LINCOLN — Only at Nebraska does volleyball get its own ceiling trusses.
Piece by piece, red beams were installed Friday above the Devaney Center’s arena floor in preparation for Husker volleyball’s transition from NU Coliseum.
That transition will become official at 7 p.m. Aug. 24, when Nebraska plays its Red-White scrimmage at the new venue.
“They (the trusses) are a nod to the coliseum,” said NU Associate Athletic Director John Ingram, looking up with reporters as a section of a beam was swung by cable into position.
That’s about all the red trusses are for.
They don’t support the building in any way. They support Husker volleyball, giving the new venue a bit of intimacy and the cozy feel of the Coliseum.
Leaving the friendly confines of the Coliseum was not an easy sell for the three-time national champs or for fans who have sold out the 4,030-seat venue a nation-leading 181 consecutive times. NU went 454-30 at NU Coliseum.
So it’s important, Ingram said, that the red trusses have the same barrel shape as the Coliseum’s trusses.
Beyond that, he said, the new seating capacity would be “just under 8,000” — nearly double the Coliseum capacity and about 15 percent more than was estimated a year and a half ago when the $20 million renovation was announced.
The exact new seating total will be determined later, but it will virtually assure that Nebraska will surpass Hawaii — which seats about 6,500 — as the nation’s volleyball attendance leader.
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Though Ingram did not give a tour of the entire renovation — such as the new coaches’ offices adjacent to five new spectator suites or locker rooms — a look around revealed big changes and workers everywhere.
Ingram said more than 100 workers from three construction companies work every day to meet the Aug. 24 deadline.
Gone are the hard bench seats that circled the upper reaches. All but about 2,000 bleacher seats at floor level will be hard-backed chairs. The bleacher seats, Ingram said, are similar to those at the Coliseum but with more leg room.
The basketball configuration had about 1,500 floor-level bleacher seats. Volleyball will have about 2,000 in an attempt to get as many fans as close to the action as possible.
“Fan density is important to the volleyball program,” Ingram said.
Walls are now closer in and support an upper concourse where fans can lean on a 4-foot wall to watch a match. “Basically, we added an upper concourse for standing room,” Ingram said.
How much of that standing-room-only portion will be part of season-ticket sales has yet to be determined by the ticket office, Ingram said.
This new setup is expected to provide a noisy environment. Expanded student sections will be in the floor-level bleachers, close enough to yell support to Husker players and provide a raucous distraction to opponents.
“We’re going to pack the kids in right by the benches,” Ingram said. “The fans will decide how loud it will be in here.”
Standing on the north sideline, where player benches will be, provides a view of Husker coach John Cook’s office beyond the top row of seats across the way. From one end of the office, Cook can observe the court. From the other, he can look at downtown Lincoln, even catching a glimpse of the Coliseum a few blocks away.
Cook’s view to the south is made possible by a new glass exterior that brings light not only to the offices but to a remodeled south concourse.
Reporters will benefit from a special media section in the southwest corner of the arena, a significant upgrade from the makeshift section at the Coliseum.
“I think it’s going to be the finest venue for volleyball, wrestling and gymnastics in the country,” Ingram said.
Looking up past the glaring construction lights, the real workhorses of construction were still visible in the darkness — cold, gray steel girders doing the heavy lifting while those new red, make-believe trusses get the glory.
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Video: See highlights from Friday's sneak peek at the Devaney Center renovations: