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Updated 11:00 AM May 22, 2006




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Big House renovations to improve game-day experience

Renovations to Michigan Stadium that would improve concessions, add restrooms, widen seats and aisles, and add a new press box and enclosed seating were approved by the Board of Regents at its May meeting.
(Photo by Martin Vloet, U-M Photo Services)

The changes would improve the game-day experience for all football fans, said President Mary Sue Coleman and Athletic Director William C. Martin.

The regents also approved the hiring of HNTB Architecture to design the project. The projected $226 million cost will be funded through private donations and Athletic Department resources, primarily revenues generated by the new seating.

"Michigan Stadium is a treasure," Coleman said. "Generations of Michigan alumni, faculty, staff, students and fans have a stake in it. It is precisely because it is so valued that I feel such a deep responsibility to renew its aging infrastructure and attend to its most pressing needs."

The vote was 5-3, with Regents Andrea Fischer Newman, David Brandon, Olivia Maynard, Andrew Richner and S. Martin Taylor in favor, and Laurence Deitch, Rebecca McGowan and Katherine White opposed.

Stadium improvements will include an increase in the number and quality of restrooms; more concession stands with a greater variety of fare; widening aisles and seats; adding handrails; increasing the number of entry and exit points for improved crowd circulation and safety; and adding dedicated seating for fans with impaired mobility.

The overall plan includes building two multi-story structures on both the east and west sides of the stadium; the end zones will remain open. The west-side structure will include an elevated concourse, a new press box for media and game operations, new "club" seats with chair backs, and enclosed seating. The east-side structure will include an elevated concourse with new concessions and restrooms, and additional indoor and outdoor seating.

Approximately 83 suites and 3,200 club seats will be added. Widening seats and aisles and adding seating for mobility-impaired fans will result in the loss of some seats. When renovations are complete, capacity at the Big House will top 108,000.

Deitch agreed the stadium is in need of renovation but questioned the expenditure, calling it a "financial risk today that merits rejection." McGowan expressed concern about the massive scope of the physical changes to the stadium. White argued for a postponement of the vote to allow more public input.

Brandon said the renovation is "best for the coaches, athletes and fans," and that the plan is the most prudent financially. Taylor expressed his support saying, "Each and every fan will be better off" once the project is complete.

Martin assured regents the project will "respect the stadium's tradition and character."

He said the plan has been guided by several core principles, including having a positive impact on fan experience and safety, maintaining or increasing capacity, not limiting future opportunities for additional expansion or other modifications, and having a sound financial plan.

The Athletic Department conducted extensive research in developing the renovation plan, including surveys of fans and ticketholders, focus groups and market research. "We are confident from our fan surveys over the years and the experience of peer institutions that most fans will support changes that both renovate and expand the stadium, and help sustain our long-term athletic excellence," Martin said.

The construction work will occur over four years and will not interrupt home football games.

The Athletic Department will work with HNTB to develop schematic designs for the project, which will be brought back to the board for approval. Martin said he will continue to seek public input as the project moves forward.

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