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Friday, May 19, 2006

In Bill We Trust?

Detroit Free Press columnist Michael Rosenberg weighs in on luxury boxes at Michigan Stadium. Instead of focusing on the sociological statements that luxury boxes may or may not make, as a recent New York Times article did (subscription required), Rosenberg sticks to the facts. At least the facts as we know them now.

He questions some of Bill Martin's claims of how easily the athletic department will be able to pay back the costs of building the boxes (some estimates are as high as $200 million), as well as whether Michigan will be able to sell all available luxury seats. That seems preposterous when you think that they've been pulling in over 100,000 fans for every game for over 30 years. But could there be a limit for how much Michigan fans will spend to go to a game? And what happens if a 7-5 season is actually a good season, rather than a disaster, as 2005 is currently viewed?

Rosenberg reports that the plan is for two buildings to essentially be attached to the bowl, one about six stories high, the other eight. Sure, it'll increase the noise of jangling keys on an important 3rd down, but will it ruin the stadium experience by blocking out the sun and making it look more like an NFL edifice?

Luxury boxes can be done right and even can enhance the majesty of a stadium. The Horseshoe looks as if they've had the boxes forever, and the Buckeyes have prospered greatly since they've gone in. But anyone who's seen Chicago's Soldier Field knows that these stadium renovations can result in an eyesore.

Right now we're left with nothing but questions. Can the luxury boxes be done right? Can they not take away and even enhance the Stadium? Can they be paid off quickly and generate the promised revenue? And most importantly, is Bill Martin the man to make sure the answer to these questions is "Yes?"

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

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nico said...

Soldier Field is so horrifically ugly now. I was so disappointed I didn't get to visit it in person before they renovated it. I'd seen in it person pre-renovation, I'd just never seen a game there.

I'm pretty happy with the renovation to Alabama's Bryant-Denny Stadium which is currently underway. The seating is expanding up to 93,000 and they've added several more luxury boxes and from the photos I've seen, it blends in nicely.

Barry said...

This will go down as the single worst decision to effect Michigan football as we know it.

I will never donate a dime of my money to my alma mater, and this is just one of the reasons why.

Matt said...

I'm kind of torn on this plan to renovate the stadium. I'm not sure there's a way to add seating without significantly changing the apperance of the stadium. That's simply because of the design of the stadium, not some kind of nostalgic "we're defacing a historical landmark" argument. As a current student and someone on the wait list for season tickets, I'm pleased with the increased seating capacity, no matter how slight that increase is.

I'd argue that luxury boxes will improve the in-stadium atmosphere by removing the "old money" types who often sit on their hands and yell at those of us who stand up for big plays. I'm also excited at the possiblity of the boxes increasing the noise level in the stadium.

I'm sort of concerned about our ability to sell 83 luxury boxes when we have years (like the upcoming season) when the biggest game on our home schedule is Michigan State. It might not be a bad thing for us to not be able to sell all the boxes, because it would force the athletic department to schedule better games if they want the revenue from the boxes. So maybe this is the first step toward scheduling out of conference opponents that are, you know, breathing.

I guess this has the possibility of working so long as Bill Martin doesn't screw it up, and I don't exactly have a lot of faith in that.

Nicole said...

Camp Randall is a pretty good example of an addition gone right. More seating was added, as well as luxury boxes, but we didn't lose the overall feel of the stadium, which was built in the 1920s. I know you all hate us Wisconsinites, but you may want to make some calls to Barry and friends in Madison for some tips on how to do it right.

Nicole said...

Also, here's a link taking about the steps of the renovations...

And I was wrong, it was built in 1917.

Barry said...

"So maybe this is the first step toward scheduling out of conference opponents that are, you know, breathing."

There's a reason they schedule the likes of Miami (OH) in the first 3 games - we don't like starting the season 2-1. Case in point: Washington, 2001.

COWolverine said...

Apparently whenever the numbers are being spun against luxury boxes, that $200+ million amount gets thrown around, but this is the total needed for all planned renovations plus the luxury boxes. When assessing the financial viability of the boxes, the cost of just the boxes should be compared with the income they will bring in, and apparently the boxes make up well less than $100 million of that total. Just for clarification.

And also, hyperbole much, Barry? Michigan football has a seemingly endless supply of consumers, many of whom could be categorized as 'having more cash than they know what to do with.' Perhaps the appearance of the stadium will end up altered in a way that some, or many, dislike, but I can't imagine it turning into a financial disaster.

Wangs said...

Billy "I'm not Eddie but I do like runnin' numbers games" Martin should sell the boxes BEFORE they are built. And to sell them, he'll probably have to have a pretty realistic presentation that shows how they will look. If they look bad I believe fewer people would agree to buy them and, maybe, they would adjust the plans.

Just a thought.

By the way, I'm all for the luxury boxes.

Wink Dinkerson said...

As long as it looks classy and doesn't lose the "we have more people" race, I am OK with it. It6's just a building. My interest is what's between the sidelines. (Or the cheerleaders behind the sidelines.)