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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Big(ger) House

On Friday, the U-M Board of Regents voted 5-3 in favor of an initial plan to add luxury boxes to the Big House. The renovation would also increase stadium capacity by 750 to 108,251.

While the final design and construction contracts still require additional approval, the target for completion is 2010. About 83 indoor suites and 3,200 outdoor club seats will be added.

And the cost for all this? An estimated $226 million (Michigan Stadium was initially built in 1927 at a cost of $950,000).

However, not all are happy with the proposed changes. The site SaveTheBigHouse.com claims the addition of luxury boxes will divide "Michigan fans by income," and "building boxes would also cast long shadows over the egalitarian values which U-M has always championed."

While that sounds all nice and Kumbaya, apparently the folks who run that website haven't bought season tickets in the last couple of years. Ever since the addition of the "seat license fees," Michigan fans have been divided by income. And even before that, if anybody thinks the folks sitting on the 50 were your average Joe and Jane Michigan Fan, think again. Those tickets went to the big donors of the athletic department, don't kid yourself. So that argument really doesn't wash.

To me, their strongest argument against the boxes is that such suites would undermine the gameday experience for most fans. As they point out, the addition of towering structures on each side of the stadium would cast significant shadows over the stands and field much earlier in the game and much earlier in the season. Now, that might not matter to those all nice and warm up in their sky boxes, but to the other 100,000 folks freezing in the cold, it would suck major ass.

However, the positive that they fail to mention is that it might actually increase the noise factor in the Big (Quiet) House. Maybe Michigan might actually enjoy a home-field advantage for a change.

My opinion? I think they should build the luxury boxes if they end the "seat license fees" which I believe are a complete and utter load of shit. Michigan Stadium is the biggest football stadium in America and has been sold out EVERY GAME SINCE 1975. Every Michigan football game is televised. Michigan apparel is constantly in the Top 10 of all NCAA licensed merchandise sold. So don't cry poor to me. And yes, I know that football ticket revenue funds women's soccer and men's gymnastics and blah, blah, blah. Boo fucking hoo. Put it this way, if Michigan football can't turn a profit, how the hell do the Purdues and Vanderbilts and Stanfords of the world even field teams?

Oh, and when U-M officials counter that, "But Michigan State or BLANK has luxury boxes" to bring in added revenue? Well, let's see, MSU or BLANK's stadium also holds 30,000 less fans than the Big House. So that means those 30,000 more M fans x $50 or so bucks a ticket = suck my balls telling me about Michigan's financial hardship. Did I mention boo fucking hoo yet?

Hey, some guy has $45K to spend each year on a luxury box? Have at it. It's your money. What pisses me off is that most folks are being priced out of Michigan games with the high ticket costs and seat license fees. I became a Michigan fan as a little boy going to the games with my family. But the fact is, if tickets cost then what they do now, we probably couldn't have afforded to go. And I just think it's a shame that some kid somewhere in southeastern Michigan won't get the chance to have those memories, to build that love of the Maize and Blue, because it now costs over $300 for a family of four to catch the Wolverines on a Saturday in A2.

That to me is the real bullshit, not whether they do or don't add luxury boxes.

Note: the Ann Arbor News had a great special section on the proposed project (including the picture below).


Benny Friedman said...

The Michigan Athletic Department would counter that Purdue and Vanderbilt field far fewer sports than Michigan does. And Stanford has most of their athletic scholarships endowed by donors, greatly reducing their costs. Actually, Stanford fields a ton of teams, and are among the most successful in the non-revenue sports.

Wangs said...

Yost, amen.

Agree with all your points. I went to every home game from 1979 - 1998 (probably missed one or two, but I was at the 5-0 Purdue game in the freezing rain so that counts two). I will add just one thing - Michigan stadium is great simply because it holds 107,701, no other reason. If the luxury boxes make it louder, then add them. It is embarrassing how quiet that many people can be, I think it is in large part a result of the design of the stadium.

cottoncandy said...

Look, Michigan has one of the greatest football programs in college football. It should have a great stadium, due to its greatness, not simply its bigness.

The Big House is a poor stadium in which to house one of the greatest programs ever. I went to one game there (and was humiliated to see Desmond Howard and the rest of the Wolverines destroy an undefeated Buckeye team 28-0.) It felt as if I stepped back in time 60 years. What a dump.

I personally hope the proposed upgrades bring Wolverine football into the 21st century. You deserve it.

wds4usc said...

We are going through something like this in L.A. The proposal is to shrink the Colliseum from 92,000 to about 65,000 (with luxury boxes) for the NFL. The powers-that-be have never treated USC as a full tennant and instead have concentrated efforts on the NFL which many here don't care about and for which they will refuse to spend public money. The result will be less revenue for the college games (every game was sold out last year) and the same division between luxury boxes and the "common" fan. What will be worse is that if there is no way to increase capacity for USC there will certainly be seat licenses which will drive many long-time season seat holders away. I can just see USC-Notre Dame before 65,000 corporate customers with seat prices in the three and four hundred dollar range. The small donor will say the hell with it. A pox on the NFL!!!

chuckwoods24 said...

let's not jump to discrimination against the really rich guys of the world. they're better people than you, their wives are better looking, and and every november you'll appreciate their looming presence as they laugh at how cold you all look. that's big ten football.

wds4usc said...

Nah, my wife's still better looking....But I'm afraid the view from my seat will look dramatically different in the coming years.

CrimeNotes said...

Here's a question -- does anyone have any idea whether the luxury boxes will preclude further general admission expansion of the stadium? Would it preclude adding 5,000 (or 10,000) new seats down the road? I don't care that much about whether Michigan Stadium is the biggest in the country, but the plans as proposed would seem to concede that arms race. More general admission seating would also cut down the waiting list for season tickets.

Also, I doubt that they'll ever eliminate the seat licensing fee, or that this will relax the financial squeeze for the average fan. They're going to maximize revenue as much as they can for as long as they can. That's not a bash on the Athletic Department, just a fact of life.

I don't feel like Michigan is doing a great job of selling the plan or explaining the economics. In theory, I'm for the luxury boxes and don't care if rich alums get to do their thing in overpriced seats. But the current proposal looks waaaaay excessive.

wds4usc said...

Unfortuntely, the rich alums do seem to run the show. However, that is somewhat shortsighted: If you have thousands of "average" alums, that still represents a pretty powerful base. While each individual contribution may not be a lot, it adds up. Good will likewise adds up as does a positive feeling and experience versus anger and animosty towards one's alma mater. This might be a tightrope but I don't think many athletic departments have handled this issue very well. We all can't have good yardline seats but at least consider those that just want to get in--they could be the big donors of tomorrow.

CrimeNotes said...

The whole issue -- from the hippies whining about class division to the overambitious proposal to the administration's secrecy about the design and finances -- seems like an unnecessary controversy. Hire a good offensive coordinator and build up a solid offensive line, and they'll eventually make up the revenue in merchandising. Overall, I'm still sort of ambivalent, but my friends are pissed. Maybe it'll turn out to be visionary, but right now it feels like a self-inflicted wound.

Yost said...

"Hire a good offensive coordinator and build up a solid offensive line, and they'll eventually make up the revenue in merchandising."

CrimeNotes, you are a prophet, my son.

CrimeNotes said...

Thanks Yost. I should clip that and use it to annoy my friends.

Anonymous said...

I would feel like a jerk in a Box at a college game. It would be like the Emperor at the colusiem. Everyone is cheering and your sitting in your box sipping wine. I could not stant people looking up at me in disgust.

Boxs would ruin CFB. Its not what it is about. It is about everyone packing in right next to each other getting loud.

Yost said...


Good points. Let them eat cake... and not convert on 3rd and long.

Benny Friedman said...

Anonymous at 8:35, there will be no one looking up at those in the boxes sipping wine - because there will be no alcohol in the boxes. At least not legally.