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03.11.2014
Switching Yards
New Pinnacle Bank Arena catalyzes development in a Lincoln, Nebraska train yard.
Lincoln's new Pinnacle Bank Arena seats 15,000 people.
Lawrence Anderson Photography

When it opened in the fall, Lincoln, Nebraska’s new arena created more than a venue—it made a new neighborhood from a tangle of train tracks. The Pinnacle Bank Arena is in the West Haymarket district of Lincoln, an area that until now was largely a rail yard. “It was a catalyst for the rejuvenation of downtown Lincoln. There’s blocks that just didn’t exist two years ago,” said Erleen Hatfield, a Lincoln native and the Buro Happold principal in charge of the project. “Those tracks are no longer strangling development.”

Architecture firm DLR Group nestled its design between active train lines so traffic could continue throughout construction. To further expedite the process, overseen by Mortenson Construction, the firm used a steel and concrete composite structure that could be partially fabricated off-site by Minneapolis’ LeJeune Steel Company.

 
 

Hatfield said the arena’s relatively low profile was a response to the neighborhood’s brick warehouses, which are typically between two to five stories. The building’s 350-foot-span steel truss roof, which is sloped just enough to allow for drainage, and masonry piers also respond to the post-industrial surroundings. A glassy main entrance atrium fronts onto a public plaza and a second floor terrace overlooks the plaza. “It creates a nice and inviting space to be in,” said Hatfield. “It’s not like you go into the arena and it’s this dark enclosed box.” Pedestrians can bypass the arena via an elevated walkway.

   
 

The arena seats 15,000 people. University of Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium, where the Cornhuskers play, is only half a mile away. It seats 81,000. There’s also a nearby minor league baseball stadium. These sports facilities are forming a new entertainment district in Lincoln. Hotels, restaurants, and bars are also on the rise with new openings scheduled through the fall of 2014. Several parking garages and infrastructure updates are slated to open next year, too. The Lincoln West Haymarket Joint Public Agency has helped attract funding for development in the area, including an 80,000 square foot office complex.

“There’s this air of excitement about everything that’s going on downtown,” said Hatfield, “which I think has been missing from Lincoln for a while.”

Chris Bentley