DB on parking after Stadium expansion: Commuter lots and buses

Submitted by Purkinje on August 21st, 2011 at 2:11 PM

So on Friday after this post detailed the Stadium's next expansion, the question of where another 10,000 people will park was raised. This is becoming increasingly problematic, obviously, and we never hear what the Athletic Department thinks about the issue. I took a few minutes to email Dave Brandon the following:


With the rumblings I've been hearing about the Stadium expanding again, I'm curious to know whether or not parking is being taken into consideration. As the University already owns lots surrounding half of the Stadium, has some sort of mostly underground parking structure ever been considered? And what about all of the eyesore industrial buildings that are within a block or two of the Stadium? Surely the Athletic Department has the budget to fund the purchase of this property and construction of a world class parking structure to alleviate the stress of finding parking for out of town fans on game days.

I ask these things out of simple curiosity; I don't believe there has ever been an official statement on parking, despite the obvious problem.

Go Blue!


Surprisingly, he emailed me back around 10:30pm Friday night. (That's dedication.)


Parking is always a consideration….we can’t sell tickets if people can’t park their cars when they travel to Ann Arbor!!


Underground parking and parking structures are cost prohibitive based on the fact they would only be at full capacity for a few days a year.  We could not get financing or private investor interest based on the lack of cash flow for large portions of the year.  (Empty all summer!!)


If the stadium expands, we will finally be forced to do what most land-locked stadiums do and start using commuter lots with bus transportation to the front door of the stadium.  This can actually work quite well if planned correctly.




P.S.  By the way, your perception that the Athletic Department has extra funding to purchase property and build parking structures is very incorrect.  With our recently completed Michigan Stadium project, the new player development center, Crisler Arena renovation, new Scoreboards, and Yost we have borrowed significantly and we do not have the cash reserves or borrowing capacity to take on anything close to what you have described.  Now….if you know any large donors who wish to fund such a project….let me know!!

So, commuter lots it is... Unless one of you has a rich uncle that can build us a top notch parking structure to avoid that mess.



August 21st, 2011 at 2:55 PM ^

The commuter lots are at the soccer/Gymnastic center on State. I used to have a friend that lived near the lots and I would park at his place to walk to the game. Heck, I used to bring a beer for the road and i would finish by the time I reached Elbell field to join my friends' tailgate.  

I approve of this. It is cost saving and utlizes previous infrastructures. The University of Michigan doesn't have to be like the city of Ann Arbor and build a pointless multimillion dollar underground lot that will take years to build. 

What's stopping people from tailgating at the commuter lots? Heck on most games the commuter lots State St. get about 1/8 full. 

Bando Calrissian

August 21st, 2011 at 3:12 PM ^

What's stopping people from tailgating at the commuter lot is that it's literally miles from the stadium.  

The bottom line here isn't the commuter lots, it's that over the past 4 years, the University has -decreased- the number of available game-day parking spots (lopped off a huge chunk of the Blue Lot while transforming most of the rest of it into designated suite parking, FieldTurfing Elbel), increased capacity at the Stadium, is talking increasing it even more, and the solution to the parking issue isn't adding more parking spots, but rather putting people on buses?  

That's short-sighted.  I'm sure you have a great experience parking at the commuter lot and taking a stroll with your beer, but I'm sure those extra 10,000 people riding buses to the Stadium aren't going to feel the same way about it.

And, let's address it from this angle, too:  Where are those buses going to drive in and out?  Traffic is already crazy right now, and adding the buses for transporting a few thousand people in and out of there is just asking for a bunch of folks sitting on the bus for a really, really long time, both in and out of the game.  Heck, I remember taking those shuttles they used to have for the Maize Rage for basketball games, and even navigating through basketball traffic for less than 10,000 people meant sitting on a Blue Bus for about 45 minutes to get from Crisler to the Union.

Long story short, Athletics has been sidestepping the parking issue for years.  This is just more of the same.  It doesn't have to be an elaborate below-ground structure to get the job done.


August 21st, 2011 at 3:20 PM ^

Who are you to say what other people will experience? The gymnasic center never comes close to being full even for the tsio game. Heck it is a lot easier to hit the highway from the commuter lots. Secondly, It is not that far away. The busses can get there quicklyu if the commuter lots pick up outside Crisler and jot through Stadium and cut through S. Industrial to get to State. I would know since I started parking around Granger, this is the way I take to get to Industrial. Industrial is clear 30 minutes after the game.

