LINCOLN — The University of Nebraska Board of Regents voted Friday to preserve the space next to Memorial Stadium for high-spending donors.
The regents approved a new campus and landscape master plan for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln but only after removing any references to creating an “iconic” open space east of the stadium.
The proposed master plan had called for a two-block grassy area linking the just-completed East Stadium addition and the planned new College of Business Administration building.
It would have replaced what is now a parking lot most of the week and a highly visible tailgate spot on Saturdays before Husker football games.
Regent Howard Hawks of Omaha raised concerns that several large university donors pay to use the lot, a use that he said university officials should take into account.
Donors must have given at least $125,000 to the UNL Athletic Department over their lifetimes to park in one of the 325 parking spaces, according to Regent Tim Clare of Lincoln, the board chairman.
UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman said he was sensitive to those concerns and believed there would be ways to accommodate those people.
Those could include setting up tents on the grass or finding ways to make the grass hold up better to traffic. Both ideas have been used at other universities, he said.
Perlman argued that the university needs to make the space useful for students on nongame days.
He said university officials would have to seek approval from the regents before proceeding with any of the projects included in the plan.
But the regents raised concerns that approving a master plan with the possibility of taking away those parking spots would upset donors.
Clare said the vote would not preclude changes in the space if those changes were considered separately, with opportunity for affected parties to weigh in.
Approved portions of the plan would allow for adding 30 percent more building space at the UNL city campus without sacrificing green areas.
Greg Havens, a planner with Sasaki Associates, said the plan represents a vision and an opportunity for UNL, not a final decision about any specific changes.
Each construction project would have to go through the usual process of consideration before the university could proceed, he said.
The plan calls for making Love Library a more inviting destination for students and for enhancing the area around the East Campus Student Union.
It also calls for improving traffic flow for pedestrians and bicyclists, adding spaces for students to gather and collaborate, building more parking garages to replace lost surface lots and, on East Campus, managing storm water better.