Possible expansion of Nebraska's Memorial Stadium renovation plans
Revision adds 3,000 general admission seats, 2,000 club seats and 1,000-1,500 skybox seats.
Plans to remodel Memorial Stadium's east side could grow a bit bigger.
Nebraska Athletic Director Tom Osborne plans to ask the Board of Regents on Friday for permission to increase the project from $55 million to $63 million and to add a total of about 6,000 seats, instead of the previously planned 5,000 seats.
“It appeared as though there was more demand for suites and skyboxes than we thought and maybe some potential for added club seating,” Osborne said Tuesday. “We feel this will be very cost-effective.”
The latest proposal would put Memorial Stadium’s capacity in the 91,000 range, within spitting distance of the 10 biggest college football stadiums in the country. According to ESPN and university athletic departments, those arena giants range from LSU’s 92,400-seat stadium to Michigan’s 109,901-seat stadium.
In a phone interview while traveling to the Big 12 women’s basketball tournament in Kansas City, Mo., on Tuesday, Osborne said the latest expansion plans would answer pent-up demand for tickets without jeopardizing Nebraska’s record string of stadium sellouts. That streak stands at 311.
“It appears we have anywhere from 5,000 to 7,000 people waiting for one type of seating or another,” he said. “We feel there’s adequate demand to build this much — we don’t want to overshoot and build 10,000 or 15,000 seats and have some of them sitting empty.”
The project would begin in the next few months and be completed in time for the 2013 football season, he said.
Memorial Stadium’s current official seating capacity is 81,067, although it routinely draws about 86,000 when players, news media and stadium personnel are counted. Assuming that the sellouts continue, Osborne said the expansion likely would make the Nebraska facility one of the three or four top-drawing college football stadiums.
The NU Board of Regents previously approved the $55 million East Stadium project in October and selected Clark Enersen Partners architects to design the project in December. Most of the financing will come through private donations and athletic department funds.
The regents have authorized the athletic department to issue up to $28.5 million in revenue bonds to be repaid through ticket sales, but Osborne said he thinks that the project can be built with only about $15 million in debt.
Osborne said the cost of the original project was coming in slightly higher than originally anticipated, about $57 million, and that adding an extra level for more skyboxes will add an additional $6 million to the total project cost. The extra floor will bring the total height of the East Stadium to about the same level as previous skybox expansions on the west and north sides.
If approved by the regents, the revised expansion plan would add about 3,000 general admission seats, about 2,000 heated and covered club seats and 1,000 to 1,500 skybox seats, he said.
The renovation also will include a 40,000 square-foot scientific research facility, to be built beneath the new seating levels. The facility, which will feature MRI technology, will be shared by athletic department and other university researchers who will study brain injuries and concussions, along with other sports-related research into nutrition, injuries and equipment design.