Tag Archives: venue

Revamped Radio

March 18, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When the band Train came to Omaha’s Baxter Arena for a concert in December 2016, there were plenty of flashing lights and excited fans. “But when the lights go out and the audience starts screaming, there’s no rush like it in the world,” says Andy Ruback, general manager of NRG Media. Ruback knows a great deal about screaming fans—when a big concert comes to town the likelihood is that Ruback had his hand in the planning. His role as general manager has evolved over the years from managing radio stations to include managing events brought to town by NRG Media Live.

The business is a natural fit for NRG, which owns stations ranging from Power 106.9 to 1290 KOIL. The company was looking to the future for broadcasting and leaning toward live shows as a way to increase profitability. NRG used their strengths in connecting people to music to expand into the business of concert production. With the radio stations’ on-air talent knowing their listeners’ preferences, the media company naturally knew what acts had potential to bring in revenue, and which ones might not.

Ruback came to Omaha from Lincoln, where he served as general manager for their NRG stations. Upon his arrival at the NRG offices in Omaha in 2012, Ruback went full speed ahead. He says the intention was never to focus on live shows over radio shows; rather, he called his plans a method for “diversifying for growth.”

Concert production is a challenge that Ruback gladly accepted, but in it, found unique bumps in the road. Some of those bumps included special requirements, such as permits, that needed the legal team’s help. Shock rocker Alice Cooper, for example, required the team to acquire special insurance because of the pyrotechnics involved with his show. Ruback and his team figured out how to get the right insurance, and now know who to ask the next time someone wants to light up fireworks onstage.

Ruback says some of the more surprising challenges he and his team have faced come from smaller, more routine details.

“I would say it’s more about the crowd experience logistics,” Ruback says. “How do we try to work with the arenas to make sure there’s enough concessions on the floor? What should be the entry ticket price? What should be the price for the front row?”

Logistics is the simplest description for the business of producing concerts. Is the specific artist available at the time? Is there enough interest in this artist to fill the seats? Is a venue available on the day needed?

“We could have the great idea, and the right price, but there could be a UNO hockey game and a Lancers game on the night we want, and we’re out of luck,” Ruback says.

It is a revenue stream in which many community businesses desire to participate, and there are many ways for them to participate, including attaching their name to experiences such as meet-and-greets with the band before or after the show, and attaching their name to souvenirs. Attendees at the Train concert, for example, vied for flashing bracelets and cups branded with a sponsor’s logo. Signage prominently displayed throughout Baxter Arena featured sponsor logos.

The scenario is beneficial to everyone involved: the band gets to play to a well-attended venue, the fans get to enjoy the band, and the sponsors get to present their message in an effective way.

“On that day, no other media group is producing a concert,” Ruback says. “So you’re looking at content that advertisers want to be a part of, but no other client can do.”

The diversification proved wildly successful. Ruback says that since 2014, more than 100,000 people have attended an NRG Media Live event. Associate athletic director for University of Nebraska at Omaha Mike Kemp enjoys his business dealings with NRG Media Live and says that when Ruback puts on a concert at Baxter Arena “… it’s not just a concert—it’s an event. He has great vision and ideas and that’s the true charm of what he does.”

“I think NRG Media does a great job of engaging the community to get behind the events,” adds Kemp. NRG Media has the ability to promote coming shows using the radio stations on their roster and their strong social media presence. This equals solid attendance numbers at concerts and happy sponsors.

“Andy’s full of energy and great ideas,” Kemp says of Ruback. “He’s an honest guy with great enthusiasm for what he does.” Rubak’s vision has evolved NRG Media into much more than an organization simply running local radio stations. In fact, the next time there is a popular concert in town, there is an excellent chance that Ruback can be found there, smiling and enjoying the rush.

Visit nrgmedia.com for more information.

This article was printed in the Spring 2017 edition of B2B.

Transitorily Yours

February 22, 2017 by
Photography by Amy Lynn Straub

Editor’s note: This is the first installment in a new Encounter column focusing on millennial life by Brent Crampton. To share your significant life experiences, email millennials@omahapublications.com

Today is Jan. 7, 2017, and yesterday I walked out of House of Loom one last time. It was a place that I co-owned, DJed at, and curated events for. The scene I left was only a shell. There were no swirling lights or sounds, no Victorian lounge vibes, and certainly no lively, booze-fueled conversations. Just an echo of the life that filled that place for 5 1/2 years remained (along with the bustle of a construction crew ripping a hole in the wood floor).

Loom was many things to many people, but to me it was a lovely little social experiment that blended cultures, creatives, and communities. Categorically, it was a nightclub and event venue, but to the folks frequenting its experiences, it was a place where patrons and friends could mobilize around causes, express emotions, mourn passings, and celebrate life’s contrasts.

The influx of people was so fluid that you could not distinguish it as a straight or gay bar, but simply as a people’s bar. On its best nights, it brought together folks who normally wouldn’t intersect in our city, and lifted us out of the doldrums of our daily lives.

It is rare for a business to shut down without the force of an unpaid bill. As a friend and fellow small business owner says, it is a gift to be able to close on your own terms. And that is exactly what we did. For myself and the other owners, House of Loom was never meant to be permanent. It was a successful social experiment. And it was time to move on.

I have spent the past 13 years of my life fervently dedicated to contributing to Omaha’s nightlife. With this new year, I embark on a new chapter—one where the loud and flashy peaks of club life are swapped for the quiet joy of watching my 1-year-old baby stand on her own for the first time. Now, spontaneous social gatherings are traded for intimate dinner parties (often planned months in advance). Instead of falling asleep as the sun rises, I wake up  with the sun.

It is a different life—one with its own advantages. My prior life could never hold a candle to this new world. In fact, as I write this, my baby daughter is napping away on my chest after a messy meal of liquified plums, apples, and carrots. She is tuckered out, and so am I.

This brings me to why I am writing this column. During this next chapter of my life, I will be taking some time to hibernate in the creative womb. The invitation to turn to the reflective act of writing seemed like a synchronistic opportunity. Instead of only sharing my notions of creativity and thought from behind a DJ booth, I will gladly be able to do so in this space.

Much like my life right now, I am going to ad-lib my writing. Most likely I will touch on topics ranging from the social impact of nightlife (of course), the curiosities of parenting (because I’m new at this), food (because I get giddy when I eat good food), and inclusiveness and equality (because of our new president), all through the millennial lens of a 30-something, post-nightclub-owning new papa.

Here’s to new beginnings.

Brent Crampton previously co-owned House of Loom and is co-owner of Berry & Rye, a bar in the Old Market. A multi-award-winning DJ in a former life, he now prefers evenings spent at home with his family.

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Encounter.

The 402

February 6, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

A band takes the stage, awash in colorful lighting. Below them, an audience murmurs and sips their drinks, sitting tall or standing around various corners of the room. The first few notes of an opening song are strummed on the guitar and a cheer rises from the crowd.

This may sound like your traditional Omaha bar featuring your favorite band, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, all of the drinks were made next door to the venue at Aroma’s Coffee shop. Plus, one third of the audience is under 21. “We really think that there are a lot kids out there who are under 18 who need to be exposed to amazing talent and be inspired by greatness,” says Ben Shafer, executive director of the space.

The 402 Arts Collective in Benson is an all ages venue all the time. It’s a place to not only expose your children to music and culture, but also, it’s a chance to enjoy a night on the town even when parents can’t find a sitter.

The 402 isn’t just a musical venue. They offer music lessons, too. Artist Instructors are available to teach just about every popular musical instrument and, Shafer adds, some not so popular ones as well. While most students are under 18, Shafer says they welcome adults into The 402 as well. Granted, it is nice for mom to take a break while her child learns. “People come to Benson, and drop their student off while they just relax in the coffee shop and sip on a latte,” Shafer shares. Worried your kid is too young? Shafer adds that children can begin learning an instrument as early as six years old. Additional offerings, such as “Rock Academy” can be found online at 402artscollective.org.

Registration for programs can be done easily by going to their website and clicking “lessons.” Parents can see musical and artistic offerings, as well as bios for the individual Artist Instructor. The 402 also offers scholarships to in-need families.

Shafer says The 402 strives to offer two shows every weekend—Friday night and Saturday night.

Perhaps The 402’s most noticeable asset is its location. Parents not only have the opportunity to expose their child to music, but also to a variety of people. “The culture down here is a melting pot of so many tastes and flavors,” Shafer says. “I think some of Omaha’s greatest thinkers and artists can be found just walking the street on any given day.”

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Classic Space

June 10, 2014 by
Photography by Andrew J. Baran

What do Doug McDermott and the Omaha Press Club, local fashion designers, brides, corporations, and churchgoers have in common?

