Nebraska Football: Fan Experience Next Arms Race To ‘Win’

The Nebraska football program has done quite a bit over the past several years to compete in the never-ending college football facilities arms race. Memorial Stadium’s been expanded three times in the past eight years alone to bump official capacity up to 87,000.

Fans are told to “Be Ready” in 2014. What’s coming is a slew of new “fan experience” improvements. Congratulations, you’ve been introduced to the next arms race in major college football.

If you’ve ever played RollerCoaster Tycoon (or one of the hundreds of knock offs), you know the basic concept. Even recent editions of the Madden series have an owner mode that hits closer to home for this discussion.

Bottom line: Make customers (fans) happy.

As you can imagine, this requires a juggling of price-tweaking, expanding your fun-filled environment and turning your attraction into a paradise. Why? There’s money to be made the longer they stay, of course.

However, it’s not just the figurative player behind the screen that benefits from these improvements.

The key is to get fans in the door. Their wallet doesn’t take a hit on ticket prices and they can enjoy less expensive concessions (likely more as they now have money to burn).

The Husker administration will be rolling out some additions to the game day experience that sound fantastic.

A brand new sound system’s been put in (finally, right?). WIFI capability will swarm the stadium like mosquitoes. You can access exclusive game day content right from your seat via smartphone.

If you want to read about all the officially announced awesome stuff, you can, but surely there’s more we don’t know about.

What’s this? A new challenger on the horizon!? Auburn athletics is rolling out 25 new elements to the Tigers’ game day experience and honestly, Nebraska should implement some of the ideas. The one that got everyone’s attention: lower concession costs.

A bottle of water now runs the average fan $2 instead of $4 and you can pick up a hot dog for $3 instead of $4. That three dollar difference may not seem like much, but that’s a slice of Valentino’s pizza you didn’t have before.

Let’s revisit that water for a minute. Early season games played in the Nebraska heat always result in heat-related problems. 90 thousand-some odd people show up. You do the math.

Auburn is increasing the number of free water stations on its concourse level. A well-hydrated fan is a happy fan, let alone one that can actually watch the game they paid to see. 

Nebraska fans would likely really enjoy the capability to have their tickets delivered to their smartphones which can be scanned at the gate. Auburn’s will have that option.

Another enhancement I’m a fan of: ticket bundles. The Husker AD already jumped on this with The Cornhusker Kickoff Combo. You can snag tickets for the Florida Atlantic and McNeese State games for $100. However, Auburn bested the Big Red in this department.

Their Family Four Pack includes four tickets to the San Jose State game for that same $100. Could the Huskers take the hit? In theory, perhaps.

The key is to get fans in the door. Their wallet remains minimally-bruised thanks to lower ticket prices and they can enjoy less expensive concessions (likely more as they now have money to burn).

Finally, the Tigers hit a home run with their young alumni program.

Young Alumni (0-3 years removed from Auburn University) can get a special discounted Tigers Unlimited membership of $130, along with their season ticket purchase, and sit in section 37 with their fellow young graduates. The program has sold out for 2014.

These are your future donors. When Nebraska needs to start hitting people up for money, it’ll be these folks. Plant the seed early and the tree will bare fruit.

Now you have an idea just how deep this goes. It isn’t just about having a pretty stadium or a big weight room for recruits. Now it’s about keeping fans happy and every school’s going to start having to up the ante…if they can.

These suggestions seem like a great way to reward fans that continue to flood into Memorial Stadium. They’ll likely fill up any open spots in Row 183, too.

I’m not working the books, but if it’s feasible, consider these options like a great recruit for the next cycle and get working on 2015’s season experience now.

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