Proposed athletics expansion includes research space

Tom Osborne, athletic director, discusses the proposed expansion projects with members of the media on Oct. 8.
Tom Osborne, athletic director, discusses the proposed expansion projects with members of the media on Oct. 8.

A proposed expansion of Memorial Stadium will provide a unique mix of increased seating for fans, facility upgrades for student athletes and extra space for campus researchers.

Announced Oct. 8 by Tom Osborne, athletic director, the Athletic Department will propose two expansion projects during the Oct. 15 meeting of the NU Board of Regents. The first project, estimated at $55.5 million, would expand Memorial Stadium's east stands, adding approximately 5,000 seats and 30 new indoor/outdoor suites, while setting aside 20,000 square feet for research space. The second proposed capital improvement, estimated at $3.75 million, would add a new baseball/softball indoor practice facility at Haymarket Park.

"This is another example of where we are leveraging our athletic program and our research efforts to a mutual advantage," said Harvey Perlman, chancellor.

The Memorial Stadium expansion will increase seating capacity to more than 90,000. The proposal calls for funding to come from athletic private donations and bond revenues generated from the new seating. No state appropriated funds will be used for either project.

The stadium expansion will include up to 2,500 new club seats, approximately 400 to 500 seats within the new suites, up to 2,800 new general admission seats, and additional seating for the disabled. Each new seating area would include dedicated restrooms and concessions areas. A new grand lobby, expanded concourse and additional first-aid areas would also be added. No current East Stadium seats will be removed and no season ticket holders will be required to relocate their seats as part of this project.

The proposed height of the new addition to be constructed above and around the east balcony will be similar to the West Stadium, completed in 1999. Within the six proposed levels of the new East Stadium building, approximately 40,000 square feet of interior shell space will be created. Athletics will retain approximately 20,000 square feet of the undeveloped space for future growth, and as part of a unique partnership between NU Athletics and the Office of Research and Economic Development, approximately 20,000 square feet will be set aside for future office and laboratory space for research. Athletics has committed $1.5 million to help finish the interior of the academic space. Research and Economic Development will be responsible for the remaining construction cost of finishing the shell space.

Prem Paul, vice chancellor for research and economic development, said a new research center is envisioned that will use cutting-edge imaging technologies to better understand foundations of behavior that contribute to health, injury and disease. Participating UNL academic units could include the colleges of Arts and Sciences and Education and Human Sciences; the departments of psychology, sociology, political science, special education and communication disorders, anthropology, mathematics, biological systems engineering, agricultural economics, economics, management, and child, youth and family studies, and the School of Biological Sciences.

"This innovative partnership combines and leverages the university's strengths in research and athletics," said Paul. "Locating the proposed research center in East Stadium will build new opportunities for collaboration and position our university to take a leading role in developing long-term solutions to improved health and performance." Paul greeted the media at the Oct. 8 briefing via video.

Details regarding the proposed research facility will be presented to the Board of Regents in the coming year.

The total projected cost of the East Stadium Improvement Project is $55.5 million. The proposal calls for $40.5 million to come from private donations and the remaining $15 million from bond revenues. Approximately $7 million in new revenue is expected to be generated annually from the new seating. These additional revenues will be used to pay off the bonds.

Osborne said the additional revenue generated by the new suites, club seats and general public seating is needed to keep Nebraska competitive.

"We believe now is the right time to build on the success of the Nebraska football program as it transitions to the Big Ten Conference," Osborne said. "We need to find ways to generate additional revenue for athletics as well as for the university at large and we see great opportunity to do that with the East Stadium expansion and with our partnership with UNL research."

With the Board of Regents' approval, a construction manager and architect would be selected and brought to the board for approval in December and construction could begin in November 2011 and be complete by fall 2013.

Athletics is also submitting a proposal to the Board of Regents for a capital improvement expenditure for an indoor practice facility at Haymarket Park. NEBCO, Nebraska's public/private partner at Haymarket Park, will be responsible for the construction in accordance with the Haymarket Park agreements, while the athletic department will be responsible for the financing of this $4.75 million project.

The new facility will include batting cages, pitching mounds, a turf system suitable for infield practice and a netting system for live hitting. The proposed 22,000 square-foot practice facility would be located at Haymarket Park, east of the Bowlin Softball Stadium and north of the Hawks Baseball Field. The addition of on-site batting facilities will enhance Nebraska's opportunities to host regional baseball and softball tournaments in accordance with NCAA guidelines.

The NU Board of Regents meets Oct. 14 and 15 at the Milo Bail Student Center, 6001 Dodge St., on the UNO campus. Committee meetings begin at 1:30 p.m., Oct. 14. The board meeting begins at 9 a.m., Oct. 15.

For a complete agenda, go online to and click "October." All NU Regents meetings are open to the public and will be audio-streamed live online at

Additional UNL-related items on the NU Board of Regents Oct. 15 agenda include:

- Establishing the Water for Food Institute.

- Purchase of student housing in Curtis from the University of Nebraska Foundation. The purchase would allow the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture to acquire 68 beds of housing. When combined with planned new housing of 76 beds, the purchase would allow the college to meet requirements of LB959 and gain capital funding for the education center project appropriated by the Legislature.

- Gift of the design and funds to construct an addition to the Lied Center for Performing Arts.

- The mediated settlement agreement with the Big 12 Conference and member institutions regarding UNL's withdrawal from the conference.