Downtown businesses excited about prospect of Lincoln convention center

What started as just a study last year now has many Lincoln business owners eyeing an opportunity down the road to cash in on a downtown convention center.
Published: Jan. 19, 2023 at 10:52 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - What started as just a study last year now has many Lincoln business owners eyeing an opportunity down the road to cash in on a downtown convention center.

There’s still a long way ways to go if it were to become a reality but the City of Lincoln is confident it will. As for when it could all start coming together, it’s too early to say.

At the Cornhusker Hotel, where there are rooms with a view of the Capital City, the general manager sees a downtown primed for growth.

“It’s impossible to not have a very significant impact on the economy,” Lippe said of a convention center.

Of five potential sites for such a building, one is just feet from his front doors.

“You do a couple of hundred events a year and you’re talking tens of thousands of new visitors into Lincoln,” Lippe said.

“Visit Lincoln” along with the “Downtown Lincoln Association” commissioned a national firm to explore the idea and the firm sees it paying off in a big way, despite a bit of a cost to build it. CSL International estimates the bill could reach upwards of $120 million, but once up and running, would bring nearly $19 million to the city’s economy each year along with 230 new jobs each year.

“All the hotels in the region will probably jump 5% to 10% occupancy for a year,” Lippe said. “That equates to front desk agents, restaurant employees, culinary, dishwashers, managers.”

At the Nebraska State Capitol, Senator Anna Wishart has introduced a bill that would create a one-time $60 million fund from surplus state cash to get the project started.

“It will allow us to be competitive in terms of posting some of the regional and statewide national events that pass us by,” Sen. Wishart said.

Other possible locations include the former Lincoln Journal Star production building near 9th and Q, the current site of Midwest Steel at 8th and N, the current downtown post office, or somewhere in the telegraph district.

“Whether it’s close or far from the Cornhusker or any of those areas, it will have a significant impact not only on our property but the city as a whole,” Lippe said.

The Downtown Lincoln Association said much of the timeline as to when people could see this all start to take shape hinges on that bill in the unicameral.