A new Tunnel Walk is coming to Memorial Stadium in 2022 along with Nebraska’s massive proposed North Stadium expansion project.
When the new athletics facility is completed on the site of the current Ed Weir Track, the football locker room will move out of North Stadium and into the new building. When the team makes the gameday walk from the locker room to the field, it will walk through a new glassy structure referred to as “the knuckle." That, according to a preliminary project proposal set for consideration by the Board of Regents on Oct. 25, will enhance the Tunnel Walk experience for all involved.
“As they come out of the new Football Performance Center the team will then enter into the new NE tower that 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 make their way inside the stadium,” the document says.
The team will still run onto the field from the northwest tunnel before games, said Hank Bounds, the former NU president and a key fundraiser for the project, but will go straight off the home sideline through the northeast tunnel at halftime, making for a shorter trip to the new locker room, which will be located in the football operations center.
Bounds called the 15-page proposal document released Friday only the beginning of the Board of Regents' approval process for the $155 million, 350,000-square-foot project.
"We think about this step as programming, and then we'll come back with an intermediate design," Bounds said. "So there will be multiple approvals by the Board. So this is the kickoff of the approval process that basically gives permission to go through the process of hiring a design team."
The document does have copious detail about the size, scope, benchmarks and vision of the project, though the numbers are clearly preliminary.
When the expansion was unveiled late last month, NU athletic director Bill Moos and other university and football representatives only spoke in generalities about the plans to create more space for Scott Frost’s football program, which currently sports a roster of 154 players and could grow as large as 170 in the coming years. It currently occupies a space designed for a roster closer to 110.
The proposal provides a guideline to just how much more space the Huskers will have in their future home.
For instance, Nebraska’s current weight room in North Stadium checks in at about 17,000 square feet. The proposal lists more than 31,000 square feet — and perhaps up to 38,000 square feet — for the weight room and related space.
Frost talked this summer about players sitting in the stairways of NU’s current team meeting room and cramming into position meeting rooms. The proposal calls for more than tripling meeting space, from 4,755 square feet to 15,515.
As for the locker room, space is estimated to more than double from just less than 7,000 square feet to 14,330.
"We're in the very initial stages, and then a design will come back with very specific information for the Board to approve," Bounds said. "What we want to try to do is stay within the budgeted amount (of space), but the further you get along in a design, the more, obviously, you know. These square footages are based on a lot of research and a lot of legwork that has already been done, but depending on how the design falls out, one space might be a little smaller or a little larger."
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According to a timeline in the proposal, NU will aim to start design in December, complete the more specific review in May 2020 and have it completed by August 2020. Construction is slated to begin in June 2020, after the track and field team wraps up its spring season, and with completion two years later in June 2022. Once move-in happens, the next task is to start the remodeling of existing spaces, primarily in North and West Stadium, in July 2022. That work is estimated to be completed by March 2023.
Moos and company spoke generally about expanding the athletic medicine and training spaces, and the proposal calls for part of the first floor of the current North Stadium complex to be reworked for that purpose, to be used by all sports except football, and special events space.
The new football operations center will feature medical and training space for Frost’s program.
The recommendation also calls for some of the Hawks Championship Center indoor practice facility to be renovated, “to create a new postgame interview space” and “rearrange Soccer offices.”
The $155 million price tag is slated to be covered by $100 million in private fundraising, $50 million in revenue bonds and $5 million in trust funds.
Of the $155 million price tag, more than $116 million is projected as construction cost. Among the largest nonconstruction budget lines are more than $11 million for “professional consultant fees” and more than $22 million for equipment, which likely covers everything from window blinds and shades to audio/visual equipment and weight room machines.
The proposal says NU also considered renovating the North Stadium complex or expanding to the north, using a current parking lot as the footprint for a new building, but neither of those options provided enough space, and building over the parking lot “had other impacts to the campus that were not desirable.”
The proposal includes more than 100,000 square feet dedicated solely to the football team’s spaces. According to NU’s research, the football training facility will join only five others among 65 Power Five conference teams in the country that directly connects to outdoor practice fields, an indoor practice building and the stadium.
The track and field teams would move to a new $11.5 million stadium north of the Devaney Sports Center and west of the Ice Box on what is currently a gravel parking lot at Nebraska Innovation Campus.
A program statement on the track replacement project also on the regents' agenda calls for a synthetic track surface, turf infield, stadium seating, press box and concessions and restroom areas.
Construction would begin in March, with the track completed by September 2020 and stadium seating done by March 2021.