Fans in crowd

The Red-White Scrimmage is pictured the at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, April 9, 2022, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

​​Nearly 22,000 Husker football fans took part in an extensive survey about the future of Memorial Stadium ahead of the 2022 season. 

On Jan. 13, 2022, the athletic department distributed the survey to over 200,000 Husker fans. Spearheaded by Trev Alberts, Nebraska’s athletic director, the survey compiled data about the quality of the game day experience. Alberts wanted to hear from Nebraska fans and shape the future based on their input. 

The survey asked questions about all aspects of the game day experience. Of the respondents, 84% were either season ticket holders or occasional ticket buyers, 39% were alumni of the university and 5% were current students. 

According to Nebraska senior associate athletic director Brandon Meier, the athletic department had one goal in mind when it decided to open the survey up.

“We're doing this survey for the fans,” Meier said. “[Alberts] has said from the beginning, we're not going to make decisions strictly based on dollars.”

The overarching goal of the survey, according to Meier, was to provide a roadmap for the next 10-20 years on how the athletic department approaches the game day experience. Meier said the athletic department wants to utilize the benchmark data to compare with other top-tier programs around the country. 

“It was important to do a comprehensive study,” Meier said. “We really just wanted to make sure that what we hear from certain donors or certain fans is truly kind of the voice of our fanbase.”

The token discussion surrounding the survey involves Nebraska fans’ attitude toward alcohol. Currently, no alcoholic beverages are sold on game days at any Nebraska athletics venue.

Last year, alcohol had its shining moment at Memorial Stadium. At the Garth Brooks concert in August 2021, alcohol was served at the stadium for the first time. Scott Parker, liquor investigator for the Lincoln Police Department, told the Lincoln Journal Star that the concert was used as a trial run for alcohol sales in the future. 

For Husker football fans, the attitude toward alcohol at Memorial Stadium was mostly positive: 72% of respondents had a positive or neutral attitude toward alcohol sales on game days. 

“You always try to kind of meet everyone's needs,” Meier said. “People are always going to like different things. You just have to try to create your policies to match the overwhelming majority of your fans.”

More noteworthy was the impact that alcohol sales would have on attendance. 22% of respondents said they would attend more Husker football games if alcohol was sold at the stadium. On the other side, just 10% said they would attend fewer games, and 2% said they would stop attending entirely. 

“I don’t think alcohol sales in Memorial Stadium would create fan issues because most people are already drinking before, during and after the games anyway,” one respondent highlighted in the survey results said.

Meanwhile, some opponents of alcohol sales at Memorial Stadium said it would ruin the game day experience or it could make the stadium less family-friendly. 

Meier said to equally recognize all opinions, the survey asked a question about alcohol-free seating sections. 83% of respondents had a positive or neutral view of alcohol-free sections. 

Alcohol sales at the stadium could possibly result in the elimination of the re-entry policy. Currently, fans can exit the stadium and re-enter before the conclusion of a game. Meier says members of the athletic department were concerned about uproar over its potential removal. 

However, the elimination of the re-entry policy did not concern most respondents. 80% of respondents said that it would not impact their attendance. Meier said the athletic department was pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn’t important to a majority of fans. 

Husker fans' opinions about sports gambling, or sports gaming as the survey called it, was another large segment of the survey. Among respondents under the age of 55, the attitude toward sports gaming was mostly positive. However, for fans over the age of 55, opinions toward gaming were much more negative. 

Thirty-six percent of respondents under the age of 25 were very positive toward sports gaming, compared to only 4% of those over the age of 75. Overall, 60% of respondents had either a neutral or positive view of sports gaming. 

“Somewhere down the road, we're going to be met with a proposal from some sort of gaming right partner,” Meier said. “We wanted to get ahead of it and see if that's something that our fans completely dislike or if they're open to it.” 

A majority of respondents wanted improvement of the seat comfort at Memorial Stadium. Seventy-seven percent said that seat comfort could be enhanced and 38% said seat comfort was the most important game day element.

Meier said the athletic department is actively searching for ways to increase seat comfortability. A seat equity plan, which 72% of respondents were supportive of, is its first step. 

“Seat comfort is by far the biggest issue we have,” Meier said. “There are seats that we're going to begin trying to kill in the north endzone. To widen it out and to create a little bit more space.”

Meier said this process will involve season ticket owners who decide not to renew their seats. If, for instance, two people decide not to renew their tickets, the athletic department may elect to remove those two seats. 

Fewer seats in each row would allow for increased space between the seats. Meier remains optimistic that this change can begin before next season. 

The survey also highlighted game day elements that Husker fans enjoy. Specifically, feedback on the third quarter light show at night games was positive. In its first year, the light show had the highest satisfaction score among respondents out of all game day elements.

“It was awesome to see that, you know, we're investing in the right places,” Meier said. “Some of the flexibility that it gave us really paid off. You just wish you could do it for every game.”

Other elements of the game day experience that were also highly ranked by fans included pregame flyovers, military recognitions and the tunnel walk. 

Meier said he’s extremely appreciative of all the feedback the athletic department got, both good and bad. Armed with a wealth of new information about Nebraska’s fanbase, the athletic department’s work has only just begun. 

“There are some fixes that can be addressed in the next couple of seasons and there are some fixes that are more of a five-to-ten-year approach,” Meier said. “We first start with dividing things into short term goals and long term goals.”

sports@dailynebraskan.com