University of Nebraska football puts balloon tradition on hold due to helium shortages

The University of Nebraska will end its decades-long tradition of deflating balloons at Huskers football games due to a helium shortage.

On Monday, University of Nebraska athletic director Trev Alberts announced the tradition will end at Memorial Stadium during the 2022 football season.

“Although we’re still concerned about the environmental impact of the balloons, the reality of today’s helium is sourcing because some of the production of it is really challenged and hard to come by,” Alberts said Monday via the Huskers radio network.

“That’s why we were asked by the university to use the helium that we get as a university for medical purposes at the UNMC [University of Nebraska Medical Center] in Omaha. So this year is not the first time we are putting the red balloons in Memorial Stadium.”

Since the 1960s, Nebraska football fans have released red balloons after the Huskers scored their first touchdown in each game.

Alberts said the university will work with Nebraska’s marketing department to try and find another way to keep the tradition alive, possibly with digital balloons.

According to Alberts, the scarcity of helium has to do at least in part with the area of ​​the world where it is produced.

“As we looked into this as an athletic department, it became pretty clear… very limited supply of helium,” continued Alberts. “And it was going to be hard to get and some of the supply chain issues that are there right now. I think part of the helium is over in Russia, if I’m not mistaken.”

Nebraska head coach Scott Frost watches the first half of an NCAA college football game against Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Nebraska head coach Scott Frost watches the first half of an NCAA college football game against Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska isn’t the first sports venue to break the tradition of deflating balloons.

In April, the Indianapolis 500 announced that it would not continue the tradition of releasing thousands of balloons before the race due to environmental concerns.

It is the third consecutive year that the tradition has been scrapped, with the last two years largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We recognize that the publication has become more divisive in recent years,” Vice President of Communications Alex Damron told IndyStar in April. “We’ve received significant feedback from groups and individuals who oppose it, as well as a growing number of our fans. Our goal at the pre-race celebration is always to bring people together.”

The Indianapolis 500 is scheduled for May 29th.

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