H&LA Development Update: Omaha, Nebrasaka

H&LA’s recent research for a project near Omaha, Nebraska revealed some exciting new hospitality-related developments happening in the area. These developments will have an impact on tourism, employment, and the general economy in Omaha and the surrounding areas in 2023 and beyond.

  • A new $150 million gaming and entertainment attraction called Belle Vue Downs is planned in Bellevue, Nebraska, near the intersection of US Route 34 and US Route 75. Planned as a partnership between Saratoga Casino Holdings and Aksarben Equine Inc., this major project follows a statewide vote in 2020 to legalize casino gambling at Nebraska horse racing tracks. As envisioned, this project will include a horse racing track, 850 slot machines, 20 table games, sports betting, an entertainment stage, an upscale steakhouse, and a 150-room luxury hotel. Once completed, Belle Vue Downs will create 350 new jobs, generate $20 million in annual payroll, and attract between 800,000 and 900,000 visitors each year.
  • A bill has been introduced in the Nebraska state legislature that would prohibit the opening of any new racetrack casino within 50 miles of an existing racetrack casino. If passed, this measure could jeopardize the future of the Belle Vue Downs project, as it would be less than 15 miles from Horsemen’s Park in Omaha, which has already begun a $220 million expansion to add a full casino and sportsbook. As of our research date, the bill is still working its way through the legislature, and remains unclear what impact this may have on future casino projects in the state.
  • In 2021, the Sarpy County community of Gretna announced plans for Gretna Crossing Park, a new large-scale sports complex and public park. Set to open in 2023, this 150-acre development will include sports fields, an outdoor waterpark, a dog park, a disc golf course, walking paths, and an amphitheater. In all, this project represents a $53 million investment, funded by a half-cent sales tax increase approved by voters in 2020.
  • Development is now underway on the new Nebraska MultiSport Complex, located near Interstate 80 and Giles Road in La Vista, Nebraska, west of Bellevue. The first phase of this project will create 12 multipurpose lighted fields, the first of which are scheduled to open in fall 2022. These new fields will enable the area to host local and regional tournaments in a variety of outdoor sports, including soccer, baseball, lacrosse, and rugby. A planned second phase will add an indoor fieldhouse and tennis courts.
  • Omaha’s Fun-Plex Waterpark & Rides opened the 2022 season with a new area called Double Trouble. Comprised of two 55-foot-tall drop slides, this new attraction features a near-vertical drop through a trap door, over 600 feet of total slide length, and translucent sections allowing aerial views of the park. This marked the latest major addition to the park since the introduction of the Rockin’ Rapids waterslides in 2018.
  • Meta, the parent company of Facebook, has announced plans to expand its existing data center in Sarpy County, which first opened in 2017. The company plans to invest more than $1.5 billion on the multi-building complex by the end of 2024, and employment is expected to rise from about 150 to 300 employees.
  • Online retail giant Amazon is planning to open a new 700,000-square-foot regional distribution center in Papillion, near State Route 50 and State Route 370. Originally slated to open in 2022, this project is now scheduled for completion in 2024. This facility is expected to employ 1,000 full-time workers.
  • Smash Park, a Midwest chain of pickleball attractions, has announced plans for a new location in La Vista, within the Southport development. Scheduled to open in fall 2023, this new attraction will feature pickleball courts, cornhole, bocce ball, and other games, along with a bar and restaurant.
  • A new national defense “innovation hub” has been proposed in Bellevue. This $80 million public/private project could potentially receive $20 million in state funding and would create between 300 and 500 high-paying jobs. While no specific site has been determined, the proposed development is expected to involve personnel and resources at Offutt Air Force Base, and it could eventually become a major economic engine for the local market area.
  • In April 2022, the Nebraska state legislature granted final approval for the development of a new 4,000-acre lake between Lincoln and Omaha. The lake will be situated along the Platte River near the community of Ashland, and plans call for it to be excavated out to a depth of about 30 feet rather than dammed up like many manmade lakes and reservoirs. This massive project will cost roughly $1 billion, and the legislature has stipulated that 90% of the budget must come from private funds. While no timeline has been announced, the new lake will potentially be a major tourism asset for the region and spur future hospitality development.