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Omaha Magazine

Odds are in Omaha’s Favor

Jan 20, 2020 11:15AM ● By Keith Backsen

Omaha has a rich history when it comes to hosting sporting events. Aksarben Race Track and Coliseum was an indoor arena and horse racing complex built in 1919. For decades, people traveled to Omaha from across the country to enjoy the races and bet on the horses—and they bet a lot. In the mid-1980s, Ak-Sar-Ben was 10th in the nation in racetrack attendance, with up to 25,000 betting $2 million per day on weekends.

In April, the city will continue to show off its ability to host major equestrian events when visitors watch the Burlington Capital International Omaha, a horse jumping and dressage competition. This event is the largest equestrian show in the Midwest.

Omaha is also set to host an impressive list of NCAA sporting events this year that include: the first and second rounds of NCAA Men’s Basketball, the Big Ten Baseball Tournament, the NCAA Men’s College World Series, and Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship.

In June, more than 1,000 elite athletes will arrive in the city as Omaha hosts its fourth consecutive U.S. Olympic Swim Trials. Over eight days, swimmers will compete to earn a spot on the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team, and then it’s on to Tokyo to compete in the 2020 Summer Olympics Games.

These sporting events bring teams, their families, and fans to the city. They all spend money on dining, shopping, sleeping, and entertainment in our city. In fact, Omaha will see an economic impact of more than $200 million from sporting events alone this year.

Visitor spending isn’t the only benefit the city receives. Media coverage is a big bonus. In 2016, there were more than 11,000 media stories about the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials in Omaha—the ad value alone was worth $84 million. This summer, NBC will again cover the swim trials for eight days during prime time, showcasing Omaha as a world-class sports destination.

While the glory days of horse racing in the city are long gone, Omaha is still a good bet when it comes to hosting some of the best sporting events in the nation, maybe even the world.


Go to visitomaha.com for a complete list of sporting events happening in 2020.

This article was printed in the February/March 2020 edition of B2B. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.