It was a surprisingly busy July day for Michigan's Athletic Department, as they opened the doors to Michigan Stadium's new premium seating areas, FieldTurf announced a new deal with the Wolverines (way to piggyback off the day's news, guys!), the official seating capacity of 109,901 was announced for the 2010 season, and Athletic Director David Brandon held a press conference to talk about the newest features of Wolverine Mecca. It's all stadium, all day.
Apologies for poor photo quality, as cellphone shots will have to stand in for the out-of-commission pro camera. If it's higher-quality shots you want, UMTailgate can hook you up. Firstly, I was surprised how many people showed up to the event in the first place, many of them decked out in their gameday garb. Pioneer's lot was mostly filled up in the late morning.
Athletic Director Dave Brandon said that the structures will help keep crowd noise in the stadium, a welcome (but by no means novel anymore) idea to Michigan fans. He said that sound engineers estimated a 30% increase in volume at the 50-yard line, but to get more concrete data, they'll test the sound early in the year.
Another note about the structures themselves is the classic look. Brandon noted that the aesthetic fit with the rest of athletic campus (seen at right from the fourth floor of the East structure) makes the look perfect for Michigan.
Adding these structures also helped Michigan provide a variety of gameday experiences for fans with different preferences. Those who want to sit in traditional bleachers can continue to do so, but there are also options for those who want - and can afford - to sit in chairback seats, club seats, or suites.
Suites And Seats
The suites themselves looked exactly like the one Brian and I toured last summer, except now there are lots of them. The ones on the corners also get good views of campus or the golf course, as well as looking down on the crowd (insert The Hero Of Tiananmen Square-ism here):
Of the 81 total suites, only 20 are available at this time. Approximately 60% of the suites have been purchased by individuals or small groups, and 40% are for corporate customers. Associate Athletic Director for Development Joe Parker said that is a pretty good reservation number, and he does not anticipate single-game suite rentals becoming an option to fill them all.
When other schools have added premium seating, and even when Michigan added it at Yost Ice Arena, 100% occupancy hasn't been reached until the third year. Michigan should have all 81 suites committed by then.
I know lots of MGoBloggers are interested in the behind-the-scenes media access stuff, so here's a shot of the new press box. It's a decided improvement over the old one, to say the least:
There's another row on the left there, and the ceilings are a good 15-20 feet high. In addition, AD Dave Brandon (jokingly) promised that the media will have better food options this season.
At this point, capital gifts and suite/club seat reservations have paid for the $226 million of the renovations(!). The rest of the way, these income sources should be positive cashflow for the Athletic Department. Though he didn't have exact numbers, Parker said that the premium seating areas will increase the profitability of each home game in the future.
Inside the stadium, the 2009 Michigan/Notre Dame game was displayed on the scoreboards as the fans made their way through the new premium seating areas in the East Side structure. Those scoreboards might not be long for this world, according to Dave Brandon. The Athletic Department is already discussing further expansion of the stadium, but the scoreboards are going to be the next part of the stadium improved.
Brandon said he hopes that the existing architecture of the scoreboards can be maintained (speculation - so as to not waste money when stadium expansion forces them to move within a few years?), but it's time for them to be upgraded. The Athletic Department will explore all possible revenue streams to pay for that project, though there are currently no plans for in-stadium advertising.