The new addition to Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium will allow about 6,000 more fans to watch the Cornhuskers play football and also serve as a hub for research on concussions and other areas of brain science as well as athletic performance.
Gov. Dave Heineman, retired football coach and athletic director Tom Osborne and Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany were among the dignitaries who participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony in front of the East Stadium entrance Thursday.
The addition of 38 skybox suites pushes the stadium’s total to more than 100, and capacity increased from about 86,000 to almost 92,000.
Private donations and revenue from the new seating are funding the $63.5 million project, which will be paid off in seven years.
The east side of the stadium now rises 165 feet, double its previous height, and the highest seats offer a complete view of the field in addition to a panoramic view of downtown Lincoln and the outlying rural landscape. There are 36 new restrooms, 12 new concession stands and three retail stores selling Husker gear.
Beyond the enhancement of the fan experience, officials touted the collaboration between the athletic and academic arms of the university.
Researchers in the Center for Brain, Biology and Behavior will study concussions, most notably, but also conditions such as autism and addiction. The Athletic Performance Lab, which is connected to the brain center by a 100-foot skywalk, will be tasked with enhancing the well-being of athletes in addition to finding ways to provide them an edge on the playing field or court. But work in the performance lab also could be applied to the treatment and rehabilitation of physical problems outside the sports realm. The lab is partnering with a rehabilitation hospital in Lincoln.
Osborne shepherded the stadium expansion as one of his last major projects before he retired as athletic director in January.
”Anybody coming through here will have to say the University of Nebraska is doing as much or more than any university in the country to promote the health and safety of student-athletes,” Osborne said. ”As far as athletic performance, we’re going to be ahead of the curve.
”Great research is going to come out of here, things that will benefit mankind all over. But we also think from the standpoint of recruiting it’s going to be huge.”
The structure was built as a shell around the facade of the original East Stadium, which opened in 1923.
The 18th-ranked Huskers open the season Aug. 31 at home against Wyoming.