Throngs of Husker football fans can watch NU’s Aug. 31 season-opening game from an expanded Railyard after the Lincoln City Council unanimously approved a special permit Monday.
That permit allows patrons to congregate on Canopy Street with their alcoholic beverages from Railyard bars in hand, while watching the game against South Alabama on The Cube.
On Sept. 29 last year, the city first experimented with the Railyard expansion after several vetoed requests.
A council concern then was that an already stretched police force would be stretched even thinner. However, council members approved the 2018 special designated license on a divided vote in an attempt to see how much busier the Railyard would be if expanded on a Husker gameday.
Police issued only a handful of citations that day, in part because of cold, rainy weather, an early kickoff and Purdue being the Huskers’ opponent.
City and event officials indicated Monday that last year’s game wasn’t the best case study for whether expanded drinking at the Railyard should be a permanent gameday accommodation.
“It was a cold and somewhat gloomy day,” Police Chief Jeff Bliemeister said Monday.
The Railyard, now being managed by Hurrdat, wants to give it another try.
Railyard staff won’t expand the space before the game. Before the 11 a.m. kickoff, patrons will only be allowed to eat and drink inside the confines of the Railyard.
Once the game begins, they will be allowed to move freely within a closed stretch of Canopy Street adjacent to the Railyard until 9 p.m.
As many as eight Lincoln police officers will monitor the area, in addition to the presence of private security guards, Katy Martin of Hurrdat told the council.
Most of the additional police officers will direct and control traffic, and the first home game of the season always carries the potential for new logistical challenges, Bliemeister said.
Another department priority will be to have its extra officers working in the North Bottoms neighborhood, ready to crack down on alcohol-related issues north of Memorial Stadium, where police have previously busted out-of-control, underage drinking parties.
Early games such as the South Alabama game will bring people to the area early in the morning, creating the potential for problems, he said.
“I would anticipate (that) before the first light, the tailgating will start,” Bliemeister said.