Tag Archives: FEI World Cup

Omaha is 120 Years Old (In Tourism Years)

May 15, 2018 by

The year of 1898 was a huge tourism year for Omaha. It was the year that an event lasted five months and attracted 2.6 million people from around the world—the Trans-Mississippi and International Expo, also known as the Omaha World’s Fair.         

It was no accident that Omaha played host to this event; it was all by design. The tourist attraction was the innovative vision of a small committee of local businessmen who understood that tourism meant big business and could provide a boost to the local economy. The fair had an economic impact of almost $2 million dollars, an equivalent of more than $54 million by today’s standards.  And it all started with a small group of business leaders with an idea.

Omaha has a long history of small committees doing big things. In 1950, four men who loved baseball had the vision to bring the NCAA Men’s College World Series to Omaha—Ed Pettis of Brandeis Department Stores, Morris Jacobs and Byron W. Reed of Bozell & Jacobs, and then-Mayor of Omaha Johnny Rosenblatt. The first games played in Omaha had a total attendance of 17,805. Over the years, College World Series of Omaha Inc., a local nonprofit organizing committee, was formed to sell tickets, plan special events, and rally community support for the series. Today the average attendance is more than 20,000 people per game.

It was the belief of a local woman, Lisa Yanney Roskens, and her love of horses that played a big part in Omaha hosting the 2017 FEI World Cup Horse Jumping and Dressage Finals. While there were many people involved, she played a key role in presenting the proposal to the international committee members in Lausanne, Switzerland, and convincing them that Omaha was the right place to host the event. More than 50,000 people from around the world attended the competition, putting the city on an international stage. 

Junkstock is another Omaha event that started with an idea from Sarah Alexander, a stay-at-home mom with a passion for vintage pieces. She envisioned a place where junk enthusiasts could find some of the best antiques and repurposed art in the region. Junkstock started in 2012 with 29 vendors. This fall more than 200 vendors and 23 food trucks will be on site to welcome more than 10,000 guests through the gates. To accommodate the demand, Alexander purchased Sycamore Farms, a 135-acre century-old horse farm which now hosts three premier junk festivals every year. 

Some of the names you may recognize, while others may not be as well-known. Each person named helped with events that brought thousands of out-of-town visitors to our city and millions of dollars to our local economy. And they all started with an idea, a few creative minds, and faith in Omaha as a destination.


This column was printed in the June/July 2018 edition of B2B.

Keith Backsen is executive director of the Omaha Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Lisa Roskens

January 10, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

A group of horses first caught Lisa Yanney Roskens’ attention from a picturesque pasture beside her childhood home in Bloomfield Hills, a subdivision near Westroads Mall. Ever since, she has been enamored with horses.

By the time she was 5 years old, her parents, Gail and Michael Yanney, bought her a pony named Taffy. A year later, Roskens began taking Western riding lessons, and by her preteens, she joined Jan Mactier at Ponca Hills Farm and began learning English riding. She rode and competed in equitation (the art of riding) through high school, through her college years at Stanford University, and eventually sold her horse upon returning to Omaha in the early 1990s.

At that point, she began running instead of riding. But her former riding master knew where Roskens’ heart lay.

“Jan called me up one day and said, ‘let’s go for a ride’ and I’ve never gone back,” Roskens says.

Roskens began training again, in earnest, eventually getting back to competition. She rekindled her passion for horses, and in 2009, began looking at bringing the sport to Omaha when she attended the FEI World Cup in Las Vegas, the world’s top equestrian event.

afterhours2“I was a junkie, and I went to see my heroes, and I wanted to see what this top level competition was like,” Roskens says. “I was overwhelmed at the level of horsemen, but I was underwhelmed with the facility, the layout, and how everything was set up, from both a spectator’s perspective and a horseman’s perspective.”

She began to work towards bringing the event to Omaha.

“I found some friends. What does a girl do but get all of her friends together and say, ‘let’s figure out how to solve this problem,’ ” Roskens says lightheartedly.