Congratulations if you said Omar Arts & Events, in the Omar Building at 43rd and Nicholas. All of the above have had events there since it opened almost 18 months ago.

Executive Director/Partner Mark O’Leary says most local venues of comparable size are unlikely to display the character of Omar Arts & Events.

“It’s completely modern but simultaneously has all the charm and character of an old industrial building,” he says.

Ray Trimble, owner of the Omar Building which originally opened in 1923 to house the Omar Baking Co., is an architect himself whose sense of precision guided the space’s renovation.

The Omar Arts & Events space is bright, airy, well-equipped, and, like the building as a whole, a beautiful hybrid of old and new. Omar flour sacks and other artifacts hang in O’Leary’s office.

Original fire doors remain. The gorgeous exterior brick has been sandblasted back to immaculate condition. On-premises parking is ample and free.

“We have the feel of a downtown venue, but you don’t have to go downtown,” says O’Leary.
Most spaces in the Omar Building are arts-related, including the John Beasley Theater, a dance studio, web design firm, photographers, and filmmakers. It also houses a fitness center, law offices, Project Interfaith, and more, garnering comparisons to Downtown’s Mastercraft Building.

“It’s proved to be a really popular building,” says O’Leary. “It’s like it was just kind of waiting to be born so all these people could get in here.”

The event space was the last project completed, but has already hosted Opera Omaha’s gala, Omaha Fashion Week, the Omaha Press Club’s Face on the Barroom Floor for Doug McDermott, and a host of weddings, seminars, sales meetings, and other events.

Omaha Fashion Week had higher attendance than previous such events at other venues, and organizers swiftly signed on again for 2015. Citylight Church has a five-year contract to use the space for Sunday worship, when they hold two services to accommodate their diverse, inclusive congregation of 1,400-plus.

“It’s been remarkable,” says O’Leary. “We thought our first year would be slow, because for this size venue people are usually booked a year in advance. But as you see on that calendar behind you, every one of those X’s is an event for this year, and we’re still adding one to two a day.”

Suffice to say, X marks many spots on O’Leary’s wall calendar.

“We’re trying to bring back midtown and the Omar Building has become kind of a center point in that,” he says, adding that it’s gratifying to watch the neighborhood he grew up in revitalize around him. “It’s really a quiet, safe little neighborhood, and it’s got great access.”

“I’m a midtown guy and I just like to see these older parts of the city come back,” says O’Leary, who also owns the Cornerstone Mansion and has worked as a producer, actor, event planner, and photographer. “The neighborhood has been completely positive. They’ve loved that there’s some life here and a legitimate business investing in their neighborhood. We work to stay a cut above, and people have responded to that. Plus, we’re one of a kind. There’s just not another venue like us in town.”

Omar Arts & Events

January 17, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Our customers are looking for a different type of venue,” says Mark O’Leary, executive director of Omar Arts and Events. “Something other than four white walls. Something with timeless craftsmanship and impeccable attention to detail.”

In other words, those seeking Old World charm and character intermingled with modern amenities will find what they’re looking for at Midtown Omaha’s newest arts and events facility. “We fill a niche,” O’Leary explains, “for those planning mid-size to large events.” Everything from weddings to trade shows to fundraising galas will benefit from perks like state-of-the-art A/V equipment, two screens with HD projection, free Wi-Fi, plenty of free parking, and enhanced security.

As a life-long Omahan, O’Leary knows what people in Omaha, particularly Midtown, are looking for. After all, his family’s been here since the 1880s. It’s no small wonder that he also owns The Cornerstone Mansion Inn, Omaha’s only historic inn, located in the Offutt mansion. The inn also serves as an event facility, giving O’Leary the experience event planners will find at the Omar.

Newly opened in November 2013, the Omar will be known quickly as the premier event facility in town, if O’Leary has any say in the matter. “We want to be secure in knowing that we are our customers’ first choice in event venues,” he says, “and that if they go elsewhere, it’s only because we were already booked.” His plan to keep clients coming back is by taking care of every detail and helping them to make their events as memorable and distinctive as possible.

No doubt he’ll be able to see to that, given that he’s a hands-on operator at the Omar. O’Leary’s passion for involvement is evident in his ongoing love and participation in theater. He produced and acted in the feature film For Love of Amy, directed by Ted Lange (Isaac from The Love Boat). For 10 years, he has served on the board of the John Beasley Theater and has produced and/or acted in more than 40 productions, including several national and local commercials.

