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Recovering from arena debt, Ralston aims to boost turnback tax revenues

Posted at 6:46 PM, Dec 06, 2021

RALSTON, Neb. (KMTV) — After years of losing lots of money on the Ralston Arena, the City of Ralston hired a company, Spectra Venue Management, to run the arena three years ago.

“I don’t think people really recognize the change, metamorphosis is the only way to describe it that’s taking place at the arena,” said City Administrator Rick Hoppe.

As Hoppe said, the Ralston Arena is adding more shows and events, with some selling out.

“It's been a complete one-eighty,” he added.

Now, the city is looking to add more to the arena experience. It's now pushing state lawmakers to change a law that could result in extra cash for arena amenities and upgrades.

Currently, Ralston — along with Omaha and Lincoln — receives money from what’s known as the turnback tax. In Ralston's case, it takes sales tax revenue from businesses within 600 yards of the arena. Seventy percent of that state tax money goes back to Ralston, with the rest distributed to other cities across the state.

Ralston has started a marketing campaign aiming to double the amount of money it gets from the turnback tax — from $50 million to $100 million — something the legislature needs to approve.

If that happens, Hoppe says that money could be used for a downtown parking garage. Currently, it uses Horseman’s Park for parking overflow. But with massive renovations coming to the race track, Ralston likely will need a new spot for arena visitors to park.

“If we’re able to develop a parking garage that serves the arena and allows us also to further our economic development means, that’s a win for Ralston,” said Hoppe.

Plus the arena, which is more than a decade old, could use renovations including sound and light upgrades. Not to mention replace items like seats that are beginning to wear.

RELATED: Crumbling arena lot to cost Ralston $230k

“Ensuring you have the proper infrastructure to serve those shows is becoming more and more of an issue, so there would be some renovations at the arena along those lines as well as the fact that arenas wear out,” said Hoppe.

This is not the first time the city has pushed the legislature to change state law to help them. About seven years ago they tried to turn the turnback tax in their favor, but those efforts did not come to fruition.

The city will need a state senator to sponsor the bill once the legislature begins in January.

SEE MORE: Ralston looks for ways to pay arena debt

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