LINCOLN — Nebraska unveiled plans Friday for a $155 million, 350,000-square-foot complex that will house the Husker football program.
The new complex is the biggest project in the history of Nebraska athletics and should once again make Husker facilities among the best in the country — a status that had slipped in recent years amid the never-ending arms race in college football.
The facility will provide the Nebraska football program with a new locker room, strength and conditioning center, athletic medicine facility, equipment room, meeting rooms, coaches’ offices and an additional outdoor practice facility. It will also have dining and study areas open to all student-athletes with the goal of bringing all 600-plus NU athletes closer to campus.
The Nebraska athletic department has a goal of raising approximately $100 million to fund the project, which will create a facility that will be one of the largest of its kind in the country.
“It will be a state-of-the-art best facility. I know because I’ve seen all of them,” Nebraska Athletic Director Bill Moos said during an event announcing the new facility.
“This is evidence that the University of Nebraska is committed to competing at the highest level,” said football coach Scott Frost.
Groundbreaking is set for the spring or summer of 2020 with a completion goal before the 2022 football season.
Moos said Nebraska is here to “create the future.”
Touted freshman football player Wan’Dale Robinson, who was one of the highest ranked recruits in the nation a year ago, said NU facilities were already good, but facilities like the one planned will attract “more recruits like myself.”
The facilities will be built just northeast of Memorial Stadium on the grounds of the Ed Weir track stadium. The new facility will link with Memorial Stadium and will also improve the fan experience at Memorial Stadium. Construction will include new vertical transportation for fans entering and exiting the North Stadium.
As part of the renovations, a new track facility will be built north of the Devaney Center on the Innovation Campus. The new outdoor track will be closer to Nebraska’s indoor track facility and coaches’ offices, which are housed at the Devaney Center.
The announcement on the west side of Memorial Stadium marked the start of a big weekend for Nebraska football. Just a football field’s length from where the new facility will be built, ESPN has set up for its Saturday morning “College GameDay” show. On Saturday night, Nebraska has a much-anticipated matchup against No. 5 Ohio State.
The new facilities come just 13 years after Nebraska last upgraded its football complex, totaling $50 million, with the Osborne Athletic Complex and Hawks Championship Center giving NU what then-coach Bill Callahan called the finest facilities in the country in 2006.
Those facilities remain pretty impressive today, still the envy of many schools.
But in recent years they have nonetheless been left far behind by dozens of other schools, as football programs attempt to lure recruits with ever-more extravagant and flashy new digs. Even traditional Big Ten doormats like Purdue and Illinois in recent years have upgraded in a big way.
Northwestern spent $275 million on a football facility and practice field that overlooks Lake Michigan. Iowa opened a $55 million facility in 2015.
It’s all relative, but earlier this year, Moos guessed that NU’s facilities ranked eighth or ninth in the 14-team Big Ten.
For a traditional football power like Nebraska, which just last weekend became only the sixth college program in history to win 900 football games, that’s just not seen as acceptable.
Fans are no doubt hoping the big upgrade and a resurgence under Frost will again restore Nebraska to top-10 status, a place it hasn’t occupied for nearly two decades.
Moos acknowledged that NU’s current facilities still have plenty of shine. But while they aren’t as impressive as some schools, the biggest problem is they’re just too small.
The locker room and meeting room were built for about 120 players, as Callahan had moved to scale back the school’s tradition-rich walk-on program.
Almost from the day he was hired in December 2017, Frost had expressed a desire to expand the roster back to 150-plus players, adding more of the home-grown walk-ons that had been critical to the team’s past success.
With the team’s current cramped quarters, the school is utilizing an auxiliary locker room, and during full team meetings some players sit on the steps or wherever they can find open space.
During Big Ten media days this summer, Frost said it was likely time for the university to step up again.
“Really what you want to do is give high school kids as many reasons as possible as you can give them to come to Lincoln, Nebraska, and play football,” he said.
NU is certainly doing that now.
NU won’t be replacing all its football facilities. The Hawks Center will continue to be the team’s indoor practice facility.
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