Tag Archives: park


February 22, 2017 by


Horse stalls went bye-bye long ago. Now, Aksarben Village is losing car stalls, too. But that’s a good thing, as far as continued growth of the former horse-racing grounds goes. Dirt is overturned and heavy equipment sits on the plot extending north and east from 67th and Frances streets, formerly a parking lot for visitors to the bustling area. That’s because work has commenced at the corner on what will become HDR’s new global headquarters, which opens some time in 2019. The temporary loss of parking will be offset by great gain for Aksarben Village — a 10-story home for nearly 1,200 employees with a first floor including 18,000 square feet of retail space. HDR also is building an adjacent parking garage with room for ground-level shops and restaurants. But wait, car owners, there’s more. Farther up 67th Street, near Pacific, the University of Nebraska-Omaha is building a garage that should be completed this fall. Plenty of parking for plenty to do.


A continental shift has taken place in Benson — Espana is out and Au Courant Regional Kitchen is in, offering Benson denizens another food option at 6064 Maple St. That means a move from now-closed Espana’s Spanish fare to now-open Au Courant’s “approachable European-influenced dishes with a focus on regional ingredients.” Sound tasty? Give your tastebuds an eye-tease with the menu at aucourantrestaurant.com. Also new in B-Town: Parlour 1887 (parlour1887.com) has finished an expansion first announced in 2015 that has doubled the hair salon’s original footprint. That’s a big to-do at the place of  ’dos.


The newest Blackstone District restaurant, which takes its name from Nebraska’s state bird, is ready to fly. Stirnella Bar & Kitchen, located at 3814 Farnam St., was preparing to be open by Valentine’s Day. By mid-January it had debuted staff uniforms, photos of its decor, and a preview of its delectable-looking dinner menu. Stirnella (Nebraska’s meadowlark is part of the genus and species “Sturnella neglecta”) will offer a hybrid of bistro and gastro pub fare “that serves refined comfort food with global influences,” plus a seasonal menu inspired by local ingredients. Fly to stirnella.com for more.


Film Streams (filmstreams.org) made a splash in January announcing details on its renovation of the  historic Dundee Theater. Work began in 2017’s first month on features including:

Repair and renovation of the original theater auditorium, which will be equipped with the latest projection and sound technology able to screen films in a variety of formats, including reel-to-reel 35mm and DCP presentations.

A throwback vertical “Dundee” sign facing Dodge Street.

An entryway that opens to a landscaped patio/pocket park.

New ticketing and concessions counters.

A store with film books, Blu-ray Discs and other cinema-related offerings.

A café run through a yet-to-be-announced partnership.

A 25-seat micro-cinema.

Oh, yeah, they’ll show movies there, too. And Dundee-ers won’t have long to wait—the project should be completed by the end of 2017.


In a surprise to many—especially those holding its apparently now-defunct gift cards—Brix shut its doors in January at both its Midtown Crossing and Village Pointe locations. It was not clear at press time what factor, if any, was played by a former Brix employee, who in late December pleaded not guilty to two counts of felony theft by deception after being accused of stealing more than $110,000 as part of a gift card scheme. Despite the closing, Midtown has celebrated two additions of late as the doors opened to the “Japanese Americana street food” spot Ugly Duck (3201 Farnam St.) and to Persian rug “pop-up shop” The Importer.


The restoration of North Omaha’s 24th and Lake area continues its spectacular trajectory. In January, the Union for Contemporary Art moved into the completely renovated, historic Blue Lion building located at 2423 N. 24th St. The Blue Lion building is a cornerstone in the historic district. Originally constructed in 1913, the Blue Lion is named after two of the building’s earliest tenants: McGill’s Blue Room, a nightclub that attracted many nationally known black musicians, and Lion Products, a farm machinery distributor. The entire district was listed as a federally recognized historic district in April 2016.

According to its website, “The Union for Contemporary Art is committed to strengthening the creative culture of the greater Omaha area by providing direct support to local artists and increasing the visibility of contemporary art forms in the community.” Founder and executive director Brigitte McQueen Shew says the Union strives to unite artists and the community to inspire positive social change in North Omaha. “The organization was founded on the belief that the arts can be a vehicle for social justice and greater civic engagement,” she says. “We strive to utilize the arts as a bridge to connect our diverse community in innovative and meaningful ways.”

The Union will be hosting the annual Omaha Zinefest March 11. Event organizer Andrea Kszystyniak says Zinefest is a celebration of independent publishing in Nebraska. Assorted zines—essentially DIY magazines produced by hand and/or photocopier—will be on display at the free event, and workshops will be offered to attendees.


M’s Pub fans had plenty to be thankful for in November following the announcement that the Old Market restaurant would rise from the ashes of the January 2016 fire that destroyed the iconic eatery. Various media quoted co-owner Ann Mellen saying the restaurant would reopen this summer. Construction has been steady at the restaurant’s 11th and Howard, four-story building, but customers weren’t sure M’s would be part of the rebirth until Mellen’s well-received comments. Mellen says the feel—and the food—will be the same. Even if the name may change.

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

Disc Drive

April 15, 2015 by

Originally published in April 2015 HerFamily.

A co-worker’s zeal for disc golf inspired Mandi and Adam Jensen to give the sport a try, and only a year later, they’ve become enthusiasts themselves and even brought sons Maverick and Ryker and daughter Phoenix into the fold.

“It really is a good sport for families,” Mandi Jensen says. “We have three kids, and our youngest is 6 and our oldest is 12, so they’re not interested in many of the same things.” But when the family plays disc golf, “we’re all together and we’re all having fun.”

