Expanding Nebraska's third-largest game-day “city” to a capacity of 92,000 is a sparkling welcome mat to the fans who have bought every ticket for 325 straight Husker football home games.
But it is a credit to the City of Lincoln, its civic boosters and local taxpayers that a larger Memorial Stadium is now only one part of a striking first impression Nebraska's capital city makes on visitors.
With Lincoln's downtown Pinnacle Bank Arena project, the Haymarket Park baseball and softball complex — and more than $70 million in arena- associated private investment — new energy is being pumped into Lincoln's Haymarket district.
It is investment on a scale that has the potential to caffeinate a sleeping giant. And it shows a level of initiative that Omahans and all Nebraskans can applaud, because it could become an economic boon for the state.
Omaha has benefited in many ways from the tremendous redevelopment of its riverfront, spurred in large part by the mix of public and private investment that Lincoln undertook with its new arena.
Every day Omahans drive to work, they see the benefits of the CenturyLink Center and TD Ameritrade Park. They see it peak during the College World Series, Creighton basketball games and conventions, on concert nights and on random Thursday nights.
Those investments have helped change the feel of Omaha and have contributed to the city's ability to play on a larger, internationally competitive stage. They've helped recruit and retain good companies, entrepreneurs and employees.
Around the new Pinnacle Bank Arena, Lincoln is starting to generate a similar buzz, getting that same taste of urban vitality that can attract and keep young talent.
So if you head to Lincoln for Saturday's season- opening game with Wyoming, take some time to explore the new parts of Memorial Stadium, the renovated Devaney Center and the West Haymarket area.
The change is impressive.
If the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Innovation Campus generates the investment momentum it could, Lincoln's inspired focus on economic development stirs visions of an emboldened partner to Omaha's job-creating drive.
Seeds were sewn in the ways that Lincoln's private business leaders joined public entities in pushing the new arena and Haymarket developments.
That level of private buy-in is a secret of Omaha's success, and it is vital to pushing Lincoln beyond its comfort zone as a government town.
If it correctly leverages private investment and its inherent advantages as the home to state government and the state's flagship public university, Lincoln could be able to grow an urban future that benefits all of Nebraska.