Tonight, after months of anticipation, Husker football fans will stream into Memorial Stadium for the first game of the 2016 season.
Vendors, ushers, police officers and many others have spent hours and hours preparing to make sure all goes well before, during and after the game.
“Our job is to make it the best (experience) that it can be,” said Butch Hug, associate athletic director for facilities and events. “We encourage our staff to be fan-friendly and have a safe and secure environment.”
For John Backer, captain of security operations for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Police Department, the football season has two parts: 1. Planning for Nebraska football season. 2. Nebraska football season.
In his 14th year with the department, Backer said game days at Memorial Stadium are less hectic than people might think. How the department makes things work for the fans is a result of months of planning.
The process begins with a review of what happened during the previous season, looking at what problems occurred and generating ideas to prevent the problems.
When the season arrives, Backer said, officers work longer shifts. For him, the long hours are worth it.
“Knowing that many people can come to our campus and stadium and have that experience is rewarding,” he said.
Backer said he always has stuck with the saying that “a great fan experience is a safe fan experience.” To make his department’s job easier, he asks fans to plan ahead, to know where they’re going and to stay hydrated.
Hug said not much has changed this year, with the exception of gate closures following the start of the game.
Gates 1, 6, 8, 18, 19, 21 and 22 will close after kickoff to allow more staff to work inside the stadium, Hug said.
Here are a few other things fans should know before they show up for tonight’s game against Fresno State:
UNL officials remind fans to leave early and plan ahead to locate parking, restrooms and a postgame meeting place.
A free bike valet service will be provided at Cook Pavilion by UNL Campus Recreation.
Partly cloudy turning cloudy, temperatures in the mid to low-70s, winds SSE 14 mph, slight chance of rain.
Most parking lots on City Campus are reserved for those who have paid reservations on game days. Most lots surrounding the stadium have been converted to reserved stalls, with patrons assigned to specific numbered stalls. Paid public parking on City Campus is available at $20 per stall in the Parking Garage at 17th and R Streets.
Parking for visitors with disabilities: Available for $20 per vehicle on a first-come, first-served basis in Booster Lots 5 and 9 on the south side of Salt Creek Roadway between Stadium Drive and 14th Street northeast of Memorial Stadium. Lots 5 and 9 have free cart shuttle service to the stadium for mobility-impaired guests. This shuttle will be stationed during the game at the northeast corner of the stadium for patrons who need to return to their vehicles. Contact the athletics ticket office at 402-472-3111 for pre-purchase opportunities. Charter and shuttle bus parking is available on W Street between 14th and 16th Streets.
Lot opening: Parking lots will be open at 6 a.m. for games with kickoff scheduled before 6 p.m.; for games that start at 6 p.m. or later, lots will open at 11 a.m. Lots at Haymarket Park will open at 6 a.m. for games with kickoff schedules at 11 a.m.; all other kickoff times, these lots will open at 8 a.m.
Vans: Two vans will transport patrons from the 17th and R Parking Garage to the east side of the northwest corner of Memorial Stadium.
Remote parking: StarTran will offer the Big Red Express shuttle service to and from the stadium from sites around Lincoln. The cost is $5 each way or $10 round trip. Season passes are $60.
The taxi cab dropoff/pickup location will be at the corner of 14th and Vine Streets east of the stadium, and north of Memorial Stadium on Salt Creek Roadway. Other passenger drop-off and pickup will not be allowed in front of the stadium before or after games. The recommended dropoff location is 12th and R Streets.
Memorial Stadium gates will open 90 minutes prior to the start of the game. Officials ask fans to enter through the gate listed on their ticket.
Tickets will be scanned at all gates upon entry and re-entry. Mobile tickets will be accepted. No re-entry is allowed after the start of the fourth quarter.
Student tickets: UNL students will be seated in the southeast corner of Memorial Stadium in Sections 9 through 14. Students with tickets for East Stadium are required to pick up a wristband at a tent located east of Gate 23. Students with tickets for South Stadium do not require a wristband and will enter through Gate 24.
For fan assistance, fans can use the Memorial Stadium text-messaging service by texting 69050.
Lost and found
Areas are located in the Guest Relations and Security Offices in both the East and West Stadiums.
Stadium Drive, which is directly west of Memorial Stadium, will be closed from T to V Streets starting at 7 a.m. on game days.
In addition, on game days:
» There will be no access to the southbound 9th Street roundabout before and after the game.
» Southbound 9th Street will be limited to one lane before and after the game.
» Northbound 10th Street will be limited to two lanes after the game.
» Northbound traffic from 14th Street will be directed onto Salt Creek Roadway eastbound only.
» No southbound traffic will be allowed onto 14th Street from Salt Creek Roadway.
» Southbound traffic from the 14th and Avery Parking Garage will be directed south to W Street, then east to 16th Street.
After the game, the Interstate 80 eastbound on-ramp at Exit 409 near Waverly and the northbound Superior Street on-ramp to I-180 will be closed following each game this season, the Nebraska Department of Roads said.
The department said motorists traveling east on I-80 should access the Interstate at Exit 397 (South U.S. Highway 77), Exit 399 (airport), Exit 401 (I-80/I-180 interchange), Exit 403 (27th Street) or Exit 405 (56th Street).
The Nebraska State Patrol will increase its presence, and troopers will work overtime for the first three home games this season after receiving a $3,285 grant from the Nebraska Department of Roads’ Office of Highway Safety.
Drinking and driving
This weekend, the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office will be participating in the “You Drink & Drive, You Lose” crackdown. Deputies will concentrate their efforts on violations of traffic laws and the detection of impaired drivers from 8 p.m. until 2 a.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Overtime for the additional deputies working during the crackdown will be paid through a grant from the Nebraska Office of Highway Safety.
» Bags larger than 13.5 inches by 10 inches by 7 inches are not allowed.
» Outside chairbacks are not allowed in Memorial Stadium. About 20,000 chairback seats will be available for rental at $5 each.
» Escalator and elevator access will be restricted to fans holding tickets to their respective areas in the premium level and the 600 East Stadium level.
» Memorial Stadium is a non-smoking area.
» Prohibited items: guns, knives, bags larger than security containers, glass, cans, coolers, beverage containers, video cameras, open umbrellas and pets
» Food and beverages from approved game-day vendors selling on university grounds are allowed inside the stadium. All other outside food and beverages are prohibited.
» No alcoholic beverages are allowed in the stadium.
» The university does not permit the use of unmanned aerial vehicles on or over the campus on football game days.
» Throwing of any object in the stadium is prohibited. Any person throwing any object is subject to immediate removal from the stadium. Rules allow game officials to penalize the home team if objects are thrown onto the playing field.
» Nebraska event staff or security personnel can help with any problems fans may encounter. If fans become separated from friends, they should report to any First Aid station or Guest Services booth for assistance.
— Compiled by World-Herald staff writer Cody Nagel