money borrowed to build the Pinnacle Bank Arena and other West Haymarket public improvements.

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"This is an important building," says architect Stan Meradith. "It's not just a gymnasium. It's a major civic building, and it will be one of, if not the most important building we will build in our lifetime. To put soul into this building, through art, is important. We think this design is timeless."

Seven potential sites were identified, including State Fair Park, the Lancaster Event Center, a swath of land near First Street and Cornhusker Highway and multiple downtown blocks, including the existing site of the civic auditorium, Pershing Center.