Big Red facility update

Husker athletes should be able to get around the proposed $155 million sports complex with the ease of a running back in the open field.

Designers of the facility envision enough convenience for the athletes that the complex will be a “one-stop shop” for a variety of tasks. And it will provide a “recruiting wow” factor, according to the regents’ document.

“Once the family steps out of the vehicle (for the recruiting visit), they never have to get in the car again until the visit concludes,” the document says. Recruits “will realize they have not seen anything else like it in all of their recruiting visits.”

The University of Nebraska calls it the North Stadium Expansion, and fans also will get some benefits. That includes new elevators and escalators in the northeast corner of Memorial Stadium, as well as more restrooms and concession spots in that vicinity.

The expansion is the Husker athletic department’s new project, geared toward helping the programs compete at the highest levels. The purpose isn’t to keep up with other programs, the documents say, which also have spent heavily on football and sports centers.

Documents given for the regents’ consideration said NU athletics has never aimed to keep up, but “lead the way” and set “the gold standard” for other programs.

The NU Board of Regents is expected to approve the program statement, or early plan, Friday at Varner Hall, 3835 Holdrege St. in Lincoln. The regents will hear some academic presentations at 9 a.m. and begin the business portion of their meeting at 10:30 a.m.

NU announced its plan to build a new football and athletic operations center Sept. 27. The concept includes improved football locker rooms, plus dining facilities and academic support areas for all sports.

Other universities in recent years have spent heavily on new football centers and sports complexes. Purdue opened a $65 million football complex and Illinois has built one for $79 million. Northwestern recently spent $270 million on facilities for a variety of sports.

To build its center, UNL has committed the area just northeast of Memorial Stadium. This means the outdoor track area will have to be replaced and moved north of the Devaney Center at a cost of $11.5 million beyond the $155 million.

Documents on the track center said it will be paid with revenue bonds, private money or trust funds.

The “one-stop shop” refers to enabling athletes to maximize their time by not having to walk far or drive a distance to get from one spot to the next. They should be able to use their time efficiently, “practicing, studying, and recovering and not having to travel between buildings in order to get these tasks done.”

A “great football training facility site” connects to outdoor practice fields, the indoor practice facility and the stadium, the documents said. Very few programs across the country do all three of those — regents’ paperwork says NU’s will.

Some 100,000 square feet will be dedicated solely to the football team. Players will have the luxury of getting a meal and meeting with their academic counselor nearby, then striding upstairs to meet with a coach.

Then it’s back downstairs to change in the new locker room, getting taped in the “sports med suite,” lifting in the new weight room and going to practice in the indoor facility or outdoor practice field.

On game day, players will begin their Tunnel Walk at the locker room, entering the new northeast tower of the stadium. This “will enable fans to not only slap the players’ hands but will also allow fans at multiple levels to look down and cheer on the team” as they enter the stadium.

The documents said that $100 million will be paid with donations, $50 million through revenue bonds and $5 million with trust funds.

Construction is expected to start next June and be completed in June 2022. Some existing spaces will be remodeled beginning in July 2022 and ending in March 2023.

The regents’ documents read in places like a promotional campaign. “This is an opportunity to once again ‘Lead the Nation.’ This is Nebraska and THERE IS NO PLACE LIKE NEBRASKA. GO BIG RED!”

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