Renovations to Michigan Stadium are one step closer to fruition now that the University’s athletic department has asked eight architectural firms for bids on the design and completion of these changes.

Eston Bond
Source: University of Michigan Athletic Department

The proposed renovations, which would dramatically change the look of the stadium, include adding premium seats through the addition of luxury boxes and club seats atop the stands on both sidelines, while also widening seats and aisles and improving amenities, such as restrooms and concession stands. The athletic department estimates that the alterations could cost $170 million.

“The initiative for doing this is first and foremost to fix the bowl — to bring it up to current standards,” Athletic Director Bill Martin said. “I want to make Michigan Stadium so that the gameday experience for every fan is improved.”

The University soliciting bids from the eight architectural firms is one of the first steps in drawing up a final plan and seeking approval from University President Mary Sue Coleman and the University Board of Regents. The athletic department hopes the regents will be able to look at the plans by the end of this year, said Jason Winters, chief financial officer of the athletic department.

Martin sees the process taking a few years once construction begins.

“After the final football game in November you could start construction,” Martin said. “Then you work up until the football season, then stop. As soon as football season ends, you go back to work and finish it for the next football season.

“The most important thing is that we do this right. So let’s take our time and let’s listen to our fans, our alums and our students. We have to reach out and involve as many of our supporters as we can in the design and planning process.”

There are several major aspects of the renovations that are meant to address the “functionally obsolete” aspects of the stadium, Winters said.

The plans that address these deficiencies were primarily drawn up by HNTB, one of the architectural firms offered a bid. HNTB, which is based out of Kansas City, has also been working with the University since 2001 on construction projects all over the athletic campus.

One major feature of the proposed renovations is the addition of luxury boxes and club seats installed along the east and west sidelines. The existing press box would be torn down and rebuilt, and 5,632 seats would be added to a new three-story structure.

Another is the addition and restoration of restroom fixtures and concession stands. This would, among other things, increase the number of women’s restrooms from 299 to 646 and increase the number of concession stands from 273 to 406.

Finally, the athletic department is also considering widening seats and aisles and even building additional concourses.

When constructed, the luxury boxes — which would bring in up to $85,000 per year per box — would pay for themselves and the improvements made to the rest of the stadium.

Michigan currently earns approximately $4 million in revenue for each home game. With the proposed changes, the revenues from each game could rise to $6.5 million.

However, all these modifications have raised concerns over the stadium’s seating capacity, which is currently 107,501. Despite the addition of 5,632 new seats, if the seats and aisles were widened to the maximum potential, the stadium could lose up to 10,500 non-premium seats. That would drop the capacity to 102,633 and apparently end the stadium’s standing as the country’s largest football-watching crowd. Penn State’s Beaver Stadium has a capacity of 107,282 and Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium has a capacity of 104,079. Texas A&M is also considering expanding Kyle Field’s capacity to as much as 115,000.

But Winters said the University does not want to compete with other schools.

“We’re not looking at what others are doing,” Winters said. “We won’t enter into an arms race.”

Athletic department officials have acknowledged, however, that the loss of capacity may not sit well with fans and have expressed the intention to keep Michigan Stadium’s capacity at its current level. According to Winters, athletic officials will make sure that Michigan Stadium will continue to have the ability to expand in capacity, though it will likely have to be in the endzones.

“I’m always apprehensive whenever you discuss major changes to an icon like Michigan Stadium,” Martin said. “But everyone seems to be excited about it — they want to see the infrastructure improved. But the number one thing I have heard loud and clear is don’t reduce the capacity. People don’t want there to be less seats — not just because we may fall behind another school — but because then they may lose their seats. And that’s something we don’t want to happen at all.”

However, administrators have yet to completely delve into the topic of student tickets. They have expressed a desire to avoid a situation similar to what happened in 1997, when not all students were able to get season tickets.

Currently, seats and aisles in the student section are narrower than in the rest of the stadium. To ensure that all students will be able to get season tickets, it is possible that the student sections will remain the same. According to Winters, the number of students who purchase season tickets fluctuates from 14,000 to 22,000.

Much more needs to happen before the proposed renovations may proceed. The next step is to secure an architectural firm to do the work.

If the firms who were contacted are interested in working on the renovation, they then will submit written plans, but no drawings, for the stadium. A University selection committee, which will consist of six to eight people from within and outside the athletic department, will choose approximately three of those firms for further consideration. Those firms would then come to the University and make an in-person presentation to the committee. After seeing these plans, which should include logistical details, the committee will make the final decision on which firm will proceed with the renovation.

It isn’t until the firm is picked will the University engage in discussions about the financial particulars and construction costs of the project.

At this point, the plans would be brought to the regents for approval.

“We are still in the preliminary stages,” Martin said. “It’s the kickoff at the start of the game. We have to hire an architect.”

Winters said that many of changes have been discussed as early as 1978, when Don Canham was the University’s athletic director, and has since been brought up several times.

 

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