Dial back the clock to 2010, when Lincoln voters went to the polls in May to vote on $25 million in initial public financing for a new arena with a $360 million price tag.
In 2010, the Pershing Center was Lincoln's civic venue, but sporting events downtown seemingly amounted to the annual rodeo, a visit by the Harlem Globetrotters and state high school tournaments. Well, the state basketball tournament, that is. The NSAA moved the state volleyball tournament out of Pershing after the nets came down in 2009.
City leaders told voters Lincoln was overdue for a new civic venue.
To the north of downtown, Husker basketball teams called the Devaney Sports Center home. But university leaders were at a crossroads, too, seeing attendance drop and hearing more and more from fans who were no longer satisfied with driving to the abandoned fairgrounds for a game and having no options after the final buzzer but to walk into the cold, dodge mud puddles on the way back to the car and drive away.
No bars and restaurants within walking distance. Only former pig barns.
Years later, sports fans can look back on that 2010 vote, and the 2013 opening of Pinnacle Bank Arena, and see a scorebook filled with big wins. A building with a buzz has changed the dynamic surrounding Husker basketball, drawn international competitions and championship bouts to Lincoln and prompted the NSAA to bring the state volleyball tournament back to town.
Here's a look at several of the significant sports-related advancements that can be traced to Lincoln's new arena.
A knockout punch
Terence "Bud" Crawford is a big draw as the boxer many consider the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, so it was a big deal for Pinnacle Bank Arena to land his August 2017 title fight against Julius Indongo.
Before the new arena opened, Lincoln would be beating itself in the head in promoting the idea of ESPN cameras capturing a big-time boxing event in the city.
Instead, Crawford's fight drew 10,000 and Lincoln could promote itself as a big-time sports market without the Huskers involved.
Earlier this year, UFC Fight Night was televised live nationally from Lincoln.
High marks for hoops
Pinnacle Bank Arena was built to host concerts and events of all shape and sizes, but those involved in the design made certain that the venue first and foremost would be a great place to watch basketball.
The arena drew rave reviews from the opening tip, and Nebraska basketball saw a bump in attendance — and performance — in the venue's initial 2013-14 season.
The Huskers capped off the inaugural year with a wild win over Wisconsin on what will forever be remembered as No-Sit Sunday.
Five years later, even as the Huskers have experienced ups and downs on the court, fans continue to buy tickets and the arena has certainly heightened the buzz surrounding the men's basketball program.
The Husker women's basketball team continues to rank in the top 20 nationally in attendance.
Basketball games likely won't ever reach the level of Husker football games for event status, but the West Haymarket is a place to be in the winter when hoops season is hot.
A spike for volleyball
With practice facilities for the Nebraska basketball teams in place, and men's and women's basketball games moving to the arena, there was an opening of sorts for the volleyball program.
The Huskers, which had sold out volleyball matches for years at the NU Coliseum, made the big move to Devaney for the 2013 season. But with the move came a dramatic makeover of Devaney.
The renovated building includes five suites, ceiling trusses that mimic the Coliseum and a high definition center-hung video board. There are seats for more fans — crowds of 4,000 at the Coliseum have swelled to 8,000 at Devaney — and fan amenities include more concession options, better restroom facilities and more space in the concourse areas.
Nebraska now annually leads the nation in attendance.
A new state tournament hub
When the NSAA moved the state volleyball tournament from Lincoln to Grand Island for the 2010 event, it came down to this: The Pershing Center was viewed by visitors as a dump.
But once Lincoln's new arena was online, the tournament returned to Lincoln in 2014, with quarterfinal and semifinal matches at Pinnacle Bank Arena before championship matches shift to the Huskers' home court — the Devaney Sports Center.
Pinnacle Bank Arena hosts all rounds of the state high school basketball tournaments, and while the venue provides a great place for teams, it also has been a magnet for fans.
