City says UNL paid arena rent; UNL says it paid no rent — who’s right?

RENT: The city and University of Nebraska officials recently settled up after the first season of basketball in the arena. They had different takes on the outcome.

By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog

LINCOLN, Neb. – Ask University of Nebraska-Lincoln officials how much they paid to play in the Pinnacle Bank Arena this year, and they say nothing. Ask city officials how much UNL paid to play, and they say more than $300,000.

Who’s right? Both of them.

Why? It’s complicated.

According to UNL’s lease, the Huskers pay $750,000 in rent annually, but they get the following credits against that:

• $300,000 for lost concession revenue — since the UNL no longer makes money off concessions as it did at the Devaney Center;

• All sales tax revenue the state turns back over to the city from the sale of basketball tickets. Game tickets generated $211,812 in turn-back revenue — 70 percent of which goes to UNL, for a total of $148,268.

• The first dollar of ticket surcharges on basketball tickets. A total of 330,763 basketball tickets were sold, for a credit of $330,763.

Do the math, and UNL is owed about $29,000.

But city Finance Director Steve Hubka said UNL sells its own basketball tickets and collects the $1 surcharge; it never transferred the ticket surcharges to the city, so the city didn’t credit them.

“For some reason we thought they’d pay it … and they’d get it back,” Hubka said. “They didn’t actually pay it. There was no reason to send it to us and send it right back.”

So when Lincoln and UNL officials met on May 15 to settle up, the surcharge credit was excluded, since UNL already has it, leaving the school with a $301,732 rent bill, according to documents provided by Hubka. But the rent bill was more than offset by the $330,763 in ticket surcharges UNL collected and kept.

Rent wasn’t the only issue ironed out at the meeting. UNL was also owed $127,600 rent from its three suites and half of loge box revenue, which amounted to $180,000 (minus sales commission). Altogether, the city owed UNL $167,400 and UNL owed $174,132.

Earlier this month, Chris Anderson, UNL’s director of athletic community relations, said the university expected its credits to exceed rental charges, and that it would not have to pay any rent.

While it may seem as if the city and university are putting different spins on the rent situation, Hubka said the meeting went well and UNL officials were happy with their first season playing in the arena.

“There wasn’t any disagreement ,really,” Hubka said. “From our point of view, we’re collecting rent from them. They may look at it differently.”

Anderson didn’t comment on how the numbers shook out but earlier this month released a statement to us, saying, “Nebraska Athletics, the city and SMG have enjoyed working together, and this first season proved to be very successful.”

The men’s basketball team sold out season tickets six months before the season began and attracted about 5,000 more fans per game this season, while the women’s team ranked eighth in the nation in attendance. The two teams had a combined home record of 31 wins in 34 games.

Contact Deena Winter at deena@nebraskawatchdog.org. Follow Deena on Twitter at @DeenaNEWatchdog

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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