- Zachary Meisner/Daily
BY COURTNEY RATKOWIAK AND RUTH LINCOLN
Daily Sports Editors
Published August 31, 2009
The Big House hasn’t yet gotten much bigger — but it sure is unrecognizable.
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The progress made on the four-year, $226 million Michigan Stadium renovation project is obvious from the two navy blue skyboxes emerging from the east and west sides of the stadium. But inside, the foundation of new wood-paneled luxury suites and rows of covered club seats serve as proof that the look and feel of watching a game in Michigan Stadium will be much different — for some — next year at game time. (To view a slideshow of photos, click here.)
During the 2009 Stadium Expansion and Renovation Project Media Day on Wednesday afternoon, representatives from the Michigan Athletic Department and University of Michigan Architectural Engineering and Construction talked about the state of the renovation before giving a tour of the facility.
The stadium renovations are scheduled to be finished in June 2010, though the final stadium capacity will not be determined until 2013, when the widening of seats and aisles is completed. University of Michigan Architectural Engineering and Construction representatives estimate the capacity will be more than 108,000, a slight increase from the 107,501-seat Big House before renovations began in 2007.
Michigan Stadium’s capacity will stay at 106,201 this season, the same as last year, after the University removed seats in order to comply with ADA regulations. ADA-compliant bridges and pathways have been installed to ensure easier navigation of the stadium, and handicapped seating will be on the first row of the west concourse when it opens in 2010.
On the east side of the stadium, the first level of chairback club seats, designed to seat about 1,900, is currently situated just above the last row of bench seats. The second club seat level, designed to seat about 1,100, will have both indoor and outdoor seats. Both club levels will have connected restrooms, concessions and lounge facilities.
An advantage of creating club seating is that large groups have found it easier to buy tickets together. Though it is usually difficult to accommodate group requests of more than eight, a University of Michigan Architectural Engineering and Construction representative said that the Athletic Department has already booked three groups of 20 or more people in the club levels.
The upper-level concourses leading to the club seats are nearly as wide as those on the lower level, which will provide more room for people to easily move around the stadium and reduce pedestrian gridlock, associate athletic director Bruce Madej said during the stadium tour.
The 15-by-28-foot suites, which are above the club level on both the east and west sides of the stadium, feature seating for 16 and windows that can be open or shut to control crowd noise. Each commitment requires a $10,000 reservation deposit, and suite prices range from $55,000 to $85,000 per year, with a minimum three-year commitment.
Of the 82 suites, the Athletic Department has currently received 58 commitments. The club seats are also at about 70 percent capacity, according to the University of Michigan Architectural Engineering and Construction. Tours of the renovated areas will be offered this fall on Friday and Saturday of home football game weekends.
After this year’s Ohio State game, the existing press box will be taken down to make room for 704 chairback seats.
The new press box will be integrated into the west side of the stadium, on the same level as the west suites. Construction crews will also complete the interiors of the club and suite levels and the upper concourses.
Right tackle update: After last season’s lack of depth on the offensive line, Mark Huyge, Patrick Omameh and Perry Dorrestein are now all serious contenders for the starting right tackle spot. The new depth at the position has allowed Rodriguez to move veteran Steve Schilling back to guard, his natural position, instead of having the redshirt junior cover at tackle.
Huyge sprained his ankle during the second week of last season’s camp and was out for four weeks. The injury cost him a shot to compete for a spot on the line the 2008 campaign.
“I didn’t really recover to the point where I wanted to,” he said.