East Side Story: Watching a Stadium Grow
Randy York's N-Sider
With 33 days remaining on a calendar that can’t seem to change fast enough, Nebraska is building the last blockbuster wing of its historic football stadium. For lack of a better description, we’ll call this East Side Story, which is, perhaps, the most pivotal chapter in Memorial Stadium’s 89-year history.
Watching a stadium grow is fascinating, even if the target date for completion is the 2013 season-opener against Wyoming, not the 2012 season-opener against Southern Miss. The steel structure and dramatic progress provide a fitting sneak preview. East Side Story: Watching a Stadium Grow is fast, fun and in its own way, furious. “People really enjoy coming by and just seeing the building grow,” said John Ingram, Nebraska’s associate athletic director for Capital Planning and Construction. That’s why Ingram was more than willing to give Husker fans their own personal tour of the East Stadium construction with this Huskers.com video.
Every day there’s a change, and we’ve been able to compress the transformation, thanks to aerial photography from Doug Prange and time-lapse graphics. Kelly Mosier wove it all together in a 2½-minute YouTube tour that helps Big Red fans continue the construction countdown at the same time they’re planning to see it themselves. The video becomes its own digital erector set, but it’s all real. “Everybody who comes by and sees it going up is really excited,” Ingram said. “I’m glad this video shows the new building topped out, so everyone can get an idea of what it’s going to look like.”
Ingram: Gate 20 Will Be ‘Absolutely Iconic’
This fall, traffic flow both to and from the East Stadium will be uninterrupted because contractors remain slightly ahead of schedule in having the exterior structure in place. “Our fans are going to experience a three-story entry that frames the old front-door of the stadium, and it will give them an idea of the breath-taking view that will result in the amount of space we’ll be finishing off later,” Ingram said. “The old Gate 20 will be enshrined in this new facility, and it will be absolutely iconic from the glass windows that face the campus to everything we’ll be doing later to finish off the work inside.”
Ingram isn’t saying how the Huskers will decorate their new house, but he acknowledges that Nebraska is negotiating with a firm that specializes in design that’s both functional and engaging. “We have some great ideas, and I think our fans are really going to enjoy how we showcase our history,” he said. “We want to create an interactive experience that stays true to our brand and tells our unique story. We will use graphics, exhibits and interactive displays in a dramatic and impactful way. Whether you’re in our North Stadium or at the Hendricks Training Complex, there is continuity to our brand, and we will carry that into the new facility. We’re not going to reinvent the wheel. We’re going to continue that same pattern.”
Meanwhile, Huskers.com will continue to provide regular updates so we can watch our stadium grow. East Side Story promises to gain national attention, even during its formative stages over the next 13 months, primarily because the addition will include two 25,000 square-foot research bays, one for the university and the other for athletic research. “We will have the nation’s foremost facility dedicated to concussion research,” Ingram said. “We’re especially proud that we’ll be connected to the campus. With our athletic research partnership and the university having its own academic function inside the stadium, we feel we’re doing the right things and representing what we should represent as a member in the Big Ten Conference.”
NU’s Capital Planners Going for the Trifecta
Ironically, East Side Story is just one-third of Nebraska’s overall facility facelift. Ingram said two other major projects will be at or near completion by September, 2013. The Pinnacle Bank Arena will become the new home for men’s and women’s basketball that same month, and Ingram estimates the new home for Nebraska volleyball, women’s and men’s gymnastics and wrestling also will be about 90 percent finished when the new football facility and basketball arena are finished.
“We’re going for the trifecta,” Ingram said. “It’s a privilege to work with and have the trust of Tom Osborne to create, support and serve these new championship facilities. Since Tom’s gotten here, we’ve unveiled something special for our student-athletes, our coaches and our fans in about every sport. It’s been a juggling act, but it’s been fun.”
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Voices from Husker Nation
The N-Sider “East Side Story” stadium expansion update and video reminded me of a personal tour I got of Memorial Stadium in March of 1972 ... when 9,400 seats were being added to the upper reaches of the South Stadium. Not quite as fancy or high-tech as today, but what a thrill for a 12-year-old to view that 40-years-ago construction firsthand. Then-equipment manager Gib Babcock and my grandfather, Henry Horn, who both resided in the 1000 block of Y Street just north of the stadium, explained the need for the addition of concrete pillars and wooden plank seats. A tour of Schulte Fieldhouse and a crowded weight room was also part of my visit, as well as receiving a souvenir piece of Astroturf that was a leftover from the 1970 installation. I couldn't in my wildest dreams imagine the stadium someday growing to more than 90,000 people and three sides of skyboxes and suites. Such progress! May today's South Stadium upper-level sections 12 to 19, which still resemble 1972, serve as a humble reminder of $6 tickets, 50-cent hot dogs, and "Man, Woman, and Child, he ran in backwards," which blared from a radio as we simultaneously watched the action 81 rows below. Kevin Horn, Alliance, Nebraska