You are just blowing up a nonstory. As a donor, I would be pissed off to see my money going towards pointless avenues like a parking structure, when there is already adaquate parking in Ann Arbor. 

Section 1

August 21st, 2011 at 3:51 PM ^

If you are talking about the William Clay Ford tennis complex parking, the Athletic Department has a name for it; it is the Brown Lot, and the commuter Lot to the south is named the Maize Lot.

The Brown Lot fills up, even though they have stopped the trolley-style buses across the golf course.

The Maize Lot is just a long freaking walk to the Stadium.  Look at it on a map, it is like walking from downtown.  A more pleasant walk, perhaps, across the golf course, but still a half-hour walk or more.  Probably more.  And as far as I know, there are no buses from up there.  You gotta walk.

I think it was Bando -- he rightly pointed out that if they are going to expand the bus traffic to the Stadium, they are going to have to plan for that, too.  They might actually have to do what seemed like an incredible threat; to close down Main Street to all but buses and emergency vehicles.  What a fine mess that would be.


August 21st, 2011 at 4:34 PM ^

It is not a long walk if you are abled bodied. In the winter I can beat the #36 from the diag to the south commuter lot. As for football I used to park at the apartment complex next to the maize lot. There are busses, AATA has a gameday bus from that lot plus the regular #36 commuter bus. I am not wrong, becuase for the last ohio state game I walked basically from the maize lot to Elbell field in 45 minutes without cutting through the golf course. 

edit: I apologize for the extra snarkiness. Seeing the tigers blow a 7-0 lead really irked me...

OMG Shirtless

August 21st, 2011 at 8:08 PM ^

No, I think parking will just span further across campus.  More people will park in the structure next to Scorekeepers, the structure by Ricks, and the other campus structures, the neighborhoods on campus, etc.  People will adapt.  Of course a gigantic parking structure connected to the existing parking lots would be ideal, but it doesn't sound like it's a smart financial decision.


August 21st, 2011 at 4:50 PM ^

Where do you expect the 10,000 people to line up to board the bus immediately after the game? 

Stadium Blvd is already packed with people trying to board the AATA shuttles.

The North Side of the stadium is flooded with people in the streets walking back to campus.

Bussing is a bottleneck.  They do not have the number of busses necessary to efficiently move 10,000 people without waiting in hour long lines.


August 21st, 2011 at 8:06 PM ^

If the stadium was not on the very  edge of South Campus and forever and a day  from where the bulk of university employees and students actually work/go to class/live, an underground lot would actually not be a bad idea. Of course, as Brandon pointed out, they are expensive and they wouldn't have constant revenue over by the stadium. 

As  for the garage downtown, I sat in several of the DDA meetings because I had the job of relocating Edison facilities around the old Library lot. I also put the two steel poles at Packard and Division for the DDA. Maybe the DDA can throw some money at Brandon since they're willing to give it to us, it seems. 


August 21st, 2011 at 3:15 PM ^

Yes but massive surface lots all around the stadium look like shit.  I don't really want to walk through lot after lot to reach the stadium.

Just get together with your group and rent out a front yard from some group of students.  We made an arrangement with a house to rent out their yard for parking / tailgating for a flat rate.     It's more fun tailgating there anyways.  They'll let use their bathrooms, kitchen, and our parties just kind of merge together.  It's a much better enviroment overall.  

Bando Calrissian

August 21st, 2011 at 3:18 PM ^

Totally agree.  Which is why I (and others) have been strongly advocating for structured parking in existing surface lots, which doesn't eat up the surrounding areas with pavement AND offers more parking than those hypothetical lots would ever accomodate.  DB's argument concerning their financial shortcomings doesn't strike me as legitimate or realistic.  You've got plans in place to put 120,000+ people in that stadium.  It's time to have the infrastructure to accomodate it, not band-aid buses taking people miles from the atmosphere around the stadium.

Michigan Arrogance

August 21st, 2011 at 3:27 PM ^

Building a parking stucture that will be at full capacity 7-8 times a year (at best) is absoultely the least cost effective plan to endorse. There's no way to generate income from it and would be an eyesore unless you want to spend 25 million instead of 15. 3


Unless someone donates a crap ton of cash to fund a structure adjacent to the stadium for Suite members or season ticket holders, it's not practical.

