LINCOLN — To keep up with the big boys in the Big Ten, the Nebraska athletic department plans to expand Memorial Stadium by about 5,000 seats.
But Athletic Director Tom Osborne said Friday that the stadium project is only one component of a more extensive plan.
“I’m not a subscriber that you have to keep up with the Joneses, but you have to at least be in the league,” Osborne said as he unveiled details of a proposed $55.5 million expansion of the East Stadium, including 30 more skybox suites.
Also in the works, announced Friday or already under way: a new practice facility for Husker baseball; $20 million in renovations to the Devaney Center; an expansion of Memorial Stadium’s weight-training facility, not to mention a new basketball practice facility and a $168 million city-owned arena where the Husker basketball teams will play.
Nebraska becomes one of four football elites in the Big Ten when it joins the conference next year, Osborne said.
The other three programs — Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan — each have football stadiums that seat more than 100,000 fans and athletic budgets that exceed $100 million a year.
“That puts us in pretty fast company,” Osborne said.
In contrast, Nebraska spends about $75 million a year, and Memorial Stadium’s official seating capacity is about 81,000, although it routinely draws about 86,000.
Osborne said the expansion would put Memorial Stadium’s capacity in the 90,000 range, while ticket sales and related revenues would boost the athletic department’s budget by an estimated $7 million a year.