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Despite lawsuit, complaints, stadium construction begins

BY ANDY KROLL: DAILY STAFF REPORTER

Published November 19, 2007

Less than 24 hours after the football's team loss to Ohio State, construction crews arrived at Michigan Stadium to begin renovations, despite threats from the Department of Education and a pending lawsuit questioning the stadium's accessibility for the disabled.

According to a statement released by University, several parking lots and streets near the stadium will be closed to the public in order to accommodate construction vehicle traffic as part of the renovation project.

The University has faced complaints about the stadium's accessibility to the handicapped.

The Department of Education sent a letter to the University on Oct. 29 threatening to cut federal funding if the University did not make Michigan Stadium more accessible for disabled fans.

The University denied the claims regarding the stadium's lack of accessibility for disabled fans on Nov. 5 in a letter to the Department of Education. It cited efforts the University has made to make the stadium more accessible.

The dispute with the Department of Education has yet to be resolved.

Additionally, there is a pending lawsuit against the University filed by the Michigan Paralyzed Veterans of America arguing that the new renovations do not provide the number of wheelchair-accessible seats mandated by the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Neither challenge is directly related to the addition of luxury boxes, which the University says will be accessible to wheelchair users.

But if the University loses the lawsuit and is forced to add 1,000 wheelchair-accessible seats to the stadium, it could decrease the stadium's capacity so much that it wouldn't be the nation's largest.

The University might be able to add seats to the endzones to increase the capacity, but officials have refused to comment on possible contingency plans.

Construction workers began painting new stripes in parking lots yesterday so they contain more vehicles. Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Diane Brown said construction workers will soon begin removing temporary buildings surrounding the stadium.

In addition, a large fence was erected yesterday in the main athletic parking lot east of the stadium to create trucking routes for vehicles entering and exiting the construction site.

The fence's location eliminates a significant number of parking spots available to University staff who work nearby at the Administrative Services and Facilities Services buildings.

The parking lot northwest of the stadium at the intersection of East Keech Avenue and South Main Street closed yesterday.

Despite the loss of parking spots surrounding the stadium, Brown said there will be sufficient parking availability for University staff members in lots unaffected by the renovations.

Pending city approval, the University will close East Keech Avenue and Stadium Way to the north of the stadium to accommodate increased construction traffic.

The University is also waiting for city approval to shorten the right turn lane from westbound East Stadium Boulevard to northbound South Main Street on the stadium's southwest corner.

The $226 million renovations will add 83 luxury boxes, 3,200 club seats with seat backs and a new press box to the stadium.

Some fans have fiercely opposed the luxury boxes, which opponents say will be an eyesore that will separate the wealthiest fans from everyone else.

The University has maintained that the boxes and the revenue they'll generate is necessary for the future of the athletic department.


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