Bando Calrissian

August 21st, 2011 at 3:33 PM ^

One could say the same thing about dumping tens of millions of dollars into a stadium that is only at full capacity 7-8 times per year.

The fact of life is that if we're going to have a stadium that seats 120,000+ people, you have to be willing to make investments to provide the infrastructure to support 120,000+.  Even if said infrastructure is only used for those 7-8 times per year.  We're still, for all intents and purposes, working with the same parking base (in fact, even less), the same roads, and the same surrounding neighborhoods as we were when Michigan Stadium sat 101,701.  

I don't know why it's so controversial (or Flamebait, in the MGoUniverse) to suggest we take steps to alleviate what was already a problem before we expanded, well, three expansions ago.


August 21st, 2011 at 3:46 PM ^

My only comment on capacity expansion is that our larger stadium mostly holds "non tailgaters".  Guys with boxes are going to pregame in their luxury boxes, not in folding chairs in the Gray Lot.  I'm betting most of these people will be parked somewhere nice and VIP bused in so they don't even have to walk through a lot to get to the stadium and deal with traffic around the stadium (plus it gives us more time to beg them for money).  Unless we go insanely with the standing room only ticket sales we don't really add "tailgaters" until we fill that endzone in.

As for infrastructure expansion talk to the city really.  AA refuses to put in any large roads because they'd "lose the small town feel"/"encourage urban sprawl"/"it's not enviromental, people shouldn't drive"/"Our downtown master transit plan is to discourage drivers"/etc.  The hospital is screaming for better connects to US-23/M-14 so ambulances can get there faster and AA is being difficult.  Last I heard we were getting the state to put the heat on the city council to do something about Depot/Fuller and the Geddes (the flooding issue).

Section 1

August 21st, 2011 at 6:45 PM ^

It would actually be nice if we could arrange it so that VIP's were provided off-site premium parking, and bused in.

But that is not really what happens.  Instead, they get premium Champions lot parking, right next to the Stadium.  And that effectively eliminates a lot of great tailgating atmosphere.  Empty cars, parked, with their owners up in the Jack Roth Stadium Club.  Instead of out in the Blue Lot, surroundng the Stadium with an ocean of party.  I am actually surprised, that it hasn't been more pronounced than what we saw last year.  I expect that it will be, as the premium seating sells out and more and more people decide to simply go to a catered lunch upstairs in the Concourse, instead of creating their own duplicative tailgate lunch.

It is working at cross-purposes, to give the best tailgating parking places to people who won't tailgate.  It takes planning, to create a great atmosphere.  The worst part of the Stadium renovation planning, maybe the only bad part, has been the total fail on parking issues. 

Michigan Arrogance

August 21st, 2011 at 4:07 PM ^

One could say the same thing about dumping tens of millions of dollars into a stadium that is only at full capacity 7-8 times per year.


come on, man. we MAKE MONEY on that. as in, more revenue than expendature. a structure doesn't make money. it's a money pit. Look, it's definately a  problem and has been for a while. However, the solution has to be cost effective. Somehow people survive when the golf courses ban parking due to weather conditions. It's not an emergency situation.


August 21st, 2011 at 3:32 PM ^

How do you do gameday tailgating in a parking structure though?  I agree that parking structures could be made to work but they don't really solve the tailgate issue.  You can't fire up the grill on Level 4B of a structure.  Tailgates would still be going for other options and if you're just parking in a structure and walking who cares if you have to spend 15 mins on a blue bus?  

I'd think the local thing to do with structures is as Central Campus expands remove some of the current parking structures to make room for campus buildings.  Build new structures down by the stadiums and expand bus service between the athletic campus and central.  During the workday they're Blue structures, on nights and weekends sell parking for hockey, basketball, softball, football, etc.  


August 21st, 2011 at 2:28 PM ^

As a South Bend resident, any time an out of town friend or relative comes for a ND game, I instruct them to use one of the commuter lots. They are much easier than to try to fight traffic near the stadium on game days. Getting away from ND stadium after a game can literally take a couple of hours. Or, spend 15 minutes on a bus and get in your car in a place with no significant traffic and be on your way.

I will probably not soon forget one of these bus rides, after the Sept 13 2008 game where Sam McGuffie teased us with a glimpse of what might have been, and we lost to the Irish in an absolute downpour. That ride to the commuter lot and the short drive back to my house, soaked to the bone, was pretty damn miserable.

But still, if done properly, commuter lots can be nice as long as you aren't trying to host a tailgate.

Bando Calrissian

August 21st, 2011 at 2:48 PM ^

I think the bottom line translates to this:  We don't care if they have a good gameday experience or not, we just want the extra revenue from 10,000 seats without having to pay for the permanent infrastructure to support it.

Foolish, cold, corporate line of thinking, IMO.

Section 1

August 21st, 2011 at 3:31 PM ^

I presume that the thinking is, "Nobody is going to have a bigger seating capacity than us.  We can always make up the numbers on how many people are really there and sitting in those seats.  We are just not going to let anybody build more seats than what we have.  We'll worry about all the rest later."


August 21st, 2011 at 2:58 PM ^

How about the University of Michigan? 

I hear they have some cash, and it just so happens the parking garage could serve beautifully all year round as a commuter lot for students, GSI's and professors - just like the surface lot already does. 

I'm all for creative excuses but lets find the ones that benefit the AD rather than the ones that blow off the fans trying to maintain their gameday experience.

Bando Calrissian

August 21st, 2011 at 2:58 PM ^

The Crisler lot is full during the day year round.  And the University just lost a pretty huge parking lot that was used during the non-fall months, Elbel Field, which used to be student athlete parking.  Blue and Yellow Lot passes are at a certain premium for the student body, and lots of folks already use the further-out commuter lots near North Campus and down State towards Briarwood to park on an everyday basis, so there really isn't any reason to believe there wouldn't be a market to fill a parking structure near the stadium.  


August 21st, 2011 at 3:21 PM ^

In a post above you belittle the idea of tailgating in a Meijer parking lot. Please explain who is going to want to tailgate in a parking structure?

What about people who don't tailgate? Given the choice between parking in a commuter lot and taking a bus to the stadium versus having to fight traffic to get to a structure near the stadium and then be stuck in a huge traffic jam trying to exit from that structure after the game, most would choose the former.

Section 1

August 21st, 2011 at 3:25 PM ^

one of the best places to tailgate is in the B-School structure across from the Psi U house.  People tailgate there for every football game, without fail.  it works fine.  If that structure were relocated to the Blue Lot, there would be a waiting list, to pay a premiuim, to get in.


August 21st, 2011 at 4:44 PM ^

For example, I have taken the shuttle from Briarwood Mall to the game.

IMO, it sucks.  The lines you have to wait in to board the bus after the game are mammoth.  Sure - people arrive at different times so the wait to get to the stadium isn't bad, but to leave - it's bad.

I'll take my parking spots on the golf course or Fingerle lumber every time, and usually, I don't tailgate.


August 21st, 2011 at 3:03 PM ^

No, the university does not have a lot of disposable income right now.  That $8 billion endowment can't be touched since all of that money is contractually allocated elsewhere by donors.  That and the annual 15% funding cuts the university gets from the state doesn't help- and no, tuition increases do not even make up for it.  


There is a perception that UM has tons of money laying around to use that just isn't there.  We are fortunate that UM hasn't had the hiring freezes and mass layoffs that other schools have had due to the economic recession, but that is only because Michigan has planned for economic hardship and is one of the best-run universities in the country financially.


UM needs the major gifts and the $50 here and there from their donors to be able to function, much less undertake big construction projects. 


August 21st, 2011 at 3:35 PM ^

Since you can park in the commuter lot for free, you don't make any money.  You would have to charge people to park there year-round and expect people to fill it.  Maybe you could do that, but it couldn't operate like a commuter lot.

Parking garages are really expensive, and we don't have $15.7M laying around.  Should it be higher on the university's priority list?  Definitely.  But the perception that the university has millions just laying around is false- these things are planned almost a decade in advance to have proper financing for it.


August 21st, 2011 at 4:41 PM ^

For my suggestion to work, the business case would have to be made that they can sell considerably more parking permits as a result of building the garage, leading to the kind of revenue necessary to justify the expense.

