Tag Archives: Power 106.9

Saving a Life, Chasing the Dream

January 3, 2019 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Houston Alexander knew that his first-born child would be a fighter from the moment he laid eyes on her. Elan, his daughter, was born with kidney disease.

“We knew that one day she would need a kidney, and the day finally came where her kidney functions were so low that she needed a donor,” says Alexander, an MMA fighter and a radio personality on Omaha’s Power 106.9.

She was only 10 years old when that day came. Alexander already knew that he was a perfect match to be an organ donor.

“No questions asked,” he says. “There are things that you don’t think about; giving your child a kidney—or any type of vital organ—is something you don’t think about.”

Her life-saving transplant took place in 2000, a few years before Alexander’s own professional fighting debut. At the time, he was working in asphalt maintenance while pursuing his passion for hip-hop on the side.

Health and fitness continued to be a major cornerstone of Alexander’s lifestyle, which he says is essential for any organ donor or transplant recipient following a surgical operation.

In 2003, a few years after donating his kidney—around the same time he started working in local radio—Alexander began fighting professionally. His Ultimate Fighting Championship debut followed in 2007 with a huge upset, a knockout of UFC celebrity Keith Jardine within 48 seconds.

Elan was not a fighter in the same sense as her father (aka “The Assassin” in the ring). But she has been fighting health-related battles since her birth.

“My daughter is probably the toughest young lady I’ve known,” Alexander says. “I’ve never seen somebody so strong. My daughter is tougher than I am in a lot of ways.”

After more than a decade with one of her father’s kidneys, her body rejected the organ. Unfortunately, the body’s rejection of a donated organ remains a common reality for organ donor recipients. Elan is now living in New York with her name on the national transplant waiting list.

Meanwhile, Alexander often speaks about organ donation in Omaha. It’s one of many community outreach efforts with his nonprofit, the Houston Alexander Foundation (visit houstonalexander.org for more information).

Alexander will also speak at the launch party for the January/February 2019 issue of Omaha Magazine. The issue* carries a special health focus with articles on medicine and wellness topics.

One of the main feature articles  (available to subscribers and those picking up the magazine from a newsstand) is an in-depth look at the stories of organ donors, their families, and the organ recipients who received the gift of life.

The subject of organ donation carries special personal significance for me. My twin brother, Connor, was an organ donor. As a teenager getting his first driver’s license, he checked a box designating that his vital organs should be donated in the event of his death. That check mark took on real meaning after a tragic car accident in 2004.

While my brother’s life was cut short, the Connor Meigs Art Award offers other young artists help in pursuing their own artistic dreams. And, of course, the organs that he donated gave others a second chance at life.

This letter was printed in the January/February edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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.