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Posted on Wed, Jul 14, 2010 : 1:42 p.m.

Fans flock to the Big House to get first glimpses of renovated Michigan Stadium

By Jeff Arnold


A look at the new common gathering area for the club seating on the fourth floor of the east tower at Michigan Stadium.

Lon Horwedel |

For the better part of the past three years, Marilyn Donnelly and her husband watched the Michigan Stadium construction from afar.

For the first 12 months of the $226 million renovation project, the Donnellys dealt with inconvenient construction noise and congestion along Main Street. From their home near I-94, they watched the face of the stadium change, likening it to the coliseum in Rome and joking about when the gladiators and lions would arrive.

On Wednesday, they were among an estimated 15,000 visitors who stepped inside the Michigan Stadium gates. Visitors, some of which arrived as early as 6 a.m., positioned themselves in the new luxury suites and club seating.

"It's impressive, Marilyn Donnelly said. "We were just very curious and knew this would be our one chance to come in and take a look. It's just kind of fun to come and see what happened."

The stadium will open for its 83rd season Sept. 4 for Michigan's season-opener against Connecticut with a new capacity of 109,901. The suites - which come with a yearly price tag of up to $85,000 each - again propels Michigan Stadium to being the nation's largest venue, reclaiming the title from Penn State's Beaver Stadium.


The new club seats on the east side of Michigan Stadium made for a great photo op for the many who attended Wednesday's public open house of Michigan Stadium. The open house gave fans a chance to check out the nearly completed renovations of the stadium.

Lon Horwedel |

For athletic director Dave Brandon, showcasing the stadium gave fans a true vision of what nearly three years of construction looks like. Before Wednesday, images were limited to artist's renderings and sketches similar to the ones Brandon saw when the Board of Regents first approved the renovations.

With the project complete on time and on budget, Michigan has a new crown jewel to show off, marking a day Brandon has looked forward to from the beginning.

"One of the things we wanted to do was to make sure we kept the Big House the Big House," Brandon said Wednesday. "We wanted it to have the same feel, but yet, we were going to erect these new structures and add these new elements that weren't there before.

"But you walk in there, and it's still The Big House, and I'm really pleased about that."

As of Wednesday, 61 of the stadium's 81 luxury suites have been sold as have nearly 80 percent of the 2,952 club seats. While its unlikely the new seating will reach capacity by the start of the season, the university has sold enough to cover the costs of the renovations. Brandon said the university is "cash ahead" as the revenue generated by the sale of the luxury seats surpasses the debt load for the stadium improvements.

More on the open house

At full capacity, Brandon said the athletic department will generate an additional $4.5 million to $5 million in incremental revenue. Brandon said the university won't consider selling empty club and luxury suite seating on a game-by-game basis, but through events like Wednesday's, he hoped to see sales continue.

"When we can get people up there to see what that experience is all about is the greatest marketing tool that we have," Brandon said.

Brandon said the renovations aren't likely to be the last improvements. With a stadium that now boasts another level of seating along with wider aisles, more restrooms and concessions areas, Brandon said the university will look to improve the stadium's scoreboard.

As fans saw on Wednesday, the renovations haven't taken away from the stadium's traditional feel. Seeing the stadium's old-school feel watered down was a concern for Pat and Bill Berlin, who graduated from Michigan in the late 1950s.

Since then, they've maintained season tickets in Section 16, Row 72. After touring the stadium Wednesday, the couple is reassured that what they have always loved about Michigan football is intact.

"They didn't destroy the stadium - they really enhanced it," Pat Berlin said. "It's beautiful."

Jeff Arnold covers sports for and can be reached at (734) 623-2554 or by email at Follow him on Twitter @jeffreyparnold.



Fri, Jul 16, 2010 : 8:26 p.m.

Some of the comments here that make predictions about the upcoming home season are obviously said tongue in cheek. They are so far from reality and beyond the realm of possibility. I think the following could be said about the upcoming season...Michigan will have the best stadium of any teams on its schedule.

