The Shester family came ready to catch them all.
Armed with six smart phones, the family of four were at the head of the line when the University of Nebraska–Lincoln opened Memorial Stadium for a two-hour Pokémon Go catch-a-thon on July 14.
“My kids have never been inside Memorial Stadium and it was rumored that there would be some rare Pokémon here,” Aaron Shester said. “We thought this would be a unique first experience, getting to see the stadium from the field while playing this game with so many others.”
As the stadium gates opened, the Shesters — Aaron and his children, Alexus, Adrian and Alicia — led a throng of Pokémon trainers onto the field as the Huskers’ tunnel walk song, “Sirius” by The Alan Parson Project, played over the stadium speakers.
During the first 30 minutes, more than 1,600 Pokémon players flooded onto the stadium field. When the gates closed at 6 p.m., attendance topped out at 3,708.
While a handful of Husker football and basketball players participated and interacted with the public on the field, Kenny Bell, a UNL graduate and wide receiver with the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, watched from a corner of north stadium.
“This is such a great opportunity to let people into the stadium to experience this game,” said Bell, who is working out on campus in the NFL’s off season. “I don’t play the game myself. But, this was a great decision by the university. It seems so much better than having people jumping the fence trying to get inside.”
Launched July 6, the Pokémon Go smartphone game allows users to hurl digital Poké balls to capture the wild creatures. It also allows users to gather tools to catch the creatures at Pokéstops and battle for supremacy in Poké Gyms. To advance in the augmented reality game, trainers must walk around outside, seeking creatures, stops and gyms that are tied to real world locations.
The venturing has caused trespassing issues around the world as players have chased Pokémon onto private property and inappropriate locations. UNL opened Memorial Stadium for the event to discourage trainers from attempting to sneak in to play.
“Now that I understand the game a bit, I understand why we’ll see groups of people gathering around unique campus spots and staring at their phones,” said Jared Dostal, a UNL police officer. “We really haven’t had any real troubles with it on campus. And, it’s cool that the stadium was opened up to give them this opportunity and see that the Pokémon in here aren’t any different than the others on campus.”
By the end of the event, Aaron Shester was slightly disappointed as rumors of a rare Pokémon release proved false. However, he did add two new creatures — a psyduck and jigglypuff — in his mission to catch them all.
“I really hoped to find one of the rare or unique ones, but this was a lot of fun,” Shester said. “I got to spend the afternoon with my kids, which is always a good time for me.”