Trey Ashby had an almost-accidental alter-ego in the months before showing off his scale model of Memorial Stadium to the world. During the day, he was a physical education teacher at Springville Elementary in Papillion, Nebraska with a wife and two kids. However, after his wife and kids went to bed, he decided to take up drawing again.
Drawing was a passion for Ashby when he was very young.
“As a kid, I liked drawing,” Ashby said. “I would draw, at church, football players on the back of envelopes. At some point I really focused on drawing stadiums.”
Despite this early passion, Ashby moved away from drawing stadiums throughout high school and college. His wife normally went to bed about three hours before him, and after he got bored of watching TV, he started looking for new hobbies. Drawing stadiums eventually turned into building paper stadiums, including Memorial Stadium.
“People say, ‘How did you learn how to do that?’ It’s really just trial and error,” Ashby said. “There’s some parts of Memorial Stadium that look better than others because I learned a little bit about the process as I was building the stadium.”
Ashby, on the advice of a friend, started a Twitter account, @PaperStadiums, where he posted updates on how progress was going for the project. As the Twitter account grew, Ashby found that posting little factoids about Husker history was well-received by his audience. As a history buff and someone very interested in Husker history, Ashby was more than happy to share his knowledge online.
Ashby also attempted to model his Memorial Stadium based on the actual progression of the real Memorial Stadium, allowing his Twitter account to serve as a timelapse for the building of Memorial Stadium.
Ashby’s favorite fact that he shared on his Twitter account was about how the Schulte Field House’s construction was halted by America’s involvement in World War II.
“When they say World War II is the greatest generation, it wasn’t just the soldiers fighting overseas, though they did the biggest part,” Ashby said. “Everybody had to sacrifice to win the war.”
Only Ashby’s wife, a close friend and his kids knew about his involvement with the paper stadium project. He didn’t tell many people, not his father, sister or students at school. He hid it in his filing cabinet in the basement of his house so that his kids and houseguests couldn’t get to it.
Once his sister started following the paper stadium’s Twitter account, he decided it’d be fun to try to keep her from knowing it was him. She found out when he posted a handwritten list of Nebraska football’s records because she recognized his handwriting.
His father didn’t know until after a Lincoln Journal Star article was released, and even then, it was hard to get him to read it.
“He reads the World-Herald because he lives in Omaha, and I asked him if he could pick up the Journal Star today,” Ashby said. “He was grumpy about it. And I said, ‘I know the guy on the front cover, could you get it for me?’ and he didn’t get it. So, I eventually sent him a picture and he thought it was the coolest thing ever.”
Ashby has future plans to make a scale model of Pinnacle Bank Arena with a roof which opens, but he admits he’ll need to get a little better at making paper stadiums before tackling that project.
Currently, he’s started a YouTube channel where he shows the process of building a new paper stadium and provides commentary over the construction. The channel already has a timelapse of the building of Memorial Stadium posted. Having put his next project up to a poll, Ashby recently announced that his next project will be Wrigley Field, with the first video of the construction going up on Friday, Nov. 15. But, despite the switch to a Chicago-based stadium, he will still respect sports’ important place in Nebraskan history and community.
“As I’ve grown older I’ve gained more perspective on how it’s ingrained in the culture of Nebraska and in the community and in our families, as well,” Ashby said. “How many other things in life guarantee a family get-together throughout the year?”