The Metropolitan Entertainment & Convention Authority (MECA) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that builds and manages public event venues in Omaha, Nebraska. The formal operations of MECA commenced on August 25, 2000 with the signing of a 99-year Lease and Development Agreement with the City of Omaha. The cost to build CHI Health Center Omaha was $291 million, funded through a public-private arrangement. The private sector contributed $75 million and the public sector contributed $216 million. CHI Health Center Omaha officially opened in 2003.
In consideration of this unprecedented level of private support for a public arena, the 99-year agreement assigned MECA to exclusively operate the facilities at its discretion. MECA is governed by a board of five appointed, independent directors and overseen by a dedicated management team. Board members are determined by the City of Omaha with appointments rotating between the City Council and the Mayor.
A 2014 report by Goss & Associates found that during its first 11 years in operation the CHI Health Center generated nearly $5 billion in economic benefit for Omaha. The study also indicated due to overall success, taxpayers have not had to pay for the facility’s operational costs. The report stated that proceeds received by the City from the CHI Health Center’s economic benefit have exceeded the cost of related bond debt. As a result, taxpayers have not been burdened with the cost of the CHI Health Center, which is a rarity in arena and convention facilities in the U.S.
Another public-private arrangement was completed to create a new home for the NCAA Men’s College World Series. In 2009 MECA broke ground on Charles Schwab Field Omaha, which opened in 2011. Along with the College World Series, the stadium is also home field for the Creighton Bluejays men’s baseball team and hosts numerous other events such as the Big Ten and Big East Baseball Tournaments.
In conjunction with the City and the Downtown Riverfront Trust, MECA will also manage the redevelopment of Omaha’s riverfront. The first phase of construction is scheduled to begin in early 2019, and was again made possible by a $50 million commitment from the City of Omaha and over $230 million in private contributions. Upon completion, MECA will oversee park maintenance and activation. The overall scope of the Riverfront Revitalization Project includes five phases; three in downtown Omaha and two on the Iowa side of the Missouri River, to be managed by the City of Council Bluffs.