The Michigan Stadium renovations have now consumed over 400,000 man hours. The project is on schedule and will be completed by next June. The last major piece of the project will be the removal of the old press box. This will begin the day after the OSU game in November and will be accomplished by deconstructing the structure piece by piece and then hauling the pieces down the elevator shafts on the west side of the stadium. Some (approximate) 700 chair back seats will fit into the space vacated by the old structure.
Meanwhile, last week, the media was given a tour of the upper structures and the prototype boxes.
The boxes are spacious and comfortable and (a surprise to me), not too far from the field to make the game an abstraction. Also, since the windows on the boxes can open, the boxes aren't isolated from the experience of the stadium. The size of the upper concourses and the views of the golf course and the valley of the main city, are pleasing if not quite spectacular.
Seventy one percent of the boxes (58 of 82) have been sold. The same is true for 1,100 new club seats, outdoor seats under the overhang of the luxury boxes. The expectