So yesterday I tagged along on the tour of the new Michigan Stadium suites/pressboxes/tradition imploders that spurred today's flurry of articles on the things. Favorite bit of opinion:
It's hard to believe that only two summers ago, a segment of Michigan supporters ardently opposed this project, that the group called Save The Big House formed and worried luxury boxes desecrating a timeless landmark.
The Big House was indeed saved, not by groups stuck in the past, but by Bill Martin and his construction shovels.
From the exterior, Michigan Stadium had become dumpy and dated. The interior had become known for its crowded walkways, long lines and cramped seating.
Watching a game at The Big House may have evoked some sort of nostalgia for fans, but using the stadium in a practical sense had become somewhat of a miserable experience.
That's AnnArbor.com's Dave Birkett. Obviously, I'm with him. I'm not sure how anyone can see the gorgeous brick exterior going up and think that tin walls that were so plain that someone thought slapping a halo on them would be a good idea were better.
Tim has a bunch of pictures below and some key numbers, including the number of commitments they have for the 82 suites (58). That's 70% full; club seats are in the 60-70% claimed. That sounds well on its way to selling out, but it seems like that number hasn't budged in a while. Not that selling suites in the face of a 3-9 season and the END OF AMERICA is an easy thing.
My impressions, which are based entirely on a comparison with a Tiger Stadium suite I was in earlier this year because of corporate ticket fatigue:
- They are swank. The Tigers' digs aren't particularly old but they suffer in comparison: granite versus 50's-era laminate countertops, flatscreens versus tube TVs that seem like they're from the 50s.
- They are way less inconvenient. If you don't want to order 80 bucks worth of food at a Tigers' game you have to hoof it down to the plebes and get a taco salad or whatever and miss at least a half-inning. I assume this won't be a problem at Michigan since there should be points of sale on that level if the food doesn't come with your 70k.
- The bathroom thing is a little odd. One advantage for the Tigers: you get your own bathroom; here you get access to a bunch of concourse bathrooms only the patricians can access. That might be better, I guess, since I assume the bathrooms will be so plentiful that one will always be open and that might not be the case in a sixteen-person suite.
There was a fierce debate about whether or not the window configuration—you can open them—blocks line of sight. A lot of media members thought it did but since we were all standing up I think maybe it's not a problem when you're seated. It's probably a ton better than the Tigers, who inexplicably put unnecessary pieces of metal directly in your LOS.
They also showed us around the club seats underneath the new structures. If a magic fairy came down and told me I could sit anywhere in the premium seating I wanted and if I didn't he'd shoot me* I'd probably go with those. They sit below an overhang, which should keep rain and less pleasant things off and also make the stadium seem electrically loud—the Tiger suite had a similar noise-catching configuration and it was surprisingly lively. They've also got access to an air-conditioned Donor Whose Name I Forgot Lounge that's got bathrooms and points of sale and whatnot. But I have different requirements than men in suits with 55-85k.
Speaking of: yes, 55-85k "gift" per suite, which is approximately $5.7 million per year without considering the 3000 club seats. This thing is going to be a money factory. And now I realize there's a word for "money factory": mint. If only I had the power to delete.
Oh also noes! The day's most-discussed topic:
They're switching from Pepsi to Coke, which several eagle-eyed reporters picked out. I wouldn't have been able to tell you which company had the previous contract.
Greg also points out something I noticed and winced at as we clambered up the stairs:
Crisler looks sadder and sadder with every new touch they put on the renovation. That place has got to go.
Looking out the window of the brick, glass, and class structure being erected, Crisler looked dingy and old. A new practice facility will help, but only so much.
BONUS rumor debunk/start! Debunk: the classic art deco lettering on top of the press box is going to be saved but they don't know what they're going to do with it. It had previously been rumored to be headed for the entrance tunnel.
Start: I heard tell there are vague plans for another 27 rows in the endzones at some indeterminate future date in case Beaver Stadium ever gets uppity.
Thing that wasn't even a rumor but I asked about anyway, mostly in jest: there are no plans to but bleachers on top of the new luxury box structures.
*(The family heirlooms are season tickets that have been in continuous use since the 50s; they are good seats.)