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Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos makes a point during the Dec. 3, 2017, news conference at Memorial Stadium when he named Scott Frost as Husker head football coach.

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Arena purchasing new basketball floor; fans will weigh in on design

By next winter, Husker basketball players will be dribbling on a new court, with a new design and maybe a new logo.

Pinnacle Bank Arena officials are seeking bids on a new floor to be delivered in September and in use for next season.

And fans will be able to weigh in on the floor design in mid-March. 

After six years of use and multiple installations, the current maple floor is getting old and some of the built-in cushioning isn't as strong as it used to be, said Tom Lorenz, arena manager.

The university is also looking at a new design, he said. So there will be a new floor with an entirely new look.

Nebraska Athletics will be seeking fan feedback on the floor design this spring.

Nebraska has four potential designs that will be unveiled on social media platforms, probably during the second week in March, said Marc Boehm, executive associate athletic director.

“We’re going to have our fan base give us their thoughts, kind of gauge what they like. We’ll make a determination shortly after that,” Boehm said.

Several of the designs — but not all of them — will include the state outline at center court, as currently exists. So fan voting will give an indication if they like the Nebraska outline as part of the logo.

The new floor will likely be lighter in color, though the exact shade hasn’t been determined, Boehm said.

Many schools are going to a lighter shade because it shows up better on television.

“We are really going to focus on design now, and we will worry about the shade a little bit later,” Boehm said.

The instructions to potential bidders do hint at a modest design.

“Bidder can anticipate a reasonable design, not a complex University of Oregon type design,” the bid says.

The now famous Oregon floor includes three graphics and is framed by a view beneath a forest of fir trees.

That notation in the bid is intended to tell companies that the new design will not be so elaborate that it would change the price, Lorenz said.

The maple basketball court, 60-by-120 feet, sits atop the arena’s concrete floor. The floor comes in 4-by-8 foot sections, and it takes arena staff about two hours to install and remove before and after games.

The floor is removed and installed many times during a basketball season to accommodate other arena events, Lorenz said.

Staff removed the basketball court on Thursday morning, following Nebraska's men's basketball game on Wednesday, to prepare the arena for a Friday night concert. The court went back down Saturday morning, in time for the Husker women's team to play on Sunday.

It is common to have a portable floor that you can put in and take out in a relatively short amount of time.

Lorenz said he expected the portable basketball floor to last around five years. This is the sixth season for this floor.

"The floor still has good bounce to it, but it is getting a little rough around the edges,” Boehm said.

The West Haymarket Joint Public Agency, which built the arena, is responsible for buying the new floor. The JPA has included $150,000 in its budget for a new floor.

The old floor is being used as a trade-in, and the company that gets the contract will likely refinish, refurbish and resell it, Lorenz said.

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Construction begins on $22.6M health science center at SCC's Lincoln campus

While the way Southeast Community College has taught aspiring health care professionals has changed dramatically over the last few decades, the learning spaces it uses have not.

The classrooms and labs where future nurses, respiratory therapists and surgical technicians learn have been largely the same since the 1970s, even as education has become more reliant upon technology.

SCC is hoping to breathe new life into its 16 health science programs with a $22.6 million building in the early construction stage at its east Lincoln campus.

It will be the first new standalone building erected on the campus near 84th and O streets, said SCC President Paul Illich, and one of three projects planned for the college's three campuses.

Originally part of a $369 million bond issue defeated by voters in 2016, the health science complex in Lincoln, a classroom building in Beatrice and a diesel technology building in Milford will be built within the college's existing tax levy authority, Illich added.

"With the bond not passing, we're starting with a much smaller set of projects," he said. "We're still going to be able to do some significant things. The needs haven't changed at all."

When the new Lincoln building opens in late 2020 or early 2021, SCC will be able to bolster the nearly 800 health sciences students it has enrolled, said Jill Sand, dean of the college's health sciences division.

Even though SCC graduates about 300 students with associate's degrees or certificates in health fields each year, a backlog of students waiting to get into those programs has persisted, Sand said.

"Lab sizes are probably one of the biggest drivers preventing us from maximizing our enrollment," Sand said.

The future building will be stocked with new technology and resources, allowing for students at SCC's campuses or its six learning centers dotting its 15-county service area to pursue distance education opportunities.

It's also being designed to foster interdisciplinary learning, imitating the type of setting graduates will find themselves in when they land their first job.

SCC will also follow a trend in other health science education facilities by significantly incorporating simulation.

Sand said expanding the college's cohorts will help in meeting Nebraskans' health care needs, both in the near future as well as the long term.

A majority of SCC's graduates in fields like radiology, polysomnography and medical lab technology -- 96 percent -- stay in Nebraska, she said.

Illich said growth in SCC's high-demand programs also stands to bolster the state's economy.

According to online job postings collected by the Nebraska Department of Labor, there were more than 6,100 openings for health care practitioners and technical occupations in November 2018.

The average wage of those job postings was $59,188.

Sand said SCC will use its "future-focused" building to keep up with the evolving needs of Nebraska's health care workforce.

"There are professions in health care that haven't even been created yet that will be 10 to 15 years from now," Sand said. "We want to provide qualified and high-quality workers to fill those roles."


Nebraska forward Leigha Brown (32) smiles as her teammates gather around her after she made a three-pointer in the fourth quarter against Purdue on Sunday at Pinnacle Bank Arena. 

As clock ticks, new hurdle emerges in border security talks

WASHINGTON — Bargainers clashed Sunday over whether to limit the number of migrants authorities can detain, tossing a new hurdle before negotiators hoping to strike a border security compromise for Congress to pass this coming week. The White House wouldn't rule out a renewed partial government shutdown if an agreement isn't reached.

With the Friday deadline approaching, the two sides remained separated by hundreds of millions of dollars over how much to spend to construct President Donald Trump's promised border wall. But rising to the fore was a related dispute over curbing Customs and Immigration Enforcement, or ICE, the federal agency that Republicans see as an emblem of tough immigration policies and Democrats accuse of often going too far.

Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, in appearances on NBC's "Meet the Press" and "Fox News Sunday," said "you absolutely cannot" eliminate the possibility of another shutdown if a deal is not reached over the wall and other border matters. The White House had asked for $5.7 billion, a figure rejected by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, and the mood among bargainers has soured, according to people familiar with the negotiations not authorized to speak publicly about private talks.

"You cannot take a shutdown off the table, and you cannot take $5.7 (billion) off the table," Mulvaney told NBC, "but if you end up someplace in the middle, yeah, then what you probably see is the president say, 'Yeah, OK, and I'll go find the money someplace else.'"

A congressional deal seemed to stall even after Mulvaney convened a bipartisan group of lawmakers at Camp David, the presidential retreat in northern Maryland. While the two sides seemed close to clinching a deal late last week, significant gaps remain and momentum appears to have slowed. Though congressional Democratic aides asserted that the dispute had caused the talks to break off, it was initially unclear how damaging the rift was. Both sides are eager to resolve the long-running battle and avert a fresh closure of dozens of federal agencies that would begin next weekend if Congress doesn't act by Friday.

"I think talks are stalled right now," Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said Sunday on "Fox News Sunday." "I'm not confident we're going to get there."

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., who appeared on the same program, agreed: "We are not to the point where we can announce a deal."

But Mulvaney did signal that the White House would prefer not to have a repeat of the last shutdown, which stretched more than a month, left more than 800,000 government workers without paychecks, forced a postponement of the State of the Union address and sent Trump's poll numbers tumbling. As support in his own party began to splinter, Trump surrendered after the shutdown hit 35 days without getting money for the wall.

This time, Mulvaney signaled that the White House may be willing to take whatever congressional money comes — even if less than Trump's goal — and then supplement that with other government funds.

"The president is going to build the wall. That's our attitude at this point," Mulvaney said on Fox. "We'll take as much money as you can give us, and we'll go find the money somewhere else, legally, and build that wall on the southern border, with or without Congress."

The president's supporters have suggested that Trump could use executive powers to divert money from the federal budget for wall construction, though it was unclear if he would face challenges in Congress or the courts. One provision of the law lets the Defense Department provide support for counterdrug activities.

But declaring a national emergency remained an option, Mulvaney said, even though many in the administration have cooled on the prospect. A number of powerful Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., have also warned against the move, believing it usurps power from Congress and could set a precedent for a future Democratic president to declare an emergency for a liberal political cause.

The fight over ICE detentions goes to the core of each party's view on immigration.

Republicans favor tough enforcement of immigration laws and have little interest in easing them if Democrats refuse to fund the Mexican border wall. Democrats despise the proposed wall and, in return for border security funds, want to curb what they see as unnecessarily harsh enforcement by ICE.

People involved in the talks say Democrats have proposed limiting the number of immigrants here illegally who are caught inside the U.S. — not at the border — that the agency can detain. Republicans say they don't want that cap to apply to immigrants caught committing crimes, but Democrats do.

In a series of tweets about the issue, Trump used the dispute to cast Democrats as soft on criminals. He charged in one tweet: "The Border Committee Democrats are behaving, all of a sudden, irrationally. Not only are they unwilling to give dollars for the obviously needed Wall (they overrode recommendations of Border Patrol experts), but they don't even want to take muderers into custody! What's going on?"

AP file photo 

Mick Mulvaney, acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and Director of the Office of Management, listens during a July 11, 2018, news conference at the Department of Justice in Washington.