The media got to tour Michigan Stadium yesterday, allowing them to check out the renovated areas of the Big House as well as what will be done in the next year or so to complete the project. Aside from all of the photos that were taken during the tour (see the end of this post for links), some specific details about the renovation came out.
As first reported by Tim of mgoblog, Michigan Stadium’s capacity is going to climb to over 110,000 next season after the renovation is complete. Up until last year, Michigan Stadium’s capacity was 107,501 since the 90s. The capacity dropped to 106,201 last year because more disabled seating was added. That gave Penn State the top capacity in all of college football, though Michigan still had a higher average attendance for the 2008 season.
Michigan will shatter attendance records when the official capacity goes over 110,000. The record is currently at 112,118, which is the number of people who watched Michigan beat Ohio State in 2003. It was the 100th meeting between Michigan and Ohio State, and tons of former players were in attendance to line up on the field for when the team came out and touched the banner. The former players are likely mainly responsible for the record, as it is almost 400 people greater than the second-highest attended game in Michigan Stadium history — Michigan’s 38-0 win over Notre Dame in 2003.
Attendance could surpass 115,000 at some point after the renovation is complete, but Michigan will probably only have one year to pull that off. Why? Well, the Big House’s capacity is going to drop down to somewhere over 108,000 by 2013, as that is when all of the aisles in the stadium will be widened. It sounds like aisles will be widened over the course of a few offseasons, and by the start of the 2013 season, that project will be complete. (It will likely be similar to the installation of new concrete/seats in the lower bowl that happened for a few years before the major renovation began.)
Originally plans called for the aisles to be widened and each seat to be expanded by 1″. That is why the capacity wasn’t expected to increase by more than 1,000 or so seats despite all of the additions. Adding so much disabled seating wasn’t originally in the plans, however, and that caused Michigan to lose over 1,000 seats already. There was only one mention of the seats being widened in articles about yesterday’s tour; only the aisles were specifically pointed out in other recaps of the tour. I don’t know if widening the seats is still part of the plan or not, but I’m hoping it’s not, as I have been against that from day one.
I know the current seating setup crams as many people into the stadium as possible, but an extra inch really isn’t going to make that big of a difference, at least not enough to the point where it is worth losing more seats. I’m almost inclined to say leave the aisles as they are as well, but those probably need to be widened a little bit for safety reasons more than anything. If you’ve ever been to a game at Michigan Stadium, you probably noticed or experienced the long lines of people leaving the exits after the final whistle; it is like a traffic jam. Widening the aisles by a little bit may increase the flow of those lines, and in case of emergency, allow medical personnel to enter the stadium/people to leave the stadium quicker.
The reason Michigan can lose seats in the lower bowl and still increase the overall capacity is because of the new press box, suites, and club seats. The new press box will hold 224 members of the media and in general it is going to be much bigger and nicer. There are a total of 82 suites, each of which has seats for 16. The cost of a suite ranges from $55,000 to $85,000, so you can see how this renovation will pay for itself over time. As for the club seats, I’m not sure how many there will be. The club seats will be on the west side of the stadium above the lower bowl, and there will also be chairbacks in the place of the current press box on the east side. Just like the suites, about 70% of the club seats have already been reserved.
Going back to the idea of creating a more efficient flow of people, new concourses, bathrooms, and concessions will allow for more room to roam around the stadium. The concourses on the main level already seem bigger, and the ones on the second level will provide even more space around the stadium. It certainly looks like Michigan will achieve its goal of giving people more room to operate outside the stadium, and once the aisles are widened, the same can be said for the lower bowl as well.
Photos from the tour:
- Football team’s Facebook page
- MVictors (Greg found that Michigan is switching from Pepsi to Coke products in the stadium)
- Detroit News
Videos from the tour: