Regents approve final phase of stadium renovation

BY ARIKIA MILLIKAN
Daily News Editor
Published June 17, 2007

Correction appended June 26, 2007: Due to an oversight in editing, a earlier version of this story erroneously stated that the University's stadium renovation plan would add bleacher seats. The plan would actually eliminate over 4,000 bleacher seats. Also, the quote from Regent Julia Darlow has been clarified to better reflect her position that any plan the University adopts must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

Posted on June 23, 2007

The University Board of Regents voted Thursday to grant construction contracts to carry out the Athletic Department's plan to renovate Michigan Stadium, the final phase in the approval process before renovations can begin.

The designs passed by a vote of 6-2. Regents Larry Deitch (D-Bingham Farms) and Kathy White (D-Ann Arbor), who have contested the plan since its introduction in May, again voted in opposition.

For this month's regents meeting the number of people on the speaker's list who could speak on the same topic was reduced from six to five. The five people who spoke to the regents about the stadium were in favor of the proposed plans.

The $226-million plan, which was approved by the regents November 2006, will increase the stadium's seating capacity from 107,501 to 108,335 by adding 5,120 "preferred" seats. The plan will also eliminate 4,286 bleacher seats.

The regents' intention to vote on the plans was revealed Monday when the agenda for the meeting was released to the public. That same day, a press release was issued announcing that University alum Stephen Ross had donated $5 million to the Michigan Stadium expansion project.

At Thursday's meeting, Athletic Director Bill Martin said that the project will be entirely funded by the Athletic Department's budget and private donations.

"I have a great responsibility toward all current and future Michigan fans," he said.

The Athletic Department's initial budgetary calculations for the plans estimated that the University would lose about $500,000 a year from the stadium plan after taking into account yearly revenue brought in by stadium events and debt generated from the project. But Chief Financial Officer Timothy Slottow said at yesterday's meeting that the most recent calculations showed the project would bring in an annual profit of $1.5 million.

Slottow said this increase is a result of a re-evaluation of the plan's finances that estimated the University would be $900,000 less in debt than originally predicted, and because the Athletic Department has received about $6 million in private donations. In addition, the Athletic Department will contribute $8 million more to the project from its own reserves.

The regents' vote yesterday was under the assurance that no project contracts would exceed the designated budget.

There is still a lawsuit pending between the Paralyzed Veterans of America and the University over whether the renovation plans are compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

Regent Julia Darlow said that she is mindful of the legal proceedings, and that the University's plan should "embrace both the letter and spirit of the law."

Richard Bernstein, the attorney representing Paralyzed Veteran's of America, said that the regents' decision was not only disrespectful to his client, but also to the judicial process.