Changes are coming to Memorial Stadium. Many of the details are still being worked out, and other projects, like the Go Big project, need to finish first, but the future of the home of the Huskers could begin being officially rewritten next week.
Nebraska Athletic Director Trev Alberts has asked the Board of Regents for a waiver that would allow it to adjust the typical sequence of approvals necessary the Memorial Stadium improvement project. The Board could approve the request at its meeting Sept. 30.
“We have a 100-year-old stadium that’s iconic and that people love. The reality is…there’s been such change, technological change. I think we’re behind,” Alberts said. “I think we need to dive into how do we ensure the next 50 to 100 years of Memorial Stadium.”
The waiver, Alberts said Thursday at a media roundtable alongside University of Nebraska President Ted Carter and UNL Chancellor Ronnie Green, would allow Nebraska to find and hire a project manager who can advocate for the university while working as an extension of the athletic department on a complex task.
“This is the most complicated project that we can undertake. We’re literally going to be repairing and rebuilding an airplane while we’re flying it. In my own personal world, I rebuilt an aircraft carrier in 2006 for $2 billion. That was already existing. This is not completely unlike that, except we’re not replacing nuclear reactors,” said Carter, a former vice admiral in the U.S. Navy.
Last spring, Alberts and the athletic department surveyed Husker fans on nearly every detail of their experience attending home football games, from seat width to concessions and almost everything in-between.
“That survey was fantastic,” Alberts said. “Everything we’re going to do, everything we have done is being directed by the survey and the response of our fans.”
The stadium improvement will have three priorities. One, modernize the stadium. While some routine maintenance is scheduled for this upcoming offseason it just makes sense to start installing seat-backs in certain sections, part of modernizing Memorial Stadium and the “holistic” approach Alberts is looking for.
Two, create a facility that “enhances the evolving fan experience.” Think WiFi access and capabilities. Think ticketing–paper or paperless? Nebraska has to be able to appeal to multiple generations of fans.
Three, equitable and affordable access to the stadium itself.
“That’s really important to me,” Alberts said, adding that some of the revenue and ticket pricing data he saw outside of the survey results was “alarming.” That includes the donation price that many ticket holders are “grandfathered in” at, and how Nebraska addresses that going forward.
Beyond the need for improvements, many of the details of those improvements–when they’re happening, what disruptions to the game-day experience are necessary–are still to be determined. However, one area that Alberts, Green and Carter are clear on is that students will be a priority in the discussion.
“That’s the primary objective, is the students,” Alberts said. “And so that will be a very significant part as we rethink this is to ensure that our current students have an elite experience supporting us.”
Memorial Stadium, Alberts said, remains an excellent place to catch a game. When Indiana visits Oct. 1 for a 6:30 p.m. game, it will be “one of the greatest places to watch a college football game. I really believe that.
“But in 30 years, what does that look like? President Carter and Chancellor Green and I feel like this is our responsibility as leaders at this time to not just be focused on today, but what does the future look like?”
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.