Between sessions, fans spill out of the arena and visit the Railyard, or other bars, restaurants and retail stores in the West Haymarket, Haymarket or downtown areas.
March Madness arrives
Fans yearn for the year the NCAA men's basketball tournament plays early-round games at Pinnacle Bank Arena. No one will say for certain, but it's assumed that Lincoln is minus a few full-service hotels necessary to meet presumed qualifications to be a part of March Madness.
In 2014, however, the NCAA dangled the carrot of a women's regional to Lincoln, and then shipped world-beater Connecticut to Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Geno Auriemma loved Lincoln enough to schedule a UConn return trip for a regular-season game in 2016.
So you want a sporting event with a lot on the line? Pinnacle Bank Arena delivered that in January 2016, as international volleyball teams met in Lincoln for the NORCECA Olympic Qualification Tournament.
Local fans turned out 10,000 strong as the U.S. national team, with hometown favorites Kelsey Robinson, Jordan Larson and Kayla Banwarth on board, swept the Dominican Republic to earn an Olympic spot.
Yes, the road to Rio de Janeiro went through Lincoln.
Dec. 15, 2004
The city releases the Convention, Sports and Leisure study to the public, identifying a spot adjacent to Lincoln’s main post office as its preferred site among five for a 12,000-seat arena that’s estimated to cost $50 million.
The economic downturn put plans on hold for a couple years before the topic re-emerged, albeit in a much larger form.
Jan. 9, 2008
The arena committee announced its choice for a potential arena would indeed be in the West Haymarket. Both the Vision 2015 group and University of Nebraska-Lincoln leaders involved in the project supported the decision.
Shortly thereafter, Mayor Chris Beutler promised to take an initiative to Lincoln voters to determine if they wanted to pay for a facility — forecast to cost between $200 million and $300 million — that would rival what was then known as Qwest Center Omaha and replace Pershing Auditorium.
Feb. 9, 2010
Though Beutler had originally indicated voters would have their say on a potential new arena during municipal elections in the spring of 2009, it took until 2010 for the Lincoln City Council to agree to put a portion of the financing up for a public vote.
Following a parade of testimony — most of which was in support — the council voted to put a $25 million funding question on the 2010 primary ballot. At the same meeting, council members approved plans to include UNL in the joint public agency that would help finance the arena and for the Husker men’s and women’s basketball teams to play in the city-owned arena.
May 11, 2010
By a 56-44 margin, Lincoln voters approved a $25 million general obligation bond — the public portion of the financing, to go along with $319 million in bonds issued by the JPA to build a 16,000-seat arena in the West Haymarket area in what was the largest public works project in the city’s history, at a total cost of $344 million.
With its passage came two taxes to help pay for the arena construction and maintenance — 2 percent surcharges on restaurant and bar sales and 4 percent taxes on hotel rooms and car rentals — and plans to build an entertainment district across the street that later became known as the Railyard.
Nov. 16, 2010
Lincoln’s downtown footprint shifts, as construction equipment begins work on the West Haymarket arena site. The former site of railroad tracks began its transformation from a blighted area into a crown jewel of the city center.
For nearly three years, it underwent the metamorphosis that converted a remnant of the heavy industry that once abutted downtown Lincoln to the west to an arena with rounded edges and distinctive silver paneling around its upper levels.
Dec. 6, 2011
Beutler announces the West Haymarket arena will be named Pinnacle Bank Arena. The agreement calls for the bank to pay $11.25 million for the naming rights for 25 years, with the option to renew.
"We're happy with the name,” said arena coordinator and former City Councilman Dan Marvin that day. “We think it reflects the direction that Lincoln is going."
Sept. 13, 2013
Michael Bublé opened Pinnacle Bank Arena on Friday the 13th, with a rousing show for a sold-out crowd. The concert featured plenty of his own numbers, in addition to songs by Frank Sinatra, the Beatles, Jackson 5, Daft Punk, Van Morrison and Nat King Cole.
