LUKE MULLIN Lincoln Journal Star

Where Troy Dannen has gone, facility improvements have followed.

During his time at Northern Iowa and Tulane, Dannen oversaw numerous stadium projects, renovations and improvements to infrastructure. Now, the newly hired Nebraska athletic director will be tasked with seeing through the most ambitious, largest project of his career renovations to Memorial Stadium.

However, Dannen had nothing to do with the $450 million plan approved by the Nebraska Board of Regents in October; former athletic director Trev Alberts launched the project months before his departure to Texas A&M.

Major fundraising efforts will be needed to fulfill the original price tag and any rising costs, meaning the project cannot begin until Nebraska raises the capital needed.

It’ll be a challenge unlike anything else Dannen has faced before, but the veteran athletic administrator’s track record suggests that he will see the project to completion.

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Unlike his most recent stop at Washington, a six-month stint that was too short to oversee any facility upgrades, Dannen launched numerous improvements shortly after beginning his career at Northern Iowa.

First up were renovations to the home of Northern Iowa wrestling, the West Gym. The wrestling room was expanded and a new locker room was built alongside a newly renovated weight room and sports medicine facility.

Dannen unveiled those plans in 2011 alongside a fundraising campaign, with the $1 million project eventually taking three years to complete. According to the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, Dannen personally contributed the first $5,000 to the project out of his own pocket and sought out major donors such as Sandy Stevens to finance the first phase of renovations.

Once the project was finished in 2014, Dannen turned his attention toward the UNI-Dome, Northern Iowa’s football stadium and multi-purpose event center. On the 40-year anniversary of the stadium’s construction in 1974, Dannen presented a vision for the future.

After upgrading the stadium’s roof and scoreboards, Dannen proposed large-scale renovations to update infrastructure.

“The Dome is turning 40 and before we know it, it’s going to be 50,” Dannen said to the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier in 2015. “Besides the roof, it’s a lot of the same infrastructure inside the building, including the restrooms , and that is the single biggest liability we have in our facilities. It’s not as fan-friendly as it used to be.”

The messaging mirrors that of Alberts when proposing the Memorial Stadium project in October.

“Obviously, we’re celebrating 100 years of an iconic stadium. The question is, what does the next 25, 50, 100 years look like of Memorial Stadium?” Alberts said. “…We need to modernize Memorial Stadium to ensure infrastructure for the next century. It’s really, really important. The history that has happened in our stadium is remarkable. We need to make sure that while we’re here, we’re working on infrastructure to ensure that it’s in place for the next 100 years.”

When renovations to the UNI-Dome began, it was part of a five-year plan that included facility improvements across multiple programs such as an on-campus soccer field. A football operations center which included meetings rooms and office space was built onto the Dome, and the turf playing surface within the stadium was replaced.

The most significant changes, though, didn’t come to fruition immediately. Despite proposing a $25 million renovation which included expanding concourses, modernizing restrooms and updating seating across the stadium, Dannen was long gone by the time Northern Iowa officially launched its $50 million renovation campaign in 2022.

While Dannen had hoped to seize the opportunity of the UNI-Dome’s 40-year anniversary, the ensuing administration followed his playbook by announcing the campaign around the stadium’s 50-year anniversary.

By then, Dannen had moved to Tulane. There, the football team’s situation was different Tulane’s Yulman Stadium had just opened in September 2014 after the Green Wave opted to move out of the New Orleans Saints’ Superdome.

One of Dannen’s first projects involved partnering with AT&T to install 80 antennas that improved cell phone connectivity within the stadium.

Facility improvements across multiple sports soon followed. An academic center was opened on campus in 2021, and construction began on a new sports medicine facility a year later. Under Dannen’s leadership Tulane renovated the home of its swimming and diving team, the Reily Center Natatorium, and began building a new tennis facility.

An $8 million renovation to the Wilson Center, home of Tulane’s weight room, training room and many athletic offices, began in 2023 as Dannen also pushed along improvements to football facilities.

Coming off a 12-win season for Tulane which included a Cotton Bowl victory, the football team’s locker room was renovated and plans for building an on-campus indoor practice field were introduced. Expanded areas for strength and conditioning, sports medicine and additional meeting rooms marked phase two of the plan that Dannen proposed.

“This year also marked the most significant capital improvements for Tulane Athletics since Yulman Stadium was built,” Dannen wrote in a July 2023 letter to Tulane fans. “Investment in Tulane Athletics and our student-athletes elevates us as an institution and, as the investment in Yulman Stadium proved, can be a catalyst for the success of our programs.”

That’ll likely be Dannen’s message when he begins calling donors and raising interest in Nebraska’s renovation plans that every dollar which goes toward the stadium is an investment into Husker athletics.

New challenges and needs for facility improvements will arise in Dannen’s time at Nebraska, but his first task is clear getting the Memorial Stadium project over the line.