The basement of the Michigan Union reached capacity last night as nearly 1,000 people lined its walls with the hope of receiving tickets for President Barack Obama’s address at Al Glick Field House tomorrow morning.
Students, faculty members and Ann Arbor residents began forming a line at about 7:30 p.m. that stemmed from the Michigan Union Ticket Office, reached back toward the connector to the West Quad Residence Hall and wrapped around the food court, U-Gos and Computer Showcase, before students were forced to relocate outside at about 1 a.m.
Tickets were scheduled to be distributed from the ticket office at 9 a.m., on a first come, first serve basis. There was a limit of one ticket per person. The event tomorrow will be Obama’s second visit to the University, following his Spring Commencement address at Michigan Stadium in 2010.
A Department of Public Safety officer on the scene said he was there to “coordinate with staff,” and acknowledged there were no security issues as of 1 a.m. The officer said the Union would be evacuated at its regular closing time of 2 a.m.
But, at about 1 a.m., a Union employee announced to the assembled crowd that they needed to vacate the building and line up outside.
“Unfortunately, we’ve reached capacity, so we have to move people outside early,” the official told the hundreds of people lined up. “So you guys — when the other DPS officers get here — please stay in a single file line. I’m sorry we have to get out early, we have no more space in the Union.”
After being forced from the building, the crowd waited in a line that stretched through Regents Plaza, around the Cube and toward the Fleming Administration Building.
Cars traveling on South State Street in the wee hours of the morning honked enthusiastically, eliciting cheers from students waiting in the plaza who were camping out in tents and sleeping bags.
Architecture lecturer Teman Evans, the first person in line, said he decided to come get tickets since they were open to the community, and wanted the chance to see the president speak.
“I figured that it’s a great opportunity,” Evans said.
Ann Arbor resident Andrew Porter-Price was sitting outside an exterior door before the Union vacated, in hopes of being at the front of the line when officials evacuated the building.
Porter-Price said the University is a good location for the president to visit due to its dedication to help improve the state’s struggling economy.
“It’s the flagship institution of the state and he’s had a lot of work with Michigan over the past three years so it makes sense.” Porter-Price said. “It’s a good start on the campaign trail.”
LSA sophomore Joanna Harr said she was prepared to wait for more than eight hours with her friends for a ticket.
“We brought a blanket and we’re going to take a nap,” Harr said. “We brought backpacks full of clothes, we’re ready to bundle.”
While some described the waiting students as overzealous, LSA sophomore Elizabeth Barns said camping out was a unique experience.
“It’s college, you’re suppose to do crazy things like this,” Barns said.
LSA sophomore Shelby Hawkins said her friend who lives in West Quad was planning to bring a futon out into the plaza.
“You can call me crazy, but I’m going to be watching Obama on Friday, and where are you going to be?” Hawkins said.
LSA freshman Neil Patel said he joined the line because “it’s a one-time opportunity” to watch the president speak, adding that its monumental for Obama to visit the University twice in the span of two years.
“These are the only chances you get, and this is the second time he’s coming to the University of Michigan,” Patel said. “It’s just a big thing. Not a lot of universities get to see the president and twice, which is a big matter.”
LSA freshman Lindsay Johnson said she was surprised by the size of the crowd and the perseverance of the students waiting in line.
“I’m pretty impressed with … our dedication right now,” Johnson said. “A lot of people were like, ‘Oh, we’re going to be hardcore and go at 4 a.m.’ We got here at 11:30 (p.m.) and there were already like 300 people ahead of us.”
Despite the long wait, Johnson said she wasn’t concerned about lack of sleep.
“There aren’t very many people who can say, ‘Oh, the president of the United States came to my school, and I camped out for a ticket,’” Johnson said. “So I figure in a few years I’m not going to remember being sleep-deprived, but I’ll remember watching the president speak.”
— Daily News Editor Haley Goldberg and Daily Staff Reporter Andrew Schulman contributed to this report.