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Headed to the shareholders meeting this weekend and confused about this “CenturyLink Center Omaha” where you're supposed to go for the meeting?
Fear not: You can head for the same seat you sat in at last year's meeting, when the place was known as the Qwest Center. The change was already in the works at last year's meeting. Monroe, La.-based CenturyLink bought Qwest Communications in April 2011 for $10.6 billion. By last fall, the blue Qwest lettering on the facility had been replaced with CenturyLink's green logo.
It's just one of the changes you might spot around town if you're back for the first time since last year's big event.
Among some others:
After six months of work on a $6.5 million renovation, the Suzanne and Walter Scott Aquarium at the Henry Doorly Zoo reopened in April with all kinds of new features — and the zoo got a new name, too. The underwater exhibits are one of the big showpieces of what's now known as Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium. Among the highlights: a 500-gallon tide pool touch tank, where visitors can get up close to anemones, starfish and urchins. There's also an ocean birds exhibit, with plenty of penguins, along with new jellyfish and eel exhibits.
Old Market dining changes
The French Café, which had been at 10th and Howard Streets since 1969 — making it the Old Market's first restaurant —closed in February. Crane Cafe & Bar, on the ground floor of the Paxton Building at 14th and Farnam Streets, shut down in July. Meanwhile, a space in the Landmark Building at 13th and Farnam Streets (formerly occupied by MJ Java) is now home to Cafe 110, which serves coffee, breakfast foods, sandwiches and pastries. Looking for other dining hot spots? Ask one of the “ambassadors” with the Omaha Downtown Improvement District. They'll be the ones dressed in red shirts roaming the Old Market to answer visitors' questions.
The Hilton Omaha, the city-owned hotel across the street from the CenturyLink Center, wrapped up a $37 million, 150-room expansion earlier this year. Other features of the now 600-room facility include a new, 7,000-square-foot ballroom, a remodeled lobby and 100 new parking spaces. The older guest rooms (built in 2004) all got an upgrade, too. The hotel, one of two AAA four-diamond hotels in Omaha, is seen by city and business officials as a major selling point for attracting big events and conventions.
Midtown Crossing ins and outs
A handful of businesses have moved in and out at the mixed-use development near Warren Buffett's office on 36th and Farnam Streets. Loft 610, a restaurant and bar that closed last fall, was replaced in November with Portovino Ristorante, an Italian eatery that features wood-fired pizzas, pasta and sandwiches. Parliament Pub, which was just off Dodge Street, moved this spring to the Old Market (12th and Harney Streets, in a building shared with Roja Mexican Grill + Margarita Bar.) New additions include Dallas-based home goods and furniture retailer Parmida Home, which opened its first store in the area at Midtown Crossing in March, two new art galleries and Pana 88, a new Asian fusion restaurant. Meanwhile, the Omaha area's first public Chick-fil-A restaurant opened in December, inside the Mutual of Omaha Bank building.
Off the beaten path
If you've already done your shopping at Nebraska Furniture Mart and Borsheims Fine Jewelry, made your dinner plans at Piccolo's or Gorat's and taken a stroll through the Old Market, maybe it's time to explore a new part of Omaha — or get out of town for a quick trip. A few options:
The neighborhood in north-central Omaha (its downtown is Maple Street between Northwest Radial and 72nd Street) has a growing number of bars, restaurants and concert venues. Newer additions include a handful of eateries — Ethel Mae's Cajun Cafe, Ella's, Lot 2 — and bars like Krug Park, which specializes in beer and bloody marys, and Beercade, a spot for anyone who likes arcade games and beer.
Some markets are making their seasonal debut this week. For a taste of local produce, baked goods and other offerings, pick a location: Old Market from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. today, Village Pointe (168th Street and West Dodge Road) from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. today or Aksarben Village (67th and Center Streets) from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. tomorrow.
Looking for a place to get active? This southwest Omaha recreation area (156th and F Streets) is a popular spot for walkers, runners and cyclists but it also has playground and picnic space, a marina and fishing areas, and sports fields. It's also looking prettier these days; last year the lake was drained in an attempt to solve an invasive zebra mussel problem. Now it's been refilled.
If you like antiques and want to explore beyond Omaha, drive about 40 miles east on Interstate 80 to the town of Walnut. It has a population of about 900 and an antique store count of 15 — plus a handful of speciality quilting and craft shops.
After the meeting's over, check out some events at local museums, galleries and sports facilities. A small selection of the many options:
Omaha Storm Chasers baseball
Be one of the first 1,500 fans to show up at this Triple-A team's game today in Sarpy County and get a Warren Buffett bank. Gates at Werner Park open at 5:45 p.m. and the game starts at 7:05 p.m.
Council Bluffs Express indoor football
Bring along your Berkshire meeting credential and you'll get a free ticket for buying another. The team (formerly known as the Iowa Blackhawks) will take on the Colorado Lightning Saturday night at 7:05 at the Mid-America Center, located at 1 Arena Way in Council Bluffs.
Saturday's 8 p.m. performance, “Stayin' Alive: A Celebration of the '70s,” will feature music from artists like Chicago, Stevie Wonder, the Eagles and Earth, Wind & Fire. The venue, the Holland Center, is not far from the CenturyLink Center at 1200 Douglas St.
Modern Arts Midtown
Artists with work on display at the gallery include Wendy Jane Bantam, the featured artist of the 2010 Berkshire shareholder meeting, and Omahan Watie White, with works from the “Stolen Paintings” series. The gallery is at 3615 Dodge Street.
Contact the writer: 402-444-1543, email@example.com