It wasn’t long after the decision to build a new stadium in downtown Omaha was finalized before people close to the situation started to complain of cronyism amongst city officials and business leaders.
Some of the potential investigative leads are so juicy, I’m convinced they would make for a best-selling book in the Omaha market.
Since I don’t have time to chase down all the leads and weave them into a story let me just point out some of the facts and let you draw your own conclusions.
Facts surrounding City of Omaha management and TD Ameritrade Park that seem a little more than coincidental:
- Construction of TD Ameritrade Park was completed in 2011 at a cost of $131 million that was mostly finance by bonds issue by the City of Omaha to be repaid with revenues from a special tax applied to hotels restaurants in Omaha.
- Mike Fahey, Omaha’s mayor at the time the new stadium was approved, is a graduate of Creighton University. The site of the new stadium is just east of the Creighton University campus. The new stadium is Creighton’s home field.
- Fahey is also the part-owner of the Old Mattress Factory Restaurant and Bar located in vert close proximity to the new stadium and would stand to benefit financially from large crowd being diverted to the area.
- Omaha residents were so upset with the decisions of Mayor Fahey regarding the stadium, among other controversial topics, that a group organized an unsuccessful recall effort in 2008. Although he was eligible to run for another term as mayor, Fahey opted not to do so.
- TD Ameritrade, the Omaha based brokerage firm after which the new stadium is named, was founded by Joe Ricketts. Ricketts and his four children own a controlling interest of the Chicago Cubs baseball organization, with son Tom Ricketts serving as the chairman.
- Since the Ricketts family bought into the Chicago Cubs in 2009 the team has made several unsuccessful attempts to finance an overhaul of Wrigley Field at taxpayer expense.
- Cubs general manager Jim Hendry was the coach of Creighton’s baseball team who led the team to the College World Series in 1991.
- Joe Maglio is the current chairman of the board and former CEO of TD Ameritrade. Joe Maglio is also the head coach of the Omaha Nighthawks – the United Football League team that now calls TD Ameritrade Park home.
- TD Ameritrade Park, along with adjacent the Qwest events center, is managed by a group called MECA.
- David Sokol was the president of MECA until April 2011, at which time he resigned. A few weeks earlier, Sokol was dismissed from the board of directors of Berkshire Hathaway – the investment firm of legendary billionaire Warren Buffet – on suspicion of insider trading.
Some theorists have proposed that all of these facts are too closely connected to be coincidence. What do you think?