On the eve of the most important game of the Scott Frost era to date, the University of Nebraska made an announcement that was two years in the making.
As ESPN’s College GameDay set sat 100 yards down Stadium Drive, key members of the university announced the plans for a new $155 million facility that will be used by the Husker football team and house the offices of the football staff.
The 350,000 square-foot facility will also be the new location of the athletic training table, the athlete-exclusive dining hall currently located on the first floor of Memorial Stadium, as well as a new academic center for student-athletes to study and receive tutoring in.
The university plans to break ground on construction in the spring and complete construction in time for the 2022 football season.
Director of Athletics Bill Moos made the announcement, with Frost, freshman wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson, women’s soccer senior Sinclaire Miramontez, interim university president Susan Fritz and University Chancellor Ronnie Green sitting behind him on stage.
“Our theme with Nebraska Athletics is to Honor the past, live the present, and create the future,” Moos said. “I think we are moving in the right direction and it sure is a lot of fun.”
Frost spoke next, thanking Moos and the rest of the university leadership for helping create the project.
“When I got back to Nebraska, I knew there were a lot of things about the football team that needed to be fixed,” he said. “To be honest with you, a new facility wasn’t even on my radar. It’s not something I even considered. We’ve been elbows deep in this process. Love where we are as a football team. I can feel where this is going.
“Since we built North Stadium, I think all but two other Power Five schools have either built new facilities or upgraded theirs,” he continued. “I think it’s going to have to be done at some point and as the conversation kept going, we decided if we’re going to have to do it at some point, now is the time. Now is the time while the football program is building, everybody can feel it growing while there’s momentum, while there’s enthusiasm, while we have the talented people from GameDay on our campus. Now is the time.”
Frost also emphasized the importance that this facility benefits more than just the football program.
“Nebraska is a more unified place than anywhere else. I think by adding a new training table, a new study area, an academic center, it’s not just going to benefit football players but benefit every student-athlete at the University of Nebraska. It’s going to make a big difference for our student-athletes. Instead of being all the way around the other side of the stadium and isolated from campus, to be literally steps from our beautiful business building and our campus and our wonderful professors and staff at the university.”
Robinson was chosen to speak at the announcement because of his status as a freshman who may benefit from the project when it is completed in 2022. He spoke briefly about the importance of the upgrades, and what it means to him as a student-athlete.
“Just being here I already realize the impact sports can have on you and everything that it gives to you,” he said. “This place stands for commitment, excellence, championships, and I feel like this facility is going to help us achieve that even more.”
Miramontez also spoke briefly, talking about how the facilities upgrades and new stadium built for the soccer program have helped her and the rest of the program.
Green was the final speaker at the event, and took a trip down memory lane to September of 2017. It was then that he, along with former University of Nebraska president Hank Bounds, announced the firing of athletics director Shawn Eichorst following a 1-2 start by the football team.
“We stood up and talked about our desire to compete at the very highest levels athletically, the very highest levels academically,” Green said. “And I can’t remember a time in the history of our institution, I shared this with our Board of Regents this week, where we had more going on in that way than we currently have at the moment.”
Green then mentioned that outside of this project, over $350 million has been invested into academics in the past year. He said that with this investment, over $525 million will be invested into the university.
The location of the facility will be northeast of Memorial Stadium, where the Ed Weir track and field outdoor facility currently sits. Moos said that the track and field program will also move to a new facility in the upcoming year.
“We’re not real sure exactly when that’s going to happen,” Moos said. “But that project will be separate from this, it’s not in the same budget. It will be a tremendous facility out on the Innovation Campus, close to Devaney [Center]. It’ll really work out well for our track and field program.”
Moos added that the cost will range between $10-15 million.
Matt Davison, the football Associate AD, radio color commentator and overall swiss army knife of the program, was a significant contributor in the planning process.
“It’s been a heck of a process,” Davison said. “Right at two years ago was the first time I talked to Bill Moos about this project and it was something I discussed with coach Frost before he even took the job here. It took awhile to get to this point but it’s going to happen and it’s going to be fantastic.”
Moos had previously assisted in the construction of new football facilities at his two former jobs as the athletics director for Washington State and Oregon. Davison has spent the past two seasons touring football facilities across the country to help create the plans for Nebraska’s new facility.
“You try to take pieces of a lot of places,” he said. “I’ve been involved with athletics and broadcasting for a long time. I’ve been to all of the Big Ten schools, I’ve been through Clemson a couple of times, Alabama, I went to see the Dallas Cowboys facility, I went to Washington State to see what Bill had built there. This has pretty much been my focus for a long time and something that has pretty much consumed me for the last few months to get to today.”
“Scott [Frost] has been a lot of places too,” Moos said. “He saw what we built in Oregon, and what we built later. He’s been to Kansas State and UCF. He’s seen a lot of facilities and what it can do. I started talking with him about this early on, but he had more things to deal with early on but as he started to see, a lot of the top talent was going to big time programs but had fabulous facilities.”
The upgrades were rumored throughout the summer, with Frost speaking at media days about issues with the current setup. He mentioned that with the increased roster size, the weight room is too small, players have to sit in the aisles of the film room, and the logistics of the locker room, weight room and players lounge are not ideal.
The current facilities were constructed in 2006 when Bill Callahan was the head football coach.
“I don’t think we’re going to make a mistake on this one,” Davison said. “We’re going to build it for the test of time and it’s going to be in this area for 100 years.”
“I don’t want to lose my credibility, so I tried to tease you guys a little bit about it,” Moos said. “As soon as we felt that we had the approval we needed and we started to raise money, I said that we’ve got to let this thing out because this is a big story.”
As for the current football offices and weight room located in North Stadium, Moos said that they are still considering multiple options. Most likely, he said that they will combine the media relations, tickets, HuskerVision and developmental programs into one floor in that area. He also mentioned that the current weight room could be converted into a museum for Nebraska athletics.
The new facility will also connect directly into Memorial Stadium, and the players will likely enter from there onto the field on game days.
“The adjacencies that this building will have to Memorial Stadium, only four or five other schools in the country will have that,” Davison said. “This is going to be an unbelievable move for athletics at Nebraska and it’s going to change this place in a big way.”
Moos also mentioned that student-athletes will provide significant input on the design and layout of the area.
“Hopefully it sends a message to everyone that we’re committed to getting back to where we want to be, which is competing for championships,” Davison said. “I think we’re going to build the best football facility/athletics complex in the country, and I think it’s going to put us at the top of the facilities race in college athletics.”