A1 A1
New details provided for Husker football facility showcase the 'recruiting wow' factor

Husker athletes should be able to get around the proposed $155 million sports complex with the ease of a running back in the open field.

Designers of the facility envision enough convenience for the athletes that the complex will be a “one-stop shop” for a variety of tasks. And it will provide a “recruiting wow” factor, according to the regents’ document.

“Once the family steps out of the vehicle (for the recruiting visit), they never have to get in the car again until the visit concludes,” the document says. Recruits “will realize they have not seen anything else like it in all of their recruiting visits.”

The University of Nebraska calls it the North Stadium Expansion, and fans also will get some benefits. That includes new elevators and escalators in the northeast corner of Memorial Stadium, as well as more restrooms and concession spots in that vicinity.

The expansion is the Husker athletic department’s new project, geared toward helping the programs compete at the highest levels. The purpose isn’t to keep up with other programs, the documents say, which also have spent heavily on football and sports centers.

Documents given for the regents’ consideration say NU athletics has never aimed to keep up, but “lead the way” and set “the gold standard” for other programs.

The NU Board of Regents is expected to approve the program statement, or early plan, Friday at Varner Hall, 3835 Holdrege St. in Lincoln. The regents will hear some academic presentations at 9 a.m. and begin the business portion of their meeting at 10:30 a.m.

NU announced its plan to build a new football and athletic operations center Sept. 27. The concept includes improved football locker rooms, plus dining facilities and academic support areas for all sports.

Other universities in recent years have spent heavily on new football centers and sports complexes. Purdue opened a $65 million football complex and Illinois has built one for $79 million. Northwestern recently spent $270 million on facilities for a variety of sports.

To build its center, UNL has committed the area just northeast of Memorial Stadium. This means the outdoor track area will have to be replaced and moved north of the Devaney Center at a cost of $11.5 million beyond the $155 million.

Documents on the track center says it will be paid with revenue bonds, private money or trust funds.

The “one-stop shop” refers to enabling athletes to maximize their time by not having to walk far or drive a distance to get from one spot to the next. They should be able to use their time efficiently, “practicing, studying, and recovering and not having to travel between buildings in order to get these tasks done.”

A “great football training facility site” connects to outdoor practice fields, the indoor practice facility and the stadium, the documents say. Very few programs across the country do all three of those — regents’ paperwork says NU’s will.

Some 100,000 square feet will be dedicated solely to the football team. Players will have the luxury of getting a meal and meeting with their academic counselor nearby, then striding upstairs to meet with a coach.

Then it’s back downstairs to change in the new locker room, getting taped in the “sports med suite,” lifting in the new weight room and going to practice in the indoor facility or outdoor practice field.

On game day, players will begin their Tunnel Walk at the locker room, entering the new northeast tower of the stadium. This “will enable fans to not only slap the players’ hands but will also allow fans at multiple levels to look down and cheer on the team” as they enter the stadium.

The documents say that $100 million will be paid with donations, $50 million through revenue bonds and $5 million with trust funds.

Construction is expected to start next June and be completed in June 2022. Some existing spaces will be remodeled beginning in July 2022 and ending in March 2023.

The regents’ documents read in places like a promotional campaign. “This is an opportunity to once again ‘Lead the Nation.’ This is Nebraska and THERE IS NO PLACE LIKE NEBRASKA. GO BIG RED!”

Sign up for a World-Herald subscription and get full access to Husker coverage for less than $5 per month

Photos: Husker fans through the years

Saving lives in the desert unites couple divided over Trump

OCOTILLO, Calif. — When news about President Donald Trump flickers across their television, Laura and John Hunter know that one of them needs to leave the room.

They'd rather not quarrel about how Trump is handling an issue they both care about deeply: immigration.

John is part of a conservative political dynasty: His older brother, Duncan Lee Hunter, represented California in Congress from 1981 to 2009 and pushed — successfully — for the "triple fencing" that separates the cities of Tijuana and San Diego. His nephew is Rep. Duncan Duane Hunter, who succeeded his father and was indicted on corruption charges in August of last year.

John believes in Trump. Laura is a Mexican immigrant who dismisses Trump as a "despicable human being."

But there's one mission that continues to bind them.

About once a month, as they have for 19 years, they travel into the desert east of San Diego with a handful of volunteers who are focused on one of the grimmest aspects of U.S. immigration policy — the deaths of those who are trying to cross the border illegally. The volunteers fill and maintain more than 100 water stations scattered along the sun-bleached California borderlands.

The Hunters' journeys into the desert are one of the main reasons their marriage has survived the dramatic collision of emotions that the 45th American president inspires in each of them.

John said he doesn't see a conflict between his desire to save the lives of people who are trying to cross the border illegally and his support for a president who has described the same people as rapists, criminals and gang members.

"People were dying during the Clinton era, in the Bush era, in the Barack era," he said. "They are still dying in the Trump era."

And they still desperately need water.

The couple met 19 years ago in the low desert of Imperial County, shortly after John had launched his ambitious Water Station project. He was, he said, apolitical on the topic of illegal immigration.

