A new $14 million practice facility for the Nebraska gymnastics programs is on the table, one that — if approved— would give NU one of the premier training structures in the country.
The NU Board of Regents will vote on it at its Aug. 11 meeting.
The proposal is to build an addition to the northwest side of the Devaney Sports Center. Construction would begin in August 2018. A proposed finish date is December 2019, just before the start of the 2020 men's and women's seasons.
The exact project cost is $14,076,000. Private donations and athletic funds would be used to pay for the new facility.
Both the men's and women's programs would split space in the high-bay gymnastics facility, which is expected to include team rooms, locker rooms, equipment storage area, offices, meeting spaces and a lobby designed as a tool for recruiting.
Space, outdated facilities/rooms and the future displacement of the NU women's team (in terms of practices) are the driving forces in the project.
The women gymnasts train inside Mabel Lee Hall, maximizing 11,585 square feet of space, and they also have practiced inside the NU Coliseum (581 square feet).
The training area at Mabel Lee Hall also provides several challenges in the moving and maintenance of the equipment, and the coaches' offices are in a separate building — the Coliseum.
The Nebraska men train in a 6,871-square-foot room — considered extremely small and tight when compared with other college gymnastic programs — at the Devaney Sports Center.
Both practice facilities are limited in the amount of space for training apparatuses. At times, the vault apparatus for the men's team has been placed on the Devaney Center concourse to overcome limitations in training for the event.
The proposed net square footage of the new facility is 35,400 feet, a 16,366-foot difference when combining the current training spaces.
In June, the NU Board of Regents approved a $40 million plan to either renovate Mabel Lee Hall, located on 14th Street between Vine and W streets, or replace it altogether.
The new Mabel Lee Hall will feature interactive and collaborative learning spaces — a common refrain for new higher education facilities — as well as traditional classrooms and lecture halls. NU estimates the project will be done by 2021.
That project means the NU women gymnastics program will need a new place to practice.
If approved and completed in 2019, Nebraska gymnasts will be at or near the forefront in terms of facilities. Oklahoma and Stanford have two of the best training facilities in the country. They're also arguably the top two programs in the nation.
Oklahoma made a state-of-the-art, 7,000-square-foot addition to its existing gymnastics training center. Ohio State soon followed with the Steelwood Training Facility, a multi-sport venue that includes 15,000 square feet for the Buckeye men's gymnastics team.
Michigan offers both women's and men's gymnastics. The women practice in a 22,000-foot facility, and the men have 10,500 feet of training space.
A major facility upgrade would no doubt provide more momentum for the gymnastics programs.
The Husker women, under the direction of Dan Kendig, have earned 15 NCAA championship berths over the past 18 seasons. The Huskers are one of only seven programs to qualify for the Super Six finals 10 or more times.
The Husker men, meanwhile, are coming off their best season in nearly 20 years. Nebraska, led by coach Chuck Chmelka, reached the Super Six finals this past spring, and finished sixth overall. The Husker men have won eight national championships, the last coming in 1994.
A new facility to house the Nebraska gymnastics, bowling and rifle programs was considered for the northwest corner of North Antelope Valley Parkway and Military Road. After bowling was not required to move from its existing location on East Campus, the concept was rejected due to higher construction costs.
The current proposed site for the gymnastics training facility, directly north of the indoor track, would mean the removal of 33 parking stalls northeast of Devaney.