He was the first of many performers in the building to pay homage to the Huskers, revealing a No. 13 jersey beneath his tuxedo during the concert.
“I feel honored you chose me to open this up,” he told the inaugural crowd.
Dec. 1, 2013
An hour into rapper Jay Z’s concert, the power went out — the first mishap in Pinnacle Bank Arena’s short existence.
For 40 minutes, the high-energy show ground to a halt until the lights shined once again. He returned to the stage — wearing a No. 93 Blackshirts jersey — for what the Journal Star’s review called at the time “the liveliest Pinnacle Bank Arena show yet.”
“We turned up too loud in Nebraska,” Jay Z told the crowd. “We broke the (expletive) building. I appreciate every one of you in the building that stayed and rocked with me.”
March 9, 2014
Nearly five years later, the three-word name still elicits fond memories from Nebrasketball fans: No-Sit Sunday.
Before an electric record crowd of 15,998, the Husker men’s basketball team upset No. 9 Wisconsin 77-68 en route to an at-large NCAA tournament berth, the team’s first — and only — since 1999. No event at the facility, before or after, can claim larger attendance.
March 31, 2014
Though the Nebraska women’s basketball team was upset one game shy of playing on its home floor in the Lincoln Regional, the Sweet 16 round went on. Eventual national champion UConn emerged from the four-team field over BYU, Texas A&M and DePaul.
"All we heard before we came here was how amazing the facilities and the people were,” Huskies coach Geno Auriemma told the crowd after cutting down the nets. “If I have anything to do with it, we'll be back."
He was a man of his word. UConn returned to Lincoln on Dec. 21, 2016, and secured an 84-41 victory over the Huskers.
Jan. 17, 2015
In more than four decades of touring, Fleetwood Mac encountered a first in Lincoln.
The iconic rockers were unable to finish the show after founder and drummer Mick Fleetwood fell ill during the concert. After he went backstage to throw up, the band played two more songs, abruptly ending the show at 90 minutes — nearly an hour shorter than it had been running elsewhere.
Singer Stevie Nicks had promised a show and a half on the band’s return to Lincoln, which came last month. This time, Fleetwood completed a full 24 songs and 2½ hours of music.
May 21, 2015
The largest crowd ever to see a concert at Pinnacle Bank Arena, eclipsing the previous record set in 2013 by Elton John, rocked out to 28 songs by Eric Church.
According to Church’s website, the concert drew 15,823 people — making it the most attended event in arena history that wasn’t a Husker men’s basketball game. The country star entertained the packed house for 2 hours and 15 minutes, acknowledging early in the show that they were making history together.
“We’re in a place that has been very, very good to me,” he told the audience. “Tonight, you have broken a record. There have never been more people in this arena than there are tonight. That means we’re going to be here for a long time and play a lot of songs.”
Church later opened his 2017 “Holdin’ My Own” tour in Lincoln, noting that the attendance and energy were major reasons for that decision.
March 24, 2018
The show went on for Lorde — but it wasn’t without a close call.
The singer from New Zealand asked her fans on social media if she should go ahead with her Lincoln show if the full stage performance — one she’d designed herself and considered an integral part of her live performance — was unable to arrive in time for the concert. A snowstorm and a wreck elsewhere stranded one of her equipment trucks en route to Pinnacle Bank Arena.
More than 100 people encouraged her to take the stage regardless. In the end, the momentary panic was for naught, as the truck arrived 45 minutes before the doors opened, and the lighting in it was installed during an intermission between the opener, Run the Jewels, and the headliner.
Sept. 6, 2018
Metallica didn’t set the record for largest crowd in what was the closest thing to a fifth-anniversary concert, but it was the largest show in arena history in terms of weight.
The hard rockers hung 100 tons of audio and visual equipment from the rafters in their first-ever appearance in Lincoln. Few venues could withstand the stress of supporting that much weight, but Pinnacle Bank Arena was built with such A-list displays in mind.