• Podcast: Big Red Today, spring game edition
• Key Information: Husker spring game
* * *
LINCOLN — Fans attending the Nebraska spring football game on Saturday will be able to glimpse a little more of the future.
And not just on the Memorial Stadium field.
Steel is now rising above the East Stadium balcony as the $63.5 million expansion project continues. The progress will be noticeable for those who haven't visited the stadium since the final home game of the 2011 season last November.
"They're going to see obviously the footprint of the building, and they're also going to see a little more than half of it erected because we're just coming above the rim of the bowl right now," said John Ingram, NU's associate athletic director for capital planning and construction. "They'll also see the first few pre-cast panels around the main Gate 20."
Nebraska officials are expecting a crowd around 60,000 for the Red-White scrimmage, set to kick off at 1 p.m. For safety reasons, the east balcony will be closed because of the work happening behind it.
Otherwise, Nebraska officials say fans shouldn't be any more inconvenienced than they were when construction was in its early stages during last season.
"And it's going to be very similar to what it'll be in the fall, also," said Butch Hug, NU's associate athletic director for facilities and events.
Nebraska will be adding about 6,000 seats to push the Memorial Stadium capacity beyond 90,000. Those will come in the form of 3,000 second-balcony seats and 2,000 club seats, and the rest in 38 suites lodged in between.
The project, first announced last April, is scheduled for completion before the 2013 season. Because the basic structure will be in place by the end of this summer, the light fixtures will be installed above the East Stadium expansion by then and ready for use during the 2012 season.
"We'll be pushing to get it enclosed by next winter," Ingram said.
Mild conditions through the winter and spring have helped everything stay on schedule, with the only limitations being some windy days that might have limited the hoisting of steel.
"It's come into play in a good way," Ingram said of the weather. "It just hasn't been a distraction or a complication to anything that we're doing out there right now. Everything is right where we thought it would be."
Ingram said it also has helped that many people involved also lived through the North Stadium and West Stadium expansions in the past 15 years.
Hug said the spring game will offer a "teaching point" for staff that will help with next season. Despite the extensive construction zone on the east side, fans will still be able to enter through the middle at Gate 20, then go left to Gate 21 or right to Gates 16 through 19.
Gates 22 and 23 will be closed, and Gate 24 can be accessed at the southeast corner. All gates open at 11:30 a.m.
Hug is sure that people will be stopping to see what's going on with the latest improvement to the 89-year-old stadium, which has been home to 318 consecutive sellouts.
"There will be," he said, "because we're up five floors already."
Contact the writer:
email@example.com; 402-444-1042, twitter.com/RKaipustOWH
* * *
NU expansion project goes beyond stadium
Total cost: $107.5 million
Scheduled completion: 2013. Several parts of project have been completed.
» Separate structure to be built over existing East Stadium that will increase capacity to over 90,000 by adding about 6,000 seats, including 38 suites
» New practice complex near the Devaney Center
Baseball and softball
» New training facility near Haymarket Park
» Convert Devaney Center into a volleyball arena with seating to hold 7,000 regularly and possible configuration for crowds of up to 10,000
» David and Carol Alloy Strength Complex: New weight room and training facility inside the Hawks Championship Center, used by athletes from several sports
» Hendricks Training Complex: New home of Husker men's and women's basketball and wrestling
» New Nebraska Athletic Research Facility, which will pave the way for collaboration between athletics and UNL academics using imaging technologies and research to better understand foundations of behavior that contribute to health, injury and disease