All it takes to play disc golf is a flying disc—known by many as a Frisbee, the Wham-O toy company’s registered trademark name—and a visit to one of Omaha’s three disc golf courses; Seymour Smith Park (68th and Harrison streets), Hummel Park (north of the Florence area off John J. Pershing Drive) or Cunningham Park (northwest of 84th and State streets). The rules are simple: Whether playing a 9-hole or 18-hole course, the basic objective is to land the disc in the disc pole hole or “basket” in as few throws as possible.

“The disc golf that we have at three locations in our parks in Omaha is a park amenity open to the public. There’s no charge, so you can just walk on and get in at any time,” says Tracy Stratman, recreation manager for the City of Omaha Parks, Recreation and Public Property department.

An ongoing partnership with the Omaha Metro Disc Golf Association (OMDGA) has helped to establish and expand facilities in the community since the mid-1990s, and volunteers from the group continue to support upkeep and invest plenty of sweat equity in maintenance year-round.

“From the City side, this is what makes our partnerships work and our parks successful. If somebody comes to us with an idea of an amenity that they want to see in a park, we work very hard with those groups to try and make it a reality,” Stratman says. “The parks are public spaces for the people and so we take our partnerships very seriously, because we can’t do it alone.”

The Hummel Park course, which OMDGA helped design, is considered by players to be the most challenging in the area and has even gained national recognition.

“Hummel is indeed getting such a solid rep,” says Bill (“Mr. Bill”) Hulbert of the OMDGA, “I’ve played with so many people from out of town that, after one round, are putting it on their list of favorites. It’s got everything: it’s not extremely long, and it has signature holes that you have to put it in a certain place on your first shot or you’re hosed.”

The OMDGA has been hosting the disc golf competition for the Cornhusker State Games (now the State Games of America) since 1994 and this August, for the first time, will be hosting the 2015 State Games of America national disc golf events at Hummel and at least one other course.

Hulbert still remembers buying his first disc at the age of 7, saving his 15-cent allowance for four weeks to buy a 49-cent “Pluto Platter.” A founding member of the first Omaha-area disc golf club and a 2013 Nebraska Disc Golf Hall of Fame inductee, Hulbert says he’s enjoyed watching the sport grow locally from a single course and a small following to a thriving activity and community known for its open arms.

“The community of disc golf people is really welcoming,” Jensen says. “They’re more friendly than you can imagine.”



April 12, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Disc golf fans are all over the board.

“They’re not preppies, hippies, punks,” says Aaron Martin, founder of TeeBoxx. “That’s something that struck me. You can’t narrow them down to a genre. Age range, too. From a marketing standpoint, it’s kind of a nightmare, because they’re hard to profile.”

But he’s done well to figure out his market. It helps that prior to co-founding TeeBoxx, a disc golf vending machine company, Martin’s been both a professional disc golfer and in the advertising and marketing industry.

Martin went fulltime as a disc golfer in 2005. “I spent a lot of years trying to figure out how to grow the sport and problem-solving. And how I could do it full-time and pay the bills, make a living, that sort of thing.” In 2012, Martin met Justin Cherry, who has a business consulting firm and a background in technology.

“I picked up the game right around four years ago,” Cherry says. “And then through playing at Seymour Smith [Park], I ended up meeting this guy [Martin] because he’s a legend. I caught up with him for some rounds, met him at leagues. And then me, I’m always trying to think of business ideas. “

Cherry and Martin started bouncing around some business ideas related to disc golf. According to Martin, the sport has been growing 18 percent every year for the past 20 years in number of courses, players, and purse amounts.

“I think the biggest problem was the availability of equipment,” Martin explains. “Unlike Ultimate Frisbee, where you can go out with one Frisbee and have a great time, with disc golf generally you have multiple discs, so there’s more of a need for the equipment to be available.”

Martin and Cherry registered TeeBoxx in January 2012 and then spent a good year in research and development.

The vending machine needed to be secure, able to stand outdoors, able to fit discs through the vending slot, and small enough that it could fit in any park. It also needed to be easy to repair, something that any vending machine technician could fix in any town.

“Then it was just hitting connections, getting the sales process down, the script down,” Martin says. “Justin Cherry heads that up on the sales process. One of the best cold callers. He’s really making it happen.”

Martin takes care of the marketing materials. A third partner, Ross Brandt, is also a professional disc golfer and a city planner. They also put together an advisory committee and sought out seed money.

“We put together our business plans and projections, and we lightly solicited within the industry. We ended up getting privately funded through an individual in Minnesota who solicited us, actually,” Martin says. “Our goal with that was to get our website up and a machine on the ground.”

They now have two TeeBoxx machines up: one at Seymour Smith Park at 72nd and Harrison streets, and the other in Miami, Fla. Five other locations are in the closing stages.

“We’ve got to be at 15 parks before our business is sustainable,” says Martin. “We feel pretty confident we’ll hit that early this year.”

They offer three program tiers, from simple machine installation to course design and installation to a lease and license agreement. So far, TeeBoxx has identified 160 courses with 150 or more disc golfers each day during peak season. The profits are split; half goes back to the park.

This way, Martin explains, “We fundraise for the parks…and that also helps with getting a fan base and getting support behind it. And that’s been a really good approach so far. It feels like a better company.”

“We really believe in the company, because we love the sport,” says Martin. “We’re part of OEN, Omaha Entrepreneur Network, and I encourage everybody to build their business in such a way that there’s something active in the community that fundraises for the community.”

Martin and Cherry hope to have more investments soon that will allow them to put together a bulk order, saving approximately 70 percent for them and for lessees.

Once TeeBoxx is sustainable, the team plans to branch out into other park-dominant sports. Skateboarding will be next. They’re already getting requests for baseball and softball.

“In the future I could see a machine for hiking trails or at a tennis court or a basketball court,” says Martin. “I think we’re going to hold the same theme for all of it—the Boxx will be at the
back of it.”