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.


steve sharik

August 21st, 2011 at 11:38 PM ^

...at the thought of the traffic snarl going down Main Street to and fro a parking structure on Football Saturdays.

Not to mention a parking structure halfway b/w the stadium and downtown would put it right in the heart of the historic Old West Side Neighborhood.  I'd be willing to bet that the residents would overwhelmingly vote against such a structure.  Furthermore, it would probably violate local ordinance on preserving skylines.

Section 1

August 21st, 2011 at 8:31 PM ^

The Scarlet, designed by Mackenzie as a true championship golf course, but allowed to deteriorate and then redesigned by Jack Nicklaus' design firm.  (Naturally.)  Nicklaus Design turned it into a very demanding tournament course, hosting a Nationwide Tour (Nationwide Insurance is headqaurtered in Columbus) event.  But in the process, all of the Mackenzie history was taken out of the course.

The Gray is a short course that is substandard for any major competition.

Michigan's golf course, by comparison, is relatively preserved, and there is now talk of doing even more historically-correct preservation work to it. 

Dave Brandon has a very, very refined sense of what good golf is, being a good player himself (and being a member at a Donald Ross-designed golf club that has hosted USGA events), and I expect that he will be a good steward of the UMGC.

There are only a very few Mackenzie golf courses in the USA.  And they are mostly sensational courses:  on the short list are Augusta National (with Perry Maxwell), Cypress Point, Pasatiempo, The Valley Club of Montecito, Crystal Downs, UMGC (again with Maxwell), OSU-Scarlet.

Section 1

August 21st, 2011 at 9:56 PM ^

to be very precise, Mackenzie designed Augusta National with Bob Jones, and he did Crystal Downs with Maxwell.  Perry Maxwell was a brilliant designer in his own right (Prairie Dunes) and what we now know as the 10th at Augusta was Maxwell's design.

At Michigan, Maxwell is largely (and very incorrectly) forgotten, because the name of Mackenzie is so sexy in the minds of most casual golf fans, being linked to Augusta and the Cypress Point Club.  Maxwell had a LOT to do with Michigan's greens and general course design, and the talk among the golf architecture cognoscenti is that Maxwell's original-design greens were a LOT bigger! 


August 21st, 2011 at 10:05 PM ^

Putting a garage in the Blue Lot is a pretty awesome idea. The university actually could charge a lot of money on gamedays, and use it well for basketball, and probably come up with a way to get people over to hockey without too much trouble.

The main problem I'm seeing is the traffic in and out of the area. It's already pretty awful getting into and especially out of the Blue Lot (at least from appearance, I've never been able to park there myself) since the exit goes through the students leaving the game. You could put an exit out to Stadium, but that would be a traffic nightmare, too.


August 21st, 2011 at 2:56 PM ^

And that last line is why they are revamping and beefing up their fundraising efforts at Athletics.  Expect a much more aggressive- and profitable- Athletics fundraising operation in the next few years.  They just hired a new Director of Development and from the looks of the job postings are really cleaning house.  


August 21st, 2011 at 2:56 PM ^

good parking spot is always an adventure on game days. Having been a student I guess I had a different perspective on going to a game because we just tailgated at our house (lived on S Division, I didn't realize how good I had it.) Last year I went for the first time to the golf course tailgate, had an awesome time and totally understand the appeal of being able to tailgate before the games. That being said I'm still kind of amazed at how easy it can be to find parking if you're willing to walk a little bit. I went back for the 2009 OSU game and as we were coming up 23 we passed the backed up exits for 94, Washtenaw and got off the highway at Geddes where there were literally maybe 3 cars in front of us an hour before kickoff. We ended up parking at the structure on S Forest and even though we had a decent walk to the stadium we saved a huge amount of time taking this route. For me walking/having to take a bus through AA isn't as big of a deal bc I love getting to see campus, but I'd definitely rather be doing it from the north instead of having to park south of campus at Meijers and coming up Main Street.


August 21st, 2011 at 4:00 PM ^

I don't understand why people have such an aversion to parking in the structures.  It's not really very expensive, and it's not that far.  I always park in the structures.  I've never been shut out of a space (and I don't get there that early - I'm usually there like 60-90 minutes before kickoff).  Yeah, you have to walk maybe 10 minutes, but I enjoy that walk across campus.  I don't understand what compels people to pay insane prices to park at the golf course or Pioneer, or break their backs to find a space in some guy's yard when there's a simple alternative.  (Though it ends up working out for me, so I guess I shouldn't complain.)

Slippery Rock …

August 21st, 2011 at 8:26 PM ^

I park in the structures too, jmblue. The only negative thing I can say about it is that it sometimes takes well over an hour to leave the structure after the game. I guess it's unavoidable when you're talking about a parking structure, but when you have had your fun and are ready to head on home, no one wants to wait 1:30 to get out of there. Still better than paying ridiculous prices and waiting just as long on the roads, I guess.


