LINCOLN — You can see for miles up there at the top of East Stadium. In the last row, as you lean back against the wall of NU’s newest, 6,000-seat addition to Memorial Stadium, the canted view sets in and you think that, so long as it doesn’t get too frigid in November, it’s a plum spot from which to watch a game.
But for Husker fans who have seats in the area, I suspect it’ll take a minute to acclimate that first time they make the climb. It’s steep. The top of a Big Red roller coaster. The hand rails are nice anyway — but as the media toured the new addition for the first time, several reporters used them.
We also used a dedicated escalator — perhaps a five-minute ride, but certainly more enjoyable than walking it — to reach the highest part of the addition. Somewhere in that addition there’s a stairwell that matches the one in West Stadium. Having desceded that West stairwell once at the most ridiculous time imaginable — as Ball State tried to beat Nebraska in 2007 — a word of advice: take the escalator.
So here it was, the new digs on the old home. Fans housed in East Stadium — the new top addition, new suites and the club area — will be impressed. Nebraska’s redone the giant interior concourse that greets all East Stadium patrons — an artistic interpretation on the Huskers “Touchdown Balloons” is neat — and the club seats on East seem to be even a little better than those on the West once the sun sets behind the press box.
But the most interesting part of the tour was a few floors below the biggest suites — which cost $2.5 million over 25 years — where Nebraska cut ribbons on its Center for Brain, Biology and Behavior and its Athletic Performance Lab. They’re both ambitious projects — not on the cutting edge, but the actual edge itself — that will be worth tracking in future years. They’re a bit of a leap of faith, too, in the sense that Nebraska doesn’t intend to horde the space for itself.
It wants to create a thinktank.
First, CB3, as it’s called. In one sense, it’ll be a concussion research center, coordinating on 17,500 athletes in the Big Ten and Ivy League to try and find answers on concussions — prevention, detection and treatment — where few or none may exist. UNL psychologist Dr. Dennis Molfese also mentioned, though, that it’s a place to study high-level brain function, too. If, for example, a researcher wanted to compare the brain functions of world-renowned concert pianist against a person who made stone age tools, she could.
Second, the Athletic Performance Lab. Husker football fans may want to pay attention, because our tour guide told us that recruiting pitches and tours now begin here. NU intends to make this lab a part — perhaps a big part — of wooing top athletes.
The centerpiece is the facility that has turf, a basketball court and a synthetic track embedded with “force plates” — specially-designed panels with sensors used to measure impact — and surrounded by portable motion-capture cameras to help athletes learn how they perform and, in the words of NAPL director Dr. Judy Burnfield, how they “improve as rapidly as possible.”
“These athletes have many, many things on their schedule,” Burnfield said. “So if we can develop treatments and therapeutic interventions to improve their performance rapidly, that’s a real win for our athletes. Also, if we have an injury, we can begin to find the precise impact of the injury on our athlete and then begin to design our interventions around that injury.”
The lab includes space for companies — or perhaps professional sports teams — to lease for their own work. Though no examples were given and it doesn’t appear any company is signed up, I’ll give you an example: A shoe company coming in and testing the performance of its shoes.
It’s interesting-but-heady stuff, and not easy to package into to a sound byte for an 18-year-old kid who may not connect his performance to modern medicine. But if Nebraska intends to make this lab a key part of its recruiting pitch, finding the right, understandable summary for this lab could be a big boon in recruiting.
To be able to sell a kid on quantifiable development and improvement — to have doctors in labs and cameras everywhere looking for an extra edge — well, it may not be 17 guys editing film for Nick Saban. It might be better.
Nebraska’s coaching staff has a new tool to use in the ongoing battle to court top recruits. We’ll track how they use it. Some kids will take a shine to these labs. They’ll like the view from the top, too.
Check out more photos from Thursday
Video: Tour of the East Stadium expansion: