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Posted on Mon, Jan 18, 2010 : 9:10 p.m.

University of Michigan Board of Regents will discuss Crisler Arena renovations at Thursday meeting

By Michael Rothstein

Michigan officials have made small renovations before, adding a scoreboard and re-doing the lighting. This time, an expected makeover of Crisler Arena will be much more expansive.

Pending expected approval from the university's Board of Regents on Thursday, Michigan begins its multi-phase renovation of Crisler Arena in 2011.

“It’s just a big overhaul,” Michigan athletic director Bill Martin said. “This is like taking the engine out of your car, overhauling it, putting in all different parts and putting it back together again.

“Crisler hasn’t been touched since it’s been opened in 1967 other than those
improvements we had done. It just hasn’t. And it needs it.”

The Crisler project is separate from the building of the $23.2-million Player Development Center, which will be built adjacent to the arena.

The first phase of the Crisler renovation will cost around $20 million and includes improvement of electrical and mechanical systems along with a cosmetic facelift of the exterior. 

Michigan will replace seats in the lower bowl, align aisles with entrances, along with adding handrails and disability seating to ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Future phases could possibly address what would be left in the Arena, including the upper bowl, the concourses, the playing floor and other more cosmetic things.   

Martin is proposing Denver-based architecture firm Sink Combs Dethlefs work on the project along with local architects, according to an athletic department press release. 

Re-seating of the lower bowl will not displace the Maize Rage student section. Martin said “we want the students to be behind the bench.” Instead, though, he said architects might look at moving the benches - and the students - to the other side of the court. But nothing was definite with that.

One change the new seating will likely affect is Crisler’s current capacity of 13,751.

“I think we’ll probably lose some seats as part of it because when we add our (Americans with Disabilities Act) seating, add our handrails, align the aisles and we could stand to lose a little bit of seating, not a lot,” Martin said. “We’re anticipating that will happen.”

Most of the project's first phase will focus on the infrastructure of the arena. Martin would like to also install a drop-down curtain for events that draw smaller crowds to make the arena feel more intimate.

Before settling on the multi-phase renovation, Martin investigated the possibility of building a new arena.

“We looked at it,” Martin said. “But understand to begin with that Crisler has good bones. It’s sized right. Structurally, it’s very sound and it’s going to last a long time.”

The cost of a potential new arena wasn’t a factor, Martin said, although when it is done he anticipates when all phases are done the renovations will cost between $40-60 million instead of a new arena, which could cost more than $100 million.

One of the things Martin liked about Crisler is its proximity to Michigan Stadium. Currently, he said, visiting women’s basketball and gymnastics teams use the football locker room in Michigan Stadium as its locker room. And Crisler is often used for events on football weekends, including Michigan’s post-game press conferences.

“I’m a big believer in multi-purpose facilities,” Martin said. “We don’t build a facility for one sport only.”

Michael Rothstein covers University of Michigan basketball for He can be reached at (734) 623-2558, by e-mail at or follow along on Twitter @mikerothstein.


John of Saline

Tue, Jan 19, 2010 : 3:57 p.m.

Why aren't more concerts held there? I saw Elton John there in the '90s, but unless I'm greatly mistaken concerts aren't there much.


Tue, Jan 19, 2010 : 11:25 a.m.

I'm wondering who the GC is going to be. =D

Tim Wild

Tue, Jan 19, 2010 : 9:31 a.m.

Can we add closed circuit TVs and speakers in the concourse and restrooms. Maybe a couple pop/gatorade machines for those events where the concessions are not open.


Tue, Jan 19, 2010 : 12:02 a.m.

Long overdue. Go Blue!


Mon, Jan 18, 2010 : 8:21 p.m.

Nice work with the Cut & Paste, walmartwolverine! I see this is the exact same comment you posted on the last article about renovations!


Mon, Jan 18, 2010 : 7:05 p.m.

who cares who they use as long as they get it done and bring michigan back to where it should be.


Mon, Jan 18, 2010 : 6:30 p.m.

Here's a clue: Don Dethlefs, AIA - Chief Executive Officer: As CEO of Sink Combs Dethlefs, Don Dethlefs has built a reputation as one of the nations premier arena and stadium architects... They have great experience with this type of project.


Mon, Jan 18, 2010 : 5:13 p.m.

I wish they would use a Michigan-based architect for the project!