The barrier promoted by his brother had resulted in a decrease in illegal immigration in the San Ysidro area of San Diego, but immigrants who were desperately trying to cross the border were pushed to the east, into unforgiving desert terrain. Thousands of them have died in eastern California and Arizona in the past 25 years.

Laura had read about the venture in a local newspaper and signed on as a volunteer. Their political differences were immediately apparent, but they both opposed abortion, and the water stations, with their potential to save lives, seemed to be an extension of that belief. After a couple of years, their friendship became somethingmore; they started dating and eventually married.

John, 63, is a toy inventor who earned a doctorate in particle physics and worked on satellite technology at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Laura, 72, is a retired elementary school teacher who raised three girls — mostly on her own — along the border regions of San Diego and Mexicali, Mexico.

In their own way, the Hunters reflect the diversity of the Water Station group, which consists of about 10 core volunteers who come together twice a month in Ocotillo, a tiny community in Imperial County. A few are apolitical. At least four — including John Hunter — lean to the right. The rest — mostly the younger ones — are left-leaning activists.

"On this one topic — saving lives in the desert — you could say we are all liberals," John said. "I just consider it being normal. When temps hit 115, people focus on the basics of survival, and petty differences are ignored."

From the start, DuncanHunter, 71, supported his brother's water project and even helped him obtain permits to set up stations on land operated by the Bureau of Land Management. There is no contradiction, he says, between his support for his brother's mission to save immigrant lives and his desire for tough border enforcement.

"The fact that you don't have a secure border leads to people coming to the border and dying of dehydration or exposure in the desert," the former congressman said. "If you had 200 high school kids a year drowning in a canal, what would you do? You'd fence off the canal. … You keep people from dying."

When John first launched his project, migrant deaths were on the rise, hitting a peak of 96 in the El Centro Sector — a 70-mile stretch of border in the Imperial Valley — in fiscal year 2001, according to Border Patrol data. For a time, fatalities declined in the area, but last year, 17 people trying to cross illegally died, and that had the Hunters worried.

They had hoped to retire by now, leaving the work in the hands of a younger generation. But there just aren't enough volunteers.

John's next project is trying to raise money to place cell towers in an area near the Arizona border that currently doesn't have service. Immigrant deaths there have escalated as the California border has been fortified.

Laura thinks it's a good idea. "I think the situation in the desert or the mountains … is not about immigration. It's about life or death and we try to help a little bit," she said. "Whatever we can do to stop people from dying."

Syria tensions raise doubts about nukes at Turkish base
Some wonder whether U.S. should remove weapons, which fall under control of Offutt-based StratCom

WASHINGTON (AP) — Frayed U.S. relations with Turkey over its incursion in Syria raise a sensitive question rarely discussed in public: Should the United States remove the nuclear bombs it has long stored at a Turkish air base?

It's a tricky matter for several reasons, including the fact that by longstanding policy, the U.S. government does not publicly acknowledge locations of nuclear weapons overseas. Still, it is almost an open secret that the U.S. has as many as 50 B-61 bombs stored under heavy guard at Incirlik air base in southern Turkey.

The weapons ultimately fall under the control of the U.S. Strategic Command, based at Offutt Air Force Base.

President Donald Trump implicitly acknowledged the stockpile this week when asked by a reporter how confident he was of the bombs' security.

"We're confident," he said. Turkey, a NATO ally, has reportedly hosted American nuclear weapons for 60 years. The bombs could be dropped by U.S. planes in a nuclear war. The arrangement at Incirlik air base is part of NATO's policy of linking Turkey and other member countries to the alliance's aim of deterring war by having a relatively small number of nuclear weapons based in Europe. Removing them, therefore, would be a diplomatic complication.

There is no known evidence that the nuclear weapons at Incirlik are at direct risk, but relations between Washington and Ankara are at perhaps a historic low and the war in Syria has grown more complex and unpredictable. Incirlik is about 150 miles from Syria by road.

Thursday's announced U.S. deal with Turkey to pause its offensive against Kurdish fighters in northern Syria may have slowed the deterioration of relations. But the overall direction has been decidedly and increasingly negative.

"The arc of their behavior over the past several years has been terrible," Defense Secretary Mark Esper said last Sunday, noting that Ankara defied repeated U.S. warnings not to purchase a Russian air defense system that the White House has likened to a portal for Russian spying. He added: "I mean, they are spinning out of the Western orbit, if you will."

In July, the Pentagon kicked Turkey out of its F-35 fighter jet program because Turkey refused to halt its purchase of the Russian-made air defense system. This was a major blow to U.S.-Turkey relations and raised questions in Washington about whether Turkey was a reliable ally.

Eric Edelman, a former U.S. ambassador to Turkey and senior Pentagon official, said Friday that he believes that the nuclear weapons are safe and secure. He sees risk in removing them.

"I'm not in favor of taking any actions that would potentially accelerate Turkey's thinking about pursuing its own independent nuclear deterrent," he said, noting that Erdogan as recently as September mentioned this possibility.

