After ConAgra news, construction up next at Innovation Campus

Dec 13th, 2012 | By | Category: 2012, Campus News, Dec. 13, Issue

Construction at Nebraska Innovation Campus is gearing up after a Nov. 16 ceremonial groundbreaking and announcement of the new campus’ first commitment from a private-industry partner.

Dan Duncan, executive director for NIC, said construction of the campus’ first phase will start in December or early January. The first phase includes four buildings — renovation of the 4-H Building and Industrial Arts Building, and construction of a companion building and a life sciences building.

“The soft demolition in the 4-H building is done and the next thing is the hard demo,” said Duncan. “That will probably happen right away and will include tearing out the old livestock bowl and getting the building ready.

“Then, when everything is ready, they’ll bring in the cranes and start putting in pilings for the new buildings.”

The contractor for the first phase has yet to be announced. The Kiewit Building Group is the contractor for the Industrial Arts renovation.

“Kiewit has been brought on board due to the complexity of the IAB renovation,” said Duncan. “That building has three basements to deal with. The ironwork structure on the roof is interlaced and its removal will be touch and go.”

The renovation of the IAB is expected to begin with the removal of bricks from the building’s exterior archways.

“It is my understanding that if the bricks are not removed, the wind load coming in when the roof is removed will push the walls over,” Duncan said. “At this point, if that were to happen, it would be disastrous.”

Still, Duncan is excited to see construction start on the first phase of the public/private research and technology development center.

“As the construction progresses, people will realize that Nebraska Innovation Campus is really happening,” said Duncan. “We’ve had discussions with a number of potential partners. I’m looking forward to being able to show them something more tangible than a PowerPoint presentation.”

On Nov. 16, UNL announced that ConAgra Foods is the first private-industry partner at Nebraska Innovation Campus. The agreement extends an already-established relationship between UNL and ConAgra.

ConAgra Foods plans to use space in greenhouses at Nebraska Innovation Campus to grow and research tomatoes, such as those used in Hunt’s and Ro*Tel brands, alongside university students and faculty. ConAgra will also continue its research on popcorn at UNL.

The company also hopes the collaboration will create education and development opportunities for students as they further explore the possibility for research in emerging food safety practices and microbiology, robotics and their application in food commercialization.

Read more about the first Innovation Campus partnership at

In other Nebraska Innovation Campus news:

• Watch construction via a webcam. The feed is available at

• Duncan said NIC has qualified for an energy conservation bond that makes possible the use of effluent water from Lincoln’s wastewater treatment facility in a geothermal system that will heat and cool the new campus.

• Demolition of the administration building for an old horse racing facility on the NIC grounds will take place in the spring or summer. Duncan said the work is on hold until the Nebraska Horsemen Benevolent and Protective Association moves out of the old location and into a new facility near U.S. Highway 77 and West Denton Road.

• Duncan said additional private-industry partners remain interested in Nebraska Innovation Campus. He said a second partnership may be announced in the first quarter of 2013.

• The timeline for complete build out of Nebraska Innovation Campus is 25 years. To fill the space in that amount of time, about 80,000 square feet must be built each year. The four buildings in Phase One include about 313,000 square feet of space. To keep the building on pace, Duncan said he hopes construction of building five will start within the next two years. Also, he said work on building six would need to start before building five is completed.

— Troy Fedderson, University Communications

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