August 21st, 2011 at 9:20 PM ^

They used to regularly walk from the Hill dorm and apartments and Frats further than that to go to games. And they still tailgated; they just left early. There's parking in those areas and closer. South of the Stadium (and west) and you don't even have to go to Meijer. The Neighborhoods past Busch and Whole Foods and behind Pioneer aren't filled. I walk from there, and MSU last year was the only time parking came that far. More, maybe I can sell some lawn space.
<br>People tailgate all over, not just in the golf course. If you're too old to walk even that far, you should be planning better, getting there early, and paying more. If you don't have the money? I think it'd be great if 50 yard line seats only cost the same as my seats, but they don't. Life isn't fair. I wonder how many people saying "can't walk to Stadium because they're too old" would also say after not walking they should be standing the whole game once inside. Can't walk, but dammit, stand! What this is really about is everyone wants the hot spots right in the shadow of the Stadium, and there aren't enough. But it's like that everywhere. I've been to other stadiums, and never get to park anywhere near enough to have a shorter walk than I've had to go to see a home game. ND all the way through campus and fields, Purdue, MSU through the city, across the cesspool of Columbus, Hell, the El gets crammed on the north side of Chicago going to NW. And driving in and out is far worse. It's just a sense of entitlement.


August 21st, 2011 at 3:33 PM ^

Brandon is right.  You can't spend big bucks on something that is necessary seven or eight times a year. We have a house near the airport.  On occasion, I take a bus from the Sheraton on Boardwalk, and it has always worked fine.  When tailgating, we get to town early enough to find a parking spot.  If it costs a few bucks, so be it. When you look at the money that was just spent on the Big House and other athletic facilities and the quality of Michigan Stadium and the overall experience, I think we should be pretty happy with what we have.


August 21st, 2011 at 4:41 PM ^

For 120,000? You need BOTH...New parking structures around the stadium..done tastefully of course AND shuttle Bus drops...If traffic gets to be a big issue it DETRACTS substantially from the game day exerience...we need both..For satellite bus centers create a tailgate enviroment....


August 21st, 2011 at 8:15 PM ^

Here's the link the athletic department's FY 2012 U-M Athletic Department budget:


If you go to the final page, you'll see that the outstanding debt on all the recent projects he mentioned is $209.5M in June 2012 with a debt servicing cost of $13.2M.  You'll also notice that there are bridge loans in place against pledge receivables.  As a matter of comparison, the figures in two years earlier in June 2010 were $174.7M and $11.0M.

The athletic department does have a postive cash flow from the football renovation due to the suite leases, premium seating, etc.  The FY 2011 budgeted figure was just under $21.0M--that figure more than offsets the debt servicing costs.

Brandon does bring up the level of cash reserves.  Back in FY 2003, Bill Martin started setting aside over $4M per year in a deferred maintenance fund that we knew grew to around $35M.  In reading Brandon's response, I'm assuming that some amont of that cash reserve was committed to  one or more of these projects.  I don't know how much is left, but I suspect one of Brandon's priorities is to rebuild that account (which is in the FY 2012 budget at $4.5M) coupled with the plan to expand the south side of the stadium.  

Simply put, Brandon would rather put his money into adding capacity to the stadium and selling tickets, etc. to more patrons than building parking structures nearby that won't have the same rate of return, payback, etc.  If it means shuttle buses, etc., then that's the route he's prepared to go.

As a non tailgate person, I generally park somewhere in town, get a bite to eat at a restaurant before the game, and walk across campus and down State Street to get to the stadium.  Perhaps once I get older, I'd be less willing to walk and I'd take the bus, but it's not a major inconvenience for me at this point.


August 21st, 2011 at 8:33 PM ^

Are the seats at Sideline 21 Row B blocked by the players??  Can someone let me know if these are decent tickets or if they are too close to the field that they are blocked?  I am coming in from out of town and want to make sure they are good tickets.  Any help is apprieciated.  Thanks


August 22nd, 2011 at 10:14 AM ^

They are better overall, but I can certainly understand why the value isn't there. Parking structures are more expensive than a lot of people think, and they get prohibitively expensive the larger they are, whether below or aboveground. How much parking would you want a structure or multiple structures near the stadium to have? Parking is a huge hassle, but I think the better value is to lock down certain rights of way for shuttles and mass transit on game day to and from the stadium and various parking lots. 

Ann Arbor happens to be one of the most vibrant and walkable cities in the state, and making it easy to park, and drive, would diminish those qualities. I think we can build some structures, but Ann Arbor is a very liberal and progressive city, planning-wise and they don't look kindly to making it more auto-friendly.