Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Regents support use of stadium for NHL Winter Classic

Negotiations between U-M and the National Hockey League to schedule the league's Winter Classic at the university took a significant step forward Wednesday, as the Board of Regents voted to proceed on licensing Michigan Stadium for the Jan. 1, 2013, event.

Athletic Director David Brandon, who is continuing negotiations with the NHL, said the league has offered to pay up to $3 million to the university for the license. He also said the league has decided to make a significant contribution to the university, through the NHL's charitable fund, to support student scholarships.

"It's a sign of the relationship and the class that the NHL has brought to this," he said.

The teams participating in the 2013 Winter Classic have not been announced. The NHL has scheduled a major announcement at Comerica Park in Detroit for 10:30 a.m. today and Michigan Stadium at 1:15 p.m.

Brandon said the event likely would have an economic impact of more than $14 million for Ann Arbor and the region. He said that while a consultant has put the economic impact on the area for a typical football game at $14 million, the Winter Classic's impact could be greater. That's because attendees could plan longer stays and seek hotel rooms to celebrate the New Year as well.

Brandon stressed that while stadium and U-M operations staff would work with the event in a support role, the NHL would run the show.

"It's very important to understand that this is not a university event. We're not in the business of marketing this event. We're not in charge of the sponsors. It's all going to be the NHL," Brandon said.

In the request presented to regents at a special meeting Wednesday, the NHL would require use of the stadium from Dec. 1 until mid-January to allow for the installation and removal of its equipment and property. A liquor license would be sought to allow the sale of alcohol at the stadium during the event. State law permits the university to obtain 12 such special licenses per year.

The regents, who convened via teleconference, enthusiastically supported the measure. Board Chair Denise Ilitch recused herself from the vote, citing her family's financial interest in the Detroit Red Wings.

"One of the factors that we discussed in considering this was the economic value to the city of Ann Arbor and the surrounding community, and the good that this would do for restaurants and shops and hotels and other activity in the area," said Regent Andrea Fischer Newman. "It's a time of year when it's otherwise quiet. Doing something like this makes a lot of sense."