Nebraska-Omaha christens its new hockey arena

UNO hockey
Baxter Arena – new home to the UNO hockey and men’s basketball squads

Omaha hockey enjoyed a weekend of firsts.The UNO Mavericks entered the weekend’s hockey series as the top-rated team in the nation for the the first time in school history. The University of Nebraska at Omaha scored the top spot in the USA Today/US Hockey poll, ahead of conference rival North Dakota. the teams swapped spots in the USCHO poll. UNO’s 1/2 rankings are the highest ever in the program’s 19 seasons. The top-rated club raised its first championship banners for the regional title and Frozen Four berth last season.

UNO hockey
We get to see the Frozen Four banner every game from our seats. Life is good.

And possibly the largest first…

The Mavs hosted the Air Force Academy in the first-ever college sports event at the brand new Baxter Arena. The 7,800-seat arena is a true home for the team. It’s located on the southern end of the school’s campus. Players can park their gear at their own lockers and leave it there. No more packing up gear and driving off campus to practice and play. UNO opened hockey in 1997-98, playing sold out games at the old Civic Auditorium. Father Time came calling for that arena. Omaha opened the Century Link Arena (used to be Qwest Center). The fancy arena is NHL quality, but the team didn’t attract NHL-sized crowds for much of their decade there. The “Link” sat about 16,000 for hockey. The Mavs averaged about 7,000 a game in recent years.

UNO hockey
No. 1 UNO hosted Air Force in the first game at Baxter Arena

So, a few years ago, UNO leadership sought to have the school’s own arena, where the hockey and men’s basketball teams could play. Say hello to the Baxter Arena. The Baxter Auto Group is paying $4 million to have its name on the side of the arena for the next decade.

So, a new arena meant we had to get new seats. I liked where we sat at the Century Link – up high in the middle of the rink, so we could have great sight lines for the action. Now, we have seats on the upper level behind the Mavs’ goal (two of three periods). It brought back memories of watching hockey at the old barn at the University of North Dakota in my younger days.

UNO hockey
Our view of the rink. I like it.

We have a decent view. I love hockey, so I’ll take it any way I can. Some people have complained about sitting behind the home team’s goal, but I figure we get to see great hockey, regardless.

The arena is pretty nice inside. The concourse has a nice size to it. You can move around fairly easy without worrying about hitting other people. The concession stands are strategically located, and basically offer arena food. Of course, you can get the standard hot dog or burger, but you can also grab a slice of Godfather’s Pizza or smothered tator tots or French fries.

My only knock is the apparel store. I think it’s too small with a limited inventory. I’m not a fan of paying north of $50 for a polo shirt or sweatshirt.

But, the real reason we go to games is to see the action, right? UNO doesn’t disappoint. The Mavs opened 2015 with a sweep of rival and then-No. 6 Mankato on the road. The Purple Mavs were rated higher than our Mavs. Then, UNO went on the road and swept No. 20 Vermont. UNO returned home with a 4-0-0 record and a top 2 rating in the major polls.

The win streak continued, as No. 1 UNO swept the Falcons by scores of 4-2 and 4-1. The Mavs look and and feel like a national championship-contending team.

UNO hockey
This group of players have the potential to be the best team ever to skate at UNO.

We had a wonderful time taking in college hockey this weekend. If you get the chance to attend a college hockey game anywhere in the country, we strongly recommend it. It’s a fun sport to watch and the players hustle.

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