Tickets went on sale to the public for Nebraska’s spring exhibition against Wichita State in Central City, Nebraska, at 8 a.m. on Monday morning. Less than an hour later, they were all gone.
The Bison Activity Dome has a capacity of 2,098, and all signs point to that capacity being met in the newly-constructed facility for the exhibition match on April 29.
“Nate [Pohlen] told me there were people camping out last night on Easter night; I felt bad,” Coach John Cook told the assembled media after practice on Monday. “But I didn’t know, this is the first I heard it sold out. There’s no place like Nebraska. I know Central City, this has been a four-year project. So they approached us and said, ‘Hey, we’re going to build this arena, it’s going to be ready somewhere in 2023 and will you guys come out there?’ We said, ‘Sure, you build it, we’ll come out and play.’ And so now it’s happening and that’s why I think it’s a really big deal for the community.”
Taking the Huskers on the road for their spring exhibition to small Nebraska towns has become an annual tradition for Cook’s program, and the state has responded in a big way.
“I ran into the group from Ewing [last week], which is now Ewing-something-something, and they’re going to build a facility, so they want us to come up there,” Cook said. “They said it’s going to be bigger and better than Central City. So I love the competition in the state.”
The Bison Activity Dome officially opened in December of 2022, making the exhibition one of the first big events total place in the facility.
“It’s a pride for the community and, I think, by Nebraska volleyball or any of our Nebraska teams coming out there and playing, it just kind of validates that this is a big deal, it’s important and we have big events in here,” Cook said. “Just like at PBA, we have Red Hot Chili Peppers in there, that’s a big deal. When Nebraska volleyball comes to Central City that’s a big deal and validates that arena, so we’re honored and I know they’ll do a great job.”
The Huskers sold out the Heartland Events Center in Grand Island for their exhibition against Kansas last spring with a crowd of 6,117. Selling out a 2,100-seat arena was easy compared to that, but it’s still a novel experience for Nebraska’s six newcomers, including Florida transfer Merritt Beason.
“It’s insane,” the junior opposite hitter said. “Being from Alabama, volleyball is not huge. So for me, it’s been really cool just to see how big volleyball is up here and that’s one of the reasons that I wanted to come here was how big and how important volleyball is. So I don’t know, it blows my mind to think about it. So, super cool.”
While the exhibition may have garnered headlines for the rapid sellout, a different Nebraska match has caused quite a stir throughout the fan base, locally and beyond. Since Nebraska announced in late February that it will play Omaha in an outdoor match at Memorial Stadium, part of the “Volleyball Day in Nebraska” event, Cook has heard about it everywhere he’s gone.
“It’s unreal,” Cook said. “There are people who are going to come in from all over the world for this thing. It’s like a happening. I’ve never seen anything like it. Everywhere I go, there are two things everybody talks about. I’ve been all over the state, I’ve been all over the country recruiting, everywhere I go, people want to talk to me about that stadium match and they want to find out about the horses. It’s unreal … So it’s been a huge reaction and people are fired up from everywhere. In airports I’m running into people coming up to me and talking about it. It’s a really big deal.”
The buzz hasn’t been contained to just the coaching staff and the volleyball team, however.
“One of my friends who plays soccer, she mentioned that someone asked her about the game just because she was wearing a Nebraska shirt,” sophomore middle blocker Bekka Allick said. “So it’s being talked about, not just in Nebraska. So yeah, it is definitely a conversation.”
Cook said he thinks the match will sell out, though he’s not yet sure what that would mean in terms of an attendance figure as the planners are still figuring out the logistics for seating, court and stage location for the accompanying concert and other details.
The outdoor match is still months away, however. For now, the Huskers are working hard to prepare for the exhibition in Central City as they’ve transitioned from the beach season to indoor training.
We’ll have more on spring volleyball here at Hail Varsity in the coming days, so stay tuned.
Jacob Padilla has been writing for Hail Varsity since 2015. He covers football, volleyball men’s basketball and prep sports. He also co-hosts the Nebraska Preps Postgame and Nebraska Shootaround podcasts for the Hurrdat Media and Hail Varsity podcast networks. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.