Nebraska takes step to creating Memorial Stadium of future
By ERIC OLSON
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) With Memorial Stadium on the cusp of its 100th anniversary, the Nebraska athletic department on Thursday set the stage for a massive renovation that will make the venue more fan friendly for decades to come.
University leaders also announced a new multimedia rights deal that would bring in more than $300 million over 15 years and said that alcohol would be sold at men's and women's basketball games at Pinnacle Bank Arena starting this season.
The athletic department must get approval from the university Board of Regents, who are expected to approve the plans. The next board meeting is Sept. 30.
Nebraska is scheduled to open a $160 million football facility next year, and the Big Ten's billion-dollar-a-year media rights deal announced this summer will bring unprecedented windfalls to league members.
The announcements came less than two weeks after Nebraska began its search for a new football coach following the firing of Scott Frost. Athletic director Trev Alberts said discussions about stadium upgrades and the rights deal have been going on for months and that the timing is coincidental.
"I'm not naive to perhaps the benefit of potential candidates saying, wow, in spite of some of our challenges in terms of wins and losses on the field, there's a lot of momentum happening at the University of Nebraska," Alberts said. "If that's an unintended benefit, we'll take it."
The Cornhuskers have played in Memorial Stadium since 1923 and incremental improvements have been made over the years, including luxury suites in 1999 and an expansion to more than 85,000 seats in 2013.
A redevelopment of the south end zone area, concession areas and concourses as well as improvements in digital infrastructure are likely, Alberts said. He had no cost estimate or timetable for the project.
The athletic department received about 22,000 responses to a survey on what amenities fans would like in order to improve the stadium experience, Alberts said, and that feedback will be used in the decision-making process.
Alberts noted the football team continues to get strong fan support even though it has not had a winning season since 2016. The school has an NCAA-record 385-game sellout streak that began in 1962.
"We stick together through all kinds of weather," Alberts said, quoting the school fight song. "I think the fans have stuck with us through some pretty nasty storms. I think it's time for us to do our part."
The athletic department's multimedia rights agreement with Playfly Sports would take effect Oct. 1. The deal guarantees $301 million over 15 years, or about $18.2 million annually. Playfly currently holds the multimedia rights for Southern California, LSU and Virginia, among other schools.
As part of the package, Alberts said, Playfly would contribute $1 million to name, image and likeness programs each of the first two years and additional undetermined amounts in following years.
Alcohol would be sold only at Pinnacle Bank Arena as part of a two-year pilot program. Nebraska would receive 10% of the net profit, which Alberts said would amount to about $100,000 this basketball season.
There will be no alcohol sales at Memorial Stadium because the facility is not properly equipped for that, Alberts said. Neither will there be sales at the Haymarket Park baseball stadium for now because of existing agreements between the university, city of Lincoln and the Lincoln Saltdogs independent league team.
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Updated September 22, 2022