Lincoln cancels $24,000 annual contract for rah-rah Haymarket website

Matt Masin for Nebraska Watchdog
Part 9 of 9 in the series Lincoln Arena

OPEN: Lincoln is canceling a $24,000 annual contract to maintain a website largely promoting the West Haymarket downtown development now that its anchor arena is open.

By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog

LINCOLN, Neb. – Lincoln has ended its $24,000 annual contract with a Lincoln company to maintain a promotional website and Facebook page touting the city’s $376 million downtown redevelopment project called West Haymarket.

As reported by Nebraska Watchdog in April 2012, the city hired the Thought District in late 2010 to create the Haymarket NOW website and Facebook page. The Haymarket NOW site no longer works, since the contract ended with 2013.

The initial contract paid the Lincoln firm $1,500 to create the Facebook page alone. The new contract paid the company $2,000 per month to keep the website updated with new content and “provide high-quality marketing copy” to interact with website visitors.

But the joint public agency overseeing construction and financing of the West Haymarket is canceling the contract now that the development’s anchor, the Pinnacle Bank Arena, is open.

The Thought District’s description of the purpose of the website and Facebook page said it would provide an “up-to-date, transparent view of the project,” inform the public and “curb negative sentiment and excite supporters of the arena.” In other words, lots of promotion and cheerleading. But the site also had JPA meeting agendas, background documents, construction contracts and bid information.

City officials say the public will still be able to see JPA meeting agendas, minutes and other documents on the city website,, by clicking on WH JPA on the home page or typing in the keyword “west.” Some older records and reports are being moved to the city’s website and should be available in the next several months, according to a city press release.

Thought District CEO and Founder Eric Dinger told Nebraska Watchdog in April 2012 he was charging $100 an hour, which he said was below market value and allowed his company to break even.

The contract did not allow his company to charge any more than $2,000 a month, so that works out to about 20 hours a month. At the time, the least amount of time his company put into the job was 18 hours, and the most was 48, he said.

Contact Deena Winter at Follow Deena on Twitter at @DeenaNEWatchdog

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