Located in beautiful downtown Omaha, the CenturyLink Center is located just a few blocks from the historic Old Market and within walking distance from campus. Thanks to a corporate purchase the citizens of the Omaha area are still learning to say CenturyLink Center after eight years of calling it the Qwest Center.
Make no mistake about it, the CenturyLink Center is a hockey arena, but they do a great job hiding that and getting the fans down close to the court.
I have seen where some people have said the CenturyLink Center is like an NBA arena. Thankfully, it is really not like a mammoth generic NBA arena. It is a little less corporate, smaller and it retains the best parts of the college experience, while adding a little more than normal comfort for the fans.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The food here is pretty good for an arena. They carry Hebrew National hot dogs and that is always good. They have several outside vendors including, Alexander's BBQ, Famous Dave's BBQ, Katie's Gyros, Mini Donuts (a fav of mine and fat people everywhere), Maui Wowi smoothies and the world-famous Dippin' Dots. The prices here are a little steep, but not over-the-top. The quality is good.
And yes, they serve beer and other adult beverages at Creighton games.
Hot dogs: $3.50, A very good dog with a salty taste, with a nice blend of spices and a warm, soft bun. Rating: A
Large pop corn: $4.50, Slightly warm, but salty with a slight hint of butter taste. Rating: A-
Nachos w/ cheese: $3.75, Great chips that were whole, not broken and covered in spicy cheese. Rating: B-
Pepsi: 32 oz plastic souvenir cup, $4.75.
CenturyLink Center offers a great atmosphere for college basketball that should appeal to the entire family. In the south lobby is a Mutual of Omaha display featuring realistic life-size stuffed animals where kids can read about each one and then push a button that plays a recording of what that animal sounds like. I now know what a giraffe and penguin sound like.
For mom and dad, there are adult beverages sold all over the concourse. Also near the south concourse lobby there is a jazz combo playing, featuring a guitar player from Omaha-based Manheim Steam Roller and the music is great.
There is a large center-hung eight-sided score board. Four panels are video boards and four are used for player and team stats. It is easy to see from anywhere in the seating bowl. There are also plenty of flat screen TVs scattered throughout the concourse, so fans do not miss any of the action.
The lower seating bowl's seats wrap around the entire court. At both ends of the court, above the lower seating bowl seats, the concourse lobbies over-look the court. For the side seats, fans enter through four portals and the concourse circles the seating bowl under the upper deck seats.
On each side, under the upper deck seating, there are 32 corporate boxes with seating located above the boxes and on both ends. There is a ribbon board on the facing of the upper deck seats that features mostly advertising. It is kind of NBAish and a little gaudy, but it makes Creighton money. High above the south upper deck seating there is an unnecessary video board that is smaller than the center-hung video boards. I doubt fans look at it much.
Most of the fans are wearing blue and a few have white on. It is amazing that very few fans are wearing red. Almost any other gathering of people in Nebraska there will be plenty of people wearing Nebraska Red, as in Big Red.
This is a very good college atmosphere. The fans are very friendly and will welcome opposing fans. The band, the dance team, the cheerleaders are all good and add to the college experience. The contests held during breaks in the action add to the fun and they command the attention of most of the fans.
Right on the edge of downtown Omaha, there are plenty of fun things to encounter within walking distance. The CenturyLink Center is attached via a skywalk to the eight-story, 600-room Hilton Omaha Hotel. If the rates at the Hilton are a little high, there are several other hotels within walking distance.
Also with walking distance and right across from the TD Ameritrade Ballpark is Goodnight's Pizza. Down the street a block or so, is Union Pizzeria and Sports Bar, a typical sports bar.
The Old Mattress Factory Bar and Grill is located near TD Ameritrade Park and it is a popular bar and grill. The building was constructed in 1883 as a grocery store and it has a lot of historic charm. The food is very good, but it's not cheap. Salads are in the $8-$10 range. There are sandwiches and burgers starting about $9 with fries. Steak, ribs, fish and chips are also on the menu.
A little more upscale is Ricks Cafe Boatyard which is known for seafood, but offers a wide range of food. It will run at the low end of $9 for a burger to surf and turf for $45. There are plenty of things to eat for under $20 including pizza, shrimp scampi and a bunch of sandwiches.
Just a little west of the arena is DJ's Dugout and that is a top-notch sports bar featuring a wide variety of bar food and plenty of TVs to watch almost any sporting event. Fans can eat there for around $10.
Less than a 10 minute walk past DJ's Dugout is the Old Market area which is a big-time entertainment area featuring restaurants, bars, and shops. In the Old Market fans will find fine steakhouses, Asian, Italian, fast food, ice cream, adult bars, student-type bars and my favorite, the Havana Garage where you can smoke a fine cigar, hear some good jazz music and have an adult beverage. I will not even attempt to name any of the establishments because there are so many, but you will find something that you like in Omaha's Old Market.
Creighton was in the top 15 schools in regular season attendance for the 2010-2011 season. A Bluejays game is the thing to do during the winter in Omaha. That is amazing considering that this is college football country and sports fans in Nebraska do not have a very high college basketball IQ.
Get off of the North Freeway at the Cummins Street exit and it is less than a mile to 10th Street and you will see the CenturyLink Center on the right, or take I-480 and get off at North 14th Street and you are pretty much there.
There is plenty of parking near the ballpark. Parking runs $8-$12 at lots within two blocks of the stadium. There also is free street parking that can be found all over the downtown area after business hours. The free parking starts about two blocks from the arena.
Fans will not have to walk too far to find restrooms. There are plenty of restrooms on all levels.
Upper bowl tickets are $8 and $12. There are no lower bowl single game tickets available. So a fan can purchase an upper level seat, a hot dog, pop corn and a Pepsi for around $20. If he/she doesn't mind walking a bit to avoid parking costs, that is the total cost. That is a pretty good value.
Attending a Missouri Valley Conference basketball game with 15,000 other fans is a neat experience and good for a star. The friendliness of the fans and the people of Omaha is worth a star. The location of the CenturyLink Center close to so many fun attractions is worth a star. The jazz combo featuring a member of Manheim Steam Roller is worthy of a star and finally a star because Nebraska Governor Heineman was there. If the governor is a fan and comes to the games, that is pretty cool and rare. The only other time I have seen a governor at a game was at Butler.
The CenturyLink Center is a wonderful venue for college basketball, but for a great college basketball experience, it takes great fans and Creighton fans fit that description. As an added bonus the venue is located in a fantastic downtown urban setting. Even though Creighton is located in an area of the country known for college football and not basketball, somehow this whole thing works very well and CenturyLink Center should be on the list of any college basketball fan that wants to enjoy a top notch college basketball experience.
**Exterior photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Entertainment & Convention Authority
**Interior photos courtesy of Creighton Sports Information
the amenities are so great and has tons of options for food in concessions as while as outside venders. Arena is very luxurious with much technology.
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