The friends she brought together included businesspeople, horse people, and marketing and promotions people. She brought onboard Harold Cliff of the Omaha Sports Commission, whom Roskens says was “incredibly helpful.” By 2013, she and her friends watched their sport in their hometown (at the International Omaha), and last year, they won their bid to secure the 2017 World Cup. Omaha’s bid beat out London, Hong Kong, and ’s-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands.

“To be honest, I thought the bid was kind of a trial run,” Roskens says. “We threw everything we had at it, but I really thought they’d get to know us, and we’d win for 2018. The entire equestrian community was surprised, and pleased.”

Roskens, who trains on two horses six days a week, frequently rides in the mornings before getting ready for her day job as chairman and CEO of Burlington Capital. While she pondered riding professionally in the past, she appreciates that her business acumen can bring knowledge to this sport.

“It’s easy to get caught up in how things are done and not look at them with innovation and a fresh set of eyes,” Roskens says. “That’s what I can bring to my sport.”

Roskens also credits some advice given to her by her parents for allowing her to keep her hobby as a hobby.

“Back when I was in high school, and I was considering becoming a professional rider, they said, ‘remember, when your hobby becomes your career, it’s no longer voluntary, and it changes the nature of your hobby fundamentally,’” she remembers. 

So while it may seem as though Roskens has two careers, she is happy to continue pursuing riding as a hobby.

“[People who turn hobbies into careers] go at it with this joy, this sense of fun, which is great, but if you don’t know how to balance your books, and you don’t know how to negotiate a lease, you either need to find someone who does, or you need to learn how,” she says.

Roskens and her friends have learned how, and that has enabled them to bring a world-class event to Omaha. When the FEI World Cup rolls into town in April, visitors will find an event that has been set up by a team of disciplined and passionate horsemen ready to welcome (and take on) the world.

Visit omahaworldcup2017.com for more information.

afterhours1

Of Omaha, Oats, And Ovations

September 11, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Three years from now, a very special group of athletes will board a chartered flight in Belgium bound for Eppley Airfield. And when the cadre of world-class competitors strap on the proverbial feedbag for an in-flight meal somewhere over the Atlantic, they’ll be strapping on…well, actual feedbags.

Belgium will be the embarkation point for the European contingent of horses that will vie for the 2017 FEI World Cup Jumping and Dressage Finals at the CenturyLink Center Omaha.

Omaha beat out London, Hong Kong, and the Dutch city of ‘s-Hertogenboscht to land the event—the grandest stage in the world of equestrian jumping and dressage (pronounced dress-AHGE). The World Cup will be hosted by The International Omaha, which has held equestrian jumping events of the same name in each of the last three years at the CenturyLink Center Omaha.

“I care about horses and I care about Omaha,” says Lisa Roskens, “and I wanted to bring the two of them together.” Roskens is the chairman of the board and chief executive officer of the Burlington Capital Group. “These are two things that I’ve worked really hard to develop—my sport and my city—and now people all over the world are excited about Omaha. To host the sport’s premier event in our own little town is a feeling that is…indescribable.”

The World Cup will feature four days of competition surrounded by a weeklong celebration of Omaha as individual champions are crowned in both jumping and dressage.

In preparation for the World Cup, The International Omaha 2015 will introduce dressage for the first time. Dressage is the sport where horse and rider are expected to perform from memory a series of intricate, predetermined movements—think something akin to ballet, but for horses.

The 2015 FEI World Cup will be held in Las Vegas the week before The International Omaha, and Roskens expects a strong presence of international competitors anxious to check out the facilities, city, and vibe of the site of the next American-hosted World Cup.

“Every year of the International Omaha has been better than the last,” Roskens says, “Next year’s event will be huge for us, and 2017 will be off the charts.”

Roskens’ passion for horses perhaps explains how a fledging group could launch an event like The International Omaha and—a mere three short years later—find themselves being awarded the bid for the most luminous spotlight in the world of equestrian sports.

“Every instinct of a horse is to shed anything that attempts to climb up on its back,” Roskens says. “But they allow us to do just that. We climb on their backs to do all the crazy things we ask them to do. It goes against the very essence of their being, but the result—that harmony when horse and rider are one—is absolutely magnificent.”

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