I'm not suggesting the U has endless cash reserves in order to fund whatever project they want, but certainly they have the cash flow and borrowing capacity to fund a project of this nature if it serves the academic community and the need exists.  A similar argument was made for a Crisler arena renovation back in the day, too.

Section 1

August 21st, 2011 at 3:22 PM ^

...it really wasn't much of an answer.


  • We need more parking than ever before.  All of the athletic facilities have been improved -- the Stadium, Yost, Ray L.Fisher/Wilpon, etc.  And NONE of the parking facilities have been expanded or improved.
  • We have LOST significant, prime parking, for football in particular.  The Crisler expansion/Player Development Center took away significant parking.  There is less parking around Schembecler Hall.  And all of the various football buildings.  There is less parking around the Stadium Street bridge over State Street.
  • As predicted, the creation of a class of super-patrons in luxury seating automatically created a need for luxury parking; thereby knocking down the parking priority of many other long time faithful alumni patrons.  Even more premium parking was needed.
  • They have tried to expand the Golf Course parking.  That has worked, but it is entirely weather-dependent.  Golf architecture afficionados cannot believe that we park cars on an Alister Mackenzie golf course at all.
  • Since the Stadium end-zone expansion appears to be a done deal, there will be a need for even more parking.  It would be fair to observe, that if we are talking about an area of the Stadium (scoreboard level, in the endzone) that is given to single-game purchasers and away-team fans, then premium parking isn't much of a concern.  But still, it really doesn't do much to sell the experience of a Michigan football game when, as somebody so brilliantly pointed out, it means tailgating in the parking lot of a shopping center and piling into a bus.  I'd sooner be concerned about much better tailgating possibilities in Ann Arbor, than an acrylic fur mascot for Michigan athletics.
  • I find it very hard to believe, that a parking structure somewhere on the Michigan athletic campus, wouldn't be a win-win-win.  It would be a prime parking area in the winter, when basketball fans and commuting faculty, students and staff wanted to keep the snow off their cars.  It would be some nice tailgating shelter for the odd bad-weather football Saturdays.  If built within the confines of the Blue Lot, it would automatically be a prime, super-desirable parking area.  It would get used, I think, for hockey, and perhaps baseball/softball.  If built along the railroad tracks, and if designed nicely, it would not detract from the athletic campus.
  • I just cannot accept Dave Brandon's pronouncement that we'd be talking about something that would get used 7 times a year.  Ann Arbor is a city with some of the lousiest parking choices in this state.  No one can say Ann Arbor doesn't need any more parking, and keep a straight face.

steve sharik

August 21st, 2011 at 7:31 PM ^

"I just cannot accept Dave Brandon's pronouncement that we'd be talking about something that would get used 7 times a year. Ann Arbor is a city with some of the lousiest parking choices in this state. No one can say Ann Arbor doesn't need any more parking, and keep a straight face."

True, but that structure would be near UM athletics and nothing else.  That said, the parking for basketball and hockey games is pretty awful and I'm sure an easy access structure could be used for those sports.  Brandon's right, though, in that it would pretty much sit empty during the spring and summer.  No one in Ann Arbor would park all the way out there for non-athletic purposes.

Slippery Rock …

August 21st, 2011 at 8:20 PM ^

I was about to post a much shorter, more clumsily worded version of this.  Well done, Section 1.  People seem to accept the fact that Ann Arbor has an awful parking situation.  Even when we are not talking about football game situations, it is really not fun to find parking when you go to downtown Ann Arbor.  While I have no idea about the logistics of putting in a major parking structure somewhere within walking distance to both the stadium and the downtown attractions, I find it hard to believe that it would be near empty on non game days.  A few years ago, when I was a student, we would regularly hoard parking spots on the streets, and cram 6 cars into a lot designed for 2 cars.  I'm sure everyone here has similar stories, and as nostalgic as they may be, it sucks.  With more university parking, there is no doubt that it would be used by students and non-students more than the game days.  That is just silly, but I do appreciate Brandon shooting you an email back(and I appreciate you posting it, btw).

That being said, maybe its outside the scope of the athletic department. Why are we expecting the athletic department to fix Ann Arbor institution of crappy parking? Sure, parking is at it's worst on gamedays, but I don't really hold it against Brandon for choosing to lobby for sexier projects like stadium renovations and scoreboards when he is part of the athletic department. Maybe our questions are better answered by the university itself.