In one last confirmation that nothing – not fans, not tradition and not even the law – will stand between the University and its quest to add skyboxes to Michigan Stadium, the University Board of Regents gave its final approval of the project last Thursday. Since the beginning, the skybox plan has been a mockery of University football tradition. However, as the plan continues to ignore the opposition from the Michigan Paralyzed Veterans of America it has evolved into a mockery of the University’s tradition of diversity and acceptance as well.
After repeatedly marginalizing any opposition to the skyboxes, the regents’ vote on Thursday was the final green light for the stadium plan. The 6-2 vote approved the construction contracts for the $226-million project presumably set to begin shortly. But the regents forgot about one small detail: There is still an outstanding lawsuit that could crumble the whole project.
Back in April, the Michigan Paralyzed Veterans of America filed a lawsuit against the University because the stadium project fails to meet the guidelines of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. According to that law, any stadium built after 1990 must make 1 percent of its seating handicap accessible and that seating must be dispersed throughout the stadium. Any stadium like the Big House that was built before 1990 must be brought up to ADA standards when it is renovated.
For the University, this means that more than 1,000 of the current 107,501 seats in the stadium would have to be handicap accessible. The project only increases that number of seats to 282.
Instead of meeting the requirements of the law, though, the University has danced around the issue. Although the University agrees that the new luxury boxes must meet ADA standards, by classifying the changes to the concrete bowl as repairs and not renovations, the University is skirting the ADA requirements.
But the University’s stance is nothing more than semantics. There are legitimate renovations being made to the concrete bowl including widening the aisles and eliminating more than 4,000 bleacher seats. By ignoring these concerns, the University is putting itself in an uncertain legal situation that could topple the stadium construction just as it begins – wasting much of the $226 million going to the project.
Instead of sitting in its ivory tower of luxury boxes, the University needs to step down and settle the disagreement with the Michigan Paralyzed Veterans of America. The skyboxes are not just bringing a new elitism to the Big House, that elitism is destroying the University’s tradition of diversity and inclusion.