His sense of timing and production will undoubtedly lead to your event putting its best foot forward at Omar Arts and Events.

Omar Arts & Events
4383 Nicholas St, Suite 230
Omaha 68131
402-905-9511
mark@omarbuilding.com
Executive Director/ Mark O’Leary

Planning Your Company Party

August 26, 2013 by

It’s that time of year again to start thinking about planning your next company party. Unsure how to make this year’s party a success? Amy Lackovic, event production director at planitomaha, gives practical, step-by-step advice.

Where to start? Lackovic says to first consider the attendee experience. “Employees want to attend an event where they can be themselves,” says Lackovic. “It is important to create an environment where they feel comfortable enough to open up to their peers and really get to know one another.”

The next thing to consider is the budget because this will determine everything from the invites to the location. If your budget is tight, Lackovic suggests these steps to saving money: go with electronic invitations instead of print; use preferred vendors with discounts; reuse décor, florals, and linens from other events; eliminate labor costs by doing it yourself; control your event timing so you do not run into overages; and limit alcohol consumption.

Once you have the budget in place, start looking for the event space. “You should lock in your event space as soon as you can,” says Lackovic. “Typically, you should lock in your space at least six months in advance.” When finalizing the space, Lackovic recommends asking about cost and deposit, number of people it can hold, catering options, AV options, location (easy for the majority of your attendees), and any limitations the venue may have.

“Employees want to attend an event where they can be themselves…where they feel comfortable enough to open up to their peers and really get to know one another.” – Amy Lakovic, event production director at planitomaha

Theresa Farrage, ballroom event specialist with Scoular Ballroom (which just underwent a complete renovation), suggests remembering two things when selecting a venue: your vision of the event and your guests. “You should definitely keep your big picture in mind but also don’t forget about the little details,” says Farrage.

Simple details that make a big difference may be included in the venue’s overall cost; just be sure to ask the key questions. “Is there a security guard on premise? Does the fee include table and chair rentals? You may think you’re getting a great deal, but once you factor in the cost of a few amenities that don’t come standard, you may be in for a big surprise,” says Farrage.

Farrage stresses booking your venue well in advance. “If you have your heart set on a venue, be flexible with your dates. Booking your event on a weeknight or during the off-season will often save you money.”

Once the venue is chosen, Lackovic breaks the event down by the remaining essentials: entertainment, decorations, personalization, menu, and gifts.

Entertainment

“Revisit the question of ‘what do I want the attendee experience to be?’ If it is a more social and lively event, I would suggest a band, as they have the ability to strongly interact with the attendees. If it’s a networking event, I would suggest going with simple background music or even a DJ.”

“If you had an area to splurge on, definitely look into spending the extra dollars on entertainment,” says Lackovic. “The entertainment can make or break an event.”

Decorations

“Adding lighting to your event can add a dramatic effect and ambiance. Adding some soft seating around the venue can also make the event feel more chic. Make sure you utilize everything the venue has to offer. Sometimes, your venue has in-house décor options included in the rental fee.”

Personalization

“An easy and cost-effective way to show this is to have a personal note of gratitude from the employer or manager. Another avenue is to offer incentives in the everyday workplace, such as a ‘Jeans Day’ or a floating PTO day the month of their birthday.”

Gifts

“It is not a necessity to provide a take-home gift, but it may leave a lasting impression on the attendee. You want to make sure that whatever item you decide to give away can actually be useful. We have seen people go toward more tech-savvy items such as branded cell phone power docks or USB drives. This way, their gift will not only remind the attendee of the event or organization, but it will also make the person more inclined to keep the useful and unique gift.”

Menu

“Within the past couple of years, the menu options have expanded quite a bit. People are much more health-conscious, so it is extremely important to plan ahead for those attendees who may be vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, etc.”

Jennifer Snow, owner/director of operations at Catering Creations, dishes on the latest ideas in food: “A current trend has been to take street foods, comfort foods, and bar foods and put an elegant and upscale twist on them…this makes the food fun and familiar for your guests and still gives them an opportunity to try new flavors.”

Some examples of comfort-food-turned-haute-cuisine are Gouda cheese-stuffed sliders or a French fry station with truffle aioli and caramelized onion ketchup. Another trend is to “bring out the kid” in your guests. “Everyone loves a classic sundae station with chocolate sauces and whipped cream—and don’t forget the sprinkles!” says Snow. “Or what about a pretzel cart traveling with assorted toppings like nacho cheese, honey mustard, or even chocolate sauce and chopped nuts?

“We are currently working on our holiday menus to include customized caramelized popcorn stations with several varieties of sweet, salty, and savory popcorn mixes such as a Cajun caramelized popcorn with nuts and chocolate,” shares Snow.

“A current trend has been to take street foods, comfort foods, and bar foods and put an elegant and upscale twist on them.” – Jennifer Snow, owner/director of Catering Creations

Not every event needs shrimp cocktail. If your company is on a tight budget and you still want to include a nice seafood item, Snow suggests crab and shrimp cakes, which are still delicious but less expensive.

“It has also become trendy to use some of the less expensive meat options and add savory flavors and tenderness by slow braising them. This saves costs versus ordering beef filet,” says Snow.

“Coffee service isn’t always needed for a hot summer event but always plan on more coffee drinkers for events during the holidays,” says Snow. “Try throwing in a fun option like a specialty coffee and hot chocolate station to add condiments such as chocolate chips, caramel sauce, whipped cream, or peppermint sticks.”

There you have it—expert advice on how to make your company party one to remember. Now get to work!

The Ralston Arena

November 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

While Ralston’s new $36 million arena is impressive, drawing big crowds and solid reviews, it isn’t getting too big for its britches.

“We’re not going to target the U2s or the Bruce Springsteens,” said Lynn Higgenbotham, marketing director for the arena. “But it’s a good size, a good fit.”

Modesty becomes it. The state-of-the-art arena can host 3,500 guests and easily accommodated the crowd for its October 19 opening concert with country singer Rodney Atkins.

Upcoming events include rodeos, UFC (Ultimate Fighting) matches, high school games, and trade shows. The arena will also host the USHL Lancers (attracted by not one, but two sheets of ice), the UNO men’s basketball team, the IFL Omaha Beef Football, the Omaha Roller Girls, and the LFL (Lingerie Football League) Omaha Heart. “They draw about 16,000 in other venues,” Higginbotham said of Omaha’s own LFL team.

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The arena sits at 73rd & Q streets in Ralston.

So the arena, at a quarter of that size, is hoping for a sell-out?

“That’s the goal, of course,” she said. While no event is too small for the arena, Higgenbotham said that its main purpose is to host major events. Direct competition with larger local facilities such as the Mid-America Center is, of course, out of the question. Such venues are able to seat twice as large a crowd. “The larger places can adapt themselves to a smaller theater setting,” she explained, but Ralston Arena is poised to set itself apart. “We want more diverse entertainment and sports events,” Higgenbotham said. “The Ralston residents really took ownership of this venue.”

That could be because, previously, there were no other event facilities in Ralston, according to Curtis Webb, general manager of Ralston Arena. “People would drive into Omaha for entertainment,” he said.

The arena, which broke ground June 29, 2011, on what used to be Lakeview Golf Course, is Ralston’s answer to a need for taxable income. Since 2008, Mayor Don Groesser had been attempting to attract a retailer onto the space with little luck. “We started talking with the Lancers about an arena,” Groesser said. Due to the scarcity of ice time in Omaha, the hockey team was excited about the idea of an arena with a few thousand seats.

“We want more diverse entertainment and sports events.” – Lynn Higgenbotham, marketing director for Ralston Arena

“Now that it’s here,” Webb said, “the venue should drive sales tax in the form of tickets, food, and beverage.” To pay down the debt of building the arena, LB 779 (or the Ralston Bill as it was known by the time it passed in 2010) puts 70 percent of the state’s portion of sales tax from any retailer within 600 yards of the arena toward the arena’s bill. As Groesser put it, “That’s basically how we’re going to pay for the building.”

As a result of this legislation, Groesser and Webb are encouraging more businesses to build within that 600-yard range of the arena. “We just got Menards to build on 72nd and L,” Groesser said. He also plans to introduce a new four-story hotel next to the facility, the first floor of which will be shops along the lines of salons, clothing, and convenience. “So another 10,000 square feet of retail,” he said. Add that on to the 4,600 square feet leased by The Dugout (clothing store) inside the arena, itself.

“We need all the new retail we can possibly get,” Groesser explained. “Everything I’ve done, I’ve tried to make sure of that.”

For more information about Ralston Arena, visit ralstonarena.com.