Terry Star21

Fri, Jul 16, 2010 : 2:44 p.m.

It sure was nice, nice place to tailgate, nice place to enjoy family and friends, see our king richRod and Michigan football and a really nice place to watch 7 - hard fought Michigan victories in 2010.....


Fri, Jul 16, 2010 : 9:01 a.m.

Stunhsif, relax take a chill pill, go to a game buy a hot dog and a drink but for gods sake relax. Our great Wolves will be back did your whole life go perfectly as planned now is the payback lets get behind these hard working boys that have had so many great years on behalf of our entertainment and show them our support. I had to renovate my home a while back and ya it was expensive and after all was said and done I thought sure didn't get that much for my money but hey, I'm proud of it and I know things were fixed that you can't see like plumbing. Several of my friends visited the stadium on Wed. and called me out here in Southern Ca. and pretty much all said the same thing, the refurbished stadium looks and feels just great. I go to games at the Rose Bowl occasionally and I always think as I'm entering this ancient structure damn, I hope we don't have an earthquake during the game. I don't think many of you look at other issues outside your cosmetic view point of this thing and that is the overall safety issues of the stadium, the strength of the old concrete structure, plumbing, walkways, electrical (fires) all things are just as important as the cosmetic face lift some of you keep complaining about. As far as you quitters on our last two poor seasons I can only think that you were never tru blu fans to begin with becuase common sense would explain to you to you what we're going through right now. Look think of the new system of coaching and the last two bad seasons like a face lift, it's kind of an ugly thing to look at in the beginning but once you get over the bumps and bruises it's a thing of beauty. Be Patient!


Fri, Jul 16, 2010 : 7:22 a.m.

@Bethy UM Athletics will transfer 2 million dollars to the general fund this year, up from 1.6 million last year according to an earlier article.


Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 10:07 p.m.

@Edward R Murrow's Ghost is correct about funding NOT coming from the tax payers or UofM general fund. My beef is that also means that they do not give any profits back the the general university (School of Ed, School of Social Work...receive 0 funding/scholarships/grants from football profits). So while many say funding the football program is funding education, in fact, it is not. They are totally separate. Funding football is funding college sports NOT a college education.


Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 9:04 p.m.

My wife and I visited the Stadium yesterday and I am impressed. Probably the only time I will sit on the 50 yard line in a luxury box! As far as falling and safety issues, don't worry about it. Maybe the fans could all wear helmets, yeah a mandatory helmet law for luxury box fans--that'll do it.

David Briegel

Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 8:31 p.m.

Jaxon5, they could spill their booze on the mere mortals beneath them (in both senses of the word!)!


Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 3:19 p.m.

The new stadium additions look great. I was there on Wednesday afternoon. Box and suite seats provide excellent views from end to end. They will need to do something to manage the open windows on the suite levels. There is a real hazard there - possible to fall out of the open window.

Seasoned Cit

Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 11:07 a.m.

Toured yesterday. I'm having trouble figuring out how 80% of the "rental/donations" can be considered tax deductible. Wonder how long it will take the IRS to question how those funds help the "educational function" of the UM?


Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 9:18 a.m.

Yes, it is the INTENT of the University to pay off the bonds used to finance the expansion with revenues from suite/luxury box rental, but keep in mind that, should those revenues fall short now OR in the future, the general revenues of the University (i.e. tuition) are pledged to make those debt payments. That fact is often soft-pedaled by expansion supporters, but it represents at least a possibility; wanting to discuss it or weigh the likelihood that general revenues will need to be used is not the same as mere negativity towards the U. It is important to know, for instance, what the AD means by 'sold' in this context, especially since (as I understand it) the luxury seats and suites are being leased for a fixed period of 3 or so years.


Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 8:21 a.m.

I was horrified to see the open windows in the 5th floor "luxury" suites (which looked more like cheap Ikea apartments to me). Very low ledge and wide open space big enough for an intoxicated fan or worse yet a small child to fall through. I hold my breath for the first accident to happen. Don't see how this ever passed inspection. Plus an elevator that has already given up the ghost- the architect must be a Buckeye!


Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 8:19 a.m.

people making comments like "good to see how we value education in this state" have paid no attention at all, NO TAX MONEY GOES INTO MICHIGAN ATHLETIC's it is self supporting unlike other schools in this state. the monies made from this will help all the non revenue mne's and womens sports have better facilities and college experiences. THe university will have another tool to help recruit top professors to the school by having some of the nicest facilites in the country to show them when they visit. since over 100,000 fans have continued to come when the program has had these 2 tough years how can you say Michigan fans have not been cheering and supporting the team? Crisler is being updated and renovated as we discuss this, the new basketball practice facility is well underway and the plans for Crisler's upgrade are already being worked out and the stadium renovations will help pay for it. also unlike other programs Michigan's athletic department pays FULL Tuition for it's players both instate and out of state unlike other athletic departments who take a discount, in this way Michigan is NOT taking away from education at the university but enhancing it financially. the future is very bright for Michigan Athletics the same cannot be said for other AD's in this state.

Concerned Parent

Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 7:27 a.m.

It's easy to see why our tuition rates keep going up while other state universities are holding at 0% or even decreasing costs to students!


Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 6:23 a.m.

"As of Wednesday, 61 of the stadium's 81 luxury suites have been sold as have nearly 80 percent of the 2,952 club seats." Mr Brandon: please define "sold." Does that mean just deposits (non-refundable) received, or is it actual binding leases executed? Also, how many of the suites and club seats are reserved for UM staff and faculty as a 'perk?' Thanks


Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 6:19 a.m.

I think the new stadium deserves a new name. Sure, "The Big House" sounds stupid enough, but is it truly appropriate? Someone how it doesn't quite capture the grandeur and majesty of Michigan's insecurity. "More Money Than Taste" comes to mind, but that only highlights the misplaced priorities. It makes you feel sorry for the thousands of students who work three jobs so they only graduate with $100,000 of debt, and that's sort of depressing. Nobody wants to go to a football stadium to be depressed. *ahem* *cough* *cough* No, to truly capture the essence of Michigan's baseless feelings of self-importance, the coasting on past accomplishments, my vote is for "Monument to Narcissism."


Wed, Jul 14, 2010 : 11:07 p.m.

226 million to renovate a losing team living on their past glory. What an absolute waste of money, self supporting in the past but will not be moving forward. Ten years from now people will be talking about this program like they did about General Motors and Chrysler going down and costing the taxpayer! On top of that, how many of these college football players at Michigan actually graduate? Somewhere around 50% or less, who can answer this question? And what do most of them major in, basket weaving? Please, someone with the answers?

Long Time No See

Wed, Jul 14, 2010 : 10:31 p.m.

@quitwastingmymoney You don't think they're spending money on basketball?


Wed, Jul 14, 2010 : 6:52 p.m.

What a waste of money. Maybe the UM fans will get back on the bandwagon and start cheering again. By the way, Chrisler could use a spruce up....ever thought of spending some money on the basketball program?


Wed, Jul 14, 2010 : 3:39 p.m.

it is good to know how much we value education in this state.


Wed, Jul 14, 2010 : 2:24 p.m.

I was there this afternoon. There was no wait at all and everyone is extremely helpful. You must enter from the SE corner. It's worth the time.


Wed, Jul 14, 2010 : 2:21 p.m.

I can't wait to check it out - anyone know if it's taking a while to get it to see it?


Wed, Jul 14, 2010 : 2:20 p.m.

When you consider other stadium expansion projects, this one takes the cake. It has added to the scope and allure of the satdium without defiling Yost's vision. Compared to Chicago Stadium, which looks like a space ship landed on it, or Beaver Stadium, which appears to be built from an Erector Set(yes, I'm showing my years), Michigan Stadium looks like it belongs there. It will be a classy gem for a very long time. Go Blue!