LINCOLN, Nebraska (AP) – With Memorial Stadium on the cusp of its 100th anniversary, the Nebraska athletic department on Thursday set the stage for a major renovation that will make the venue more fan-friendly for decades to come.
University leaders also announced a new multimedia rights deal that would bring in more than $300 million over 15 years and said alcohol would be sold at both men’s and women’s basketball games at Pinnacle Bank Arena starting this season.
The athletic department must obtain approval from the university’s Board of Regents, who must approve the plans. The next board meeting is September 30.
Nebraska is set to open a $160 million football facility next year, and the Big Ten’s billion-dollar-a-year media rights deal announced this summer will bring windfalls to league members.
The announcements came less than two weeks after Nebraska began its search for a new football coach following the firing of Scott Frost. Athletic director Trev Alberts said discussions about stadium improvements and the rights deal have been going on for months and that the timing is coincidental.
“I’m not naive for maybe the benefit of potential candidates saying, wow, despite some of our challenges in terms of wins and losses on the field, there’s a lot of momentum going on at the University of Nebraska,” Alberts said. “If this is an unintended benefit, we will accept it.”
The Cornhuskers have played at Memorial Stadium since 1923 and incremental improvements have been made over the years, including luxury suites in 1999 and an expansion to over 85,000 seats in 2013.
There is likely to be redevelopment of the South Zone area, concession areas and concourses, as well as improvements to digital infrastructure, Alberts said. He had no cost estimate or timeline for the project.
The athletics department received about 22,000 responses to a survey of what amenities fans would like to improve the stadium experience, Alberts said, and that feedback will be used in the decision-making process.
Alberts noted that the football team continues to receive strong fan support, although it has not had a winning season since 2016. The school has a record 385 sold-out games in the NCAA, which began in 1962.
“We hang out in all kinds of weather together,” Alberts said, citing the school’s fight music. “I think the fans stuck with us through some pretty nasty storms. I think it’s time for us to do our part.”
The athletic department’s multimedia rights agreement with Playfly Sports would go into effect on October 1. The deal guarantees $301 million over 15 years, or about $18.2 million annually. Playfly currently owns the multimedia rights to Southern California, LSU, and Virginia, among other schools.
As part of the package, Alberts said, Playfly would contribute $1 million to name, image and likeness programs in the first two years and additional undetermined amounts in subsequent years.
The alcohol would only be sold at Pinnacle Bank Arena as part of a two-year pilot program. Nebraska would receive 10% of the net income, which Alberts said would be about $100,000 this basketball season.
There will be no alcohol sales at Memorial Stadium because the facility is not properly equipped for it, Alberts said. Nor will there be sales at the Haymarket Park baseball stadium for now because of existing agreements between the university, the City of Lincoln and the independent league team Lincoln Saltdogs.
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