The Black Knight Of Michigan Stadium
Michigan Stadium before renovations:
Cork boat enthusiast, political speechwriter, "Save the Big House" founder, Yale grad, and Hero of Tiananmen Square John Pollack on this transformation:
It’s a lot different and ironically it looks a lot bigger from the outside and it feels a lot smaller from the inside. Going to games there over the last couple years, as the boxes have risen–they are so out of scale with bowl itself that it makes the bowl seem small. And that’s not positive.
Before, as you approached the stadium there was this sense of anticipation whether you’d been there 100 times or never had been there. Because even if you knew what was coming, you walk in and this mighty bowl unfolds before you. Now you’re walking up to two corporate-looking structures and when you walk in the bowl is diminished because the proportions are all wrong. Those boxes are literally monuments to self-aggrandizement and unfortunately they diminish the stadium. …
The university has greatly diminished the iconic stadium in the United States of America.
That's from an MVictors interview of the HOTS himself. "Corporate-looking." What does this mean? It means Pollack is a certain kind of leftist. As the renovations have gone up the level of concerned emails in my inbox has dropped to zero, as the structures are both attractive and, with Newsterbaan, part of a unified look for the athletic campus based on Yost that cannot get to Crisler soon enough. The stadium now looks like something other than a hole in the ground. But if you're so invested you could see Michigan Stadium as "the iconic stadium in the United States of America" you clearly aren't going to ever back down.
This site's been over this before, making the case for luxury boxes when a reasonable questioner—of the variety that seems not to exist any more—wondered what that case was. In short, extracting exorbitant amounts of money from relatively few patrons is better for everyone because those people are funding the modernization of the stadium and making the place more intimidating than it was before because instead of their silence we get the fairly significant acoustic benefits of the structures. Also maybe they won't yell at me to sit down as much.
The case against the boxes as made by Pollack is a breathtaking combination of delusion ("One of the great things about college football, especially Michigan football, is that it is a great public space—a place where autoworkers and millionaires can come together to cheer on their team") and arrogance ("Michigan doesn't need to keep up with the Joneses. We are the Joneses") that rests largely on the idea that Bill Martin, who seemingly thought about nothing but money during his tenure at Michigan, is getting the money wrong. A source close to the project has convincingly debunked these ideas in a detailed post on the renovations and a response to a mailbag question. Michigan has to renovate the stadium after years and years of Duderstadt-inspired neglect. They can pay for this renovation by adding a surcharge to tickets for 20 years or by putting in boxes that will do more than pay for themselves and set Michigan up to compete with the likes of Ohio State and its massive spending.
Meanwhile, the "grass roots" effort to stop the renovations is as natural as the turf they just put in. Allow myself to quote myself:
There was one loud, PR-savvy group with no grassroots support that employed disingenuous political rhetoric in an attempt to stall a project that it seems like the vast bulk of the fanbase supports. Three guys with impressive names and a website do not a movement make, and when you are persistently, uselessly annoying you shouldn't expect perpetual fruitless audiences. Not once in this process did Pollack attempt to measure the sentiment of the fanbase, or if he did the results he got back were disconcerting and quickly buried; "but but but Fielding Yost" is not an argument that sways anyone with decision-making powers, no matter how many newspapers it appears in.
Unfortunately, no one has undertaken that measurement; in its absence all we have to go on are the constant "I was by the stadium so I took 20 pictures" posts that pop up on message boards across the Michigan internet and the almost-unanimous excitement about the addition on practical, aesthetic, and auditory grounds.
As for the sanctified tradition we're tossing aside, here's a quote from MVictors's HTTV 2010 (buy now!) piece on the construction of the stadium I wish I'd seen earlier so I could have put it in every post I've made on the subject. It's Yost speaking to Bennie Oosterbaan after the dedication game in 1927:
Bennie, do you know what the best thing about that new stadium is? Eighty-five thousand people paid five dollars apiece for their seats -- and Bennie, they had to leave the seats there!