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New Hudl building

Hudl employees work on the seventh floor of their new headquarters, near the company cafeteria, with a view of the Historic Haymarket and downtown Lincoln. 

Will Scott was all-in on Pinnacle Bank Arena and was willing to take a leap of faith that an entertainment district built near the arena would succeed.

WRK LLC, which Scott and his brother, Robert, own, was one of the principal developers, along with Chief Industries of Grand Island, of the Railyard district, a development filled with bars and restaurants south of the arena.

Scott said the area developed seamlessly out of what he jokingly said was once the "armpit of the city" — a rail yard and industrial area full of contaminated soil.

"I'm really proud of how this has all shaken out," he said.

Ryan Funke, one of the owners of Gate 25, a bar that was one of the first Railyard tenants, said it's "pretty awesome to have the arena and Railyard."

Five years ago, when Pinnacle Bank Arena opened its doors for the first time, the area around it was still mostly a blank slate. The Railyard partially opened at about the same time — with Gate 25 as one of three tenants — as did an apartment building directly across from the arena called Canopy Lofts. A Hyatt Place hotel and a condo development called Hobson Place opened the following spring.

However, it didn't take long for further development to spring up.

Before the arena even opened, Olsson announced plans for a new headquarters a couple of blocks south of the arena at Sixth and P streets. That building opened in the summer of 2014, and the company announced plans earlier this year for a second building next door.

Hudl opened up its new state-of-the-art corporate headquarters building last December at Sixth and Q streets.

Farther south, Lincoln finally got its downtown grocery store, as Canopy Street Market opened at the end of August, part of a larger development that includes apartments.

Scott said the fact that all that has developed in just five years is "nuts."

"I thought we were looking at 15 to 20 years," he said. "It's happened a lot quicker."

Instead of looking into the future, Lincoln Chamber of Commerce President Wendy Birdsall likes to look back a few years — about eight to be exact.

Birdsall said 2010, the year when voters approved construction of the arena, was "the year Lincoln emerged from its shell."

"It just kind of changed Lincoln forever," she said.

Birdsall is fond of saying that while the arena was a home run, the development around it that has ensued, "has really been a grand slam."

Not only has the arena led to new development in the areas around it, but it also has sparked development elsewhere. New hotels and restaurants have cropped up in the Haymarket, and other developments — large and small — are in various stages of building or development around downtown.

Would most of that development have occurred without the arena?

"Absolutely not," Birdsall said.

In addition to the direct economic effects it's brought — money spent on buildings, increased taxes, money spent at restaurants — the arena has also had intangible effects.

One of the big ones has been in attracting workers to Lincoln.

People today are "looking for a place to live first and work second," Birdsall said, and the arena and Railyard have played a big role in helping companies such as Hudl attract and keep workers.

Much of the talk about tech companies in Lincoln centers around Hudl, a sports video-software company, because of its success.

But Mayor Chris Beutler pointed out that the arena and surrounding development have helped play a role in making the Haymarket and West Haymarket area a technology hub that is home to dozens of local startups, as well as local offices of regional and national tech companies.

"The resulting development around the arena gave life to new, cutting-edge startups and technology companies that created new opportunities for our UNL graduates," Beutler said in an email. "This new tech hub in the West Haymarket now nurtures the young entrepreneurs who are helping Lincoln thrive and grow."

And because of the development that resulted thanks to the arena, including urban apartments and a grocery store, young people from Lincoln and elsewhere in Nebraska are choosing to stay here rather than move to a bigger city.

"The Pinnacle Bank Arena was a seismic event that altered Lincoln’s history and made us a city that could compete on a national and even, international level," he said.

Major arena milestones

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Reach the writer at 402-473-2647 or molberding@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LincolnBizBuzz.

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Business editor/reporter

Matt Olberding is a Lincoln native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been covering business for the Journal Star since 2005.

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