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Stadium and Main: 2010: A Stadium Odyssey

Friday, May 19, 2006

2010: A Stadium Odyssey

Out with the old...
Things are certainly gonna look different. The University of Michigan Board of Regents voted to approve an estimated $226 million major renovation plan for Michigan Stadium, rumored to be completed by the start of the 2010 season (with construction beginning in 2007 or 2008, and not affecting the Stadium during football season). Most notable are the addition of luxury boxes, more bathrooms, wider seats, and new concourses with more concessions.

While the “artist’s rendering” seen here is not officially official, it is rumored to be the plan that will be presented to the Regents. And if they have half of a brain between them, they will approve it. Some people are a bit worried that the 5-3 vote to approve the funding could mean that the actual construction plan/design will not be approved if any of the 5 regents in favor of renovation “switch sides.” I would be surprised if that happened. You have to assume that if the Ann Arbor News (and other media outlets) knew about the proposed designs, the Regents did, too, and think that they’re acceptable.

Thoughts:

- This will not be a big monstrosity. Check the specs – the boxes (luxury, press, whatever) will only be 7 feet higher than the current scoreboards. That is not that tall. It will help keep sound in, which is nice, but it won’t be overwhelming.

- HNTB Architecture is arguably the leading sports architecture firm in the world – a good choice. They have worked on plenty of college stadiums, as well, garnering praise for the recent Ohio Stadium renovation. If you look at their portfolio, don’t be taken aback by the futuristic designs – I am sure that Michigan will keep things simple and traditional. Tom Goss is gone – no halo worries here.

- Stadium capacity will likely go up to 108,335, which is fine with me. Unless I missed some other plans by Tennessee, PSU, OSU, or someone else, we will have the largest capacity for the foreseeable future. But hear me now and believe me later – when this renovation is done, we need to stop worrying about being the “Biggest” House. Other schools may pass us, and we need to not freak out. Having a stadium that is in great shape, with plenty of amenities and good traffic flow (concessions, bathrooms) is much more important than a few seats here or there. Having the largest capacity is nice, but is not the top priority in today’s football world.

- Even if you’re against “luxury boxes,” I hope that you are smart enough to at least admit that they are probably a necessary evil. The luxury boxes will be the building block for funding for Michigan sports in the coming years, and pay for themselves sooner rather than later. I bet that if you’re against the luxury boxes, you’re probably one of the people that complains that schools like OSU and Texas have bigger athletics budgets and better facilities. It’s gotta start somewhere, and it starts with football at Michigan. That’s the cash cow, and it will help to fund improvements to other facilities (like Crisler Arena and a b-ball practice facility… like, ASAP, please).

- Will your current seat location change as a result of the renovations? The current capacity is 107,501. The new capacity is supposed to be 108,335 (give or take). There will be 3,200 new club seats and 1,328 new luxury box seats (83 boxes including 16 seats each). That gives us about 4,528 new seats, and about 3,694 fewer seats in the main (original) seating area. While some people will make the “jump” from the main seating area to the nicer, newer options, I doubt that 3,694 will do so. So, yes, some people will be affected. But who? I would guess that the Athletic Department will (or should) attempt to coordinate the seat “eliminations” with season tickets that are not renewed. If possible, eliminate those seats first (since nobody “has” those seats when they are not renewed). Any variation of this plan will likely lead to a lot of seat “eliminations” in the end zones, since this is where the vast majority of new season ticket holders are placed. Adjustments will be made with those groups of seats first, and the remainder of the stadium will be “shifted” accordingly. Guesstimating 25,000 for the student section and 5,000 for the visitor’s section (which are both locked in place), the chance of seat reassignment is about 1% to 5%, with 5% representing the worst case scenario where nobody goes from regular to nicer seating, and 1% representing the most plausible best case scenario, where only about, say, 1,000 fans are forced to relocate. The most turnover will occur in the end zones, but (theoretically) everybody should be equally "at risk" for seat relocation.

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