Some American arms control experts say the U.S. bombs at Incirlik would be safer in another NATO member country.

Hans Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists, who has followed the issue for many years, said in an interview that a review of options for the U.S. bombs at Incirlik, near the city of Adana, is long overdue. He believes that the Air Force, which is responsible for the bombs, has grown concerned about their security in recent years.

"The Air Force is concerned about not only the standard physical perimeters — whether they are good enough — but also about the manpower on the base, whether they have enough to hold back an attack from someone," Kristensen said.

The conflict in northern Syria, which has only grown more complex and unpredictable with a U.S. troop withdrawal, has added a new layer of worry for American officials, he said.

"They're afraid of the spillover" inside Turkey, he said.

The Pentagon has declined to comment on the matter.

Even private experts who study the matter are not sure howmany weapons are stored there, but Kristensen believes there are up to 50 B-61 bombs designed to be dropped by U.S. fighter aircraft. He says the U.S. has had nuclear weapons in Turkey continuously since 1959.

The bombs in Turkey are part of a network of roughly 150 U.S. air-delivered nuclear weapons based in Europe. Kristensen says the host countries, in addition to Turkey, are Belgium, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday that he and Trump share "love and respect," but he also left little doubt that he was offended by an Oct. 9 letter from Trump telling Erdogan, "Don't be a fool!"

Erdogan told reporters that Trump's words were not compatible with "political and diplomatic courtesy" and would not be forgotten. He said he would "do what's necessary" about the letter "when the time comes." He did not elaborate.

Fall cleanup comes to Omaha with 16 sites to drop off old couches and other bulky items

Omaha residents who want to cull old couches, desks and other bulky household items from their basements, garages and apartments no longer need to wait for spring.

The city is holding its first fall cleanup in years, starting this weekend in west Omaha and moving east after. Officials want people to drop off items too large to set out as garbage.

All four weekends of fall cleanup will offer separate sites for dropping off tires and appliances to be recycled, as well as yard waste for people who would like to see it composted.

The effort will cost taxpayers about $150,000. Much of that money pays local trash haulers to collect the items and take them to the landfill. This year’s hauler is Waste Management.

Most of the people directing traffic, explaining what can be tossed and detailing recycling options at 16 sites will be neighborhood volunteers, as happens in the spring.


Paul Williams of La Vista tosses a chair into a pile of metal to be recycled.

Omaha residents can take items to any of the sites. But they will have fewer options this fall than the 80 sites the city oversaw for this spring’s more established cleanup period.

Neighborhood associations, the roughly 100 groups that represent different parts of town, expressed less interest in staffing a second cleanup in the same year, city officials said.

The Planning Department, working with Public Works, sent 100 letters to the groups, said Jim Kee, quality control manager for Public Works. They heard back from about 25 of them.

“It’s a little bit colder; they might not want to,” Kee said of neighbors. “People have things going on on the weekend. We’re competing against different interests in the fall.”

Julie Simon, who organizes the spring cleanup for southwest Omaha’s Leawood Southwest Homeowners Association, said her core group of volunteers couldn’t do another cleanup.

Five to seven people from her neighborhood near 168th Street and West Center Road start work each November for the spring cleanup. Organizing recycling vendors takes months.

The group met twice about the proposed fall cleanup and decided that between Nebraska football season and family activities, “it was just too much,” Simon said.

Four neighborhoods not far from hers are hosting drop-off sites from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, including a tire drop-off site at St. Stephen the Martyr Church, near 167th and S Streets.

Some neighborhood groups had asked the city for fall cleanup, said Chris Stratman of Keep Omaha Beautiful, a nonprofit that helps the groups find volunteers and recycling vendors.


Papillion Public Works Department workers stack up piles of unwanted metal.

Jen Bauer, president of the Aksarben-Elmwood Park Neighborhood Association, said she will be scrambling to find volunteers for Nov. 23, the last weekend of this fall’s cleanup.

She would prefer the city and Keep Omaha Beautiful communicate more with their networks of volunteers and send help. In the early days of the spring cleanup, they did, she said.

Her neighborhood needed 15 volunteers to shuttle people dropping off mattresses, recliners and tube TVs near the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Baxter Arena this spring.

The commitment, at least for her, runs from about 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and that’s asking a lot of people who aren’t being paid, she said.

“I’m happy to support the city, but I don’t like how it was just thrust upon us,” Bauer said.

Even some neighborhood leaders who support a fall cleanup told the city by email and other correspondence that they would like more flexibility in which weekend to clean up.

But Public Works said it needs to cluster Omaha neighborhoods together geographically to move its haulers and staff more efficiently to the sites that need help.

City officials say they understood the first year of the fall cleanup would have to start small. Kee said people would warm up to the idea over time, as they have in the spring.

“They’re just getting used to having it as an option,” he said. “We’re lucky the Huskers had two bye weeks this year.”

Sign up for World-Herald news alerts

Be the first to know when news happens. Get the latest breaking headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Historical Omaha: Ostrich-drawn wagon rides, a 'Bootleg Queen' and Omaha's humble beginnings