After announcing a proposal on July 15 to close Main Street between Stadium Boulevard and Pauline Boulevard during home football games, the University and the Ann Arbor Police Department held a meeting to address the concerns of nearby residents.
The street would be closed for three hours before the game and likely open directly afterward, avoiding obstruction of post-game traffic. Six AAPD officers would help with the street closure.
The Ann Arbor City Council is scheduled to vote on the proposal at their Aug. 8 meeting.
The University and AAPD both said the closure, in accordance with a recommendation from a report by the Department of Homeland Security in 2010, would enhance the safety of pedestrian traffic traveling to and from the games. It would also decrease the likelihood of vehicle bomb threats by putting a 100-foot space between the stadium and vehicles.
The streets surrounding the stadium have seen closures for events twice in the past: once when President Barack Obama spoke at the 2010 commencement ceremony and again during the 2011 Notre Dame football game.
Two other collegiate football stadiums — at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and Ohio State University — have similar security measures.
University Police Chief Joe Piersante, who spoke briefly in response to resident’s questions about safety concerns, said the proposal was in the best interests of both fans and neighbors.
AAPD Police Chief John Seto, who spoke at the meeting and answered questions, said the AAPD supported the measure because of the enhancement of public safety and protection of the pedestrian traffic.
“It is a balanced approach for public safety,” he said.
Seto added that the AAPD and the University Police Department would meet after every game to evaluate how the street closures worked, stressing that the measure would be reviewed after the first three games.
He said concerns of opening the section of Main Street up to vendors and the street becoming part of the game day experience was unfounded.
“That is not going to happen, we are going to maintain control of that,” Seto said.
Some residents, many of whom allow fans to pay to use parking spaces in their lots, voiced strong, often angry, opposition to both the process of the proposal and the proposal itself. Many argued that the disrupted traffic patterns would hurt those who parked on their lots.
Ann Arbor resident George Feldman, who owns property near the stadium, said this same proposal was brought up years ago. He said the Athletic Department only cared about the experience of the fans, not the homeowners who live in the neighborhood near the stadium.
“It would inconvenience everyone. That’s not really in anyone’s interests,” he said. “It is a better experience for their stadium and it is a worse experience for all of us.”
Feldman said the security concerns were simply a way to get the proposal passed by the City Council, citing numerous areas he thought were still insecure despite the proposal.
“My personal belief is that this is completely bogus,” he said.
Councilwoman Marcia Higgins (D-Ward 4) said a committee could be formed to represent concerned residents in the next year or two. But she said that she hadn’t known the direct desires of her constituents until now.
“I haven’t had anyone write back and say this is something that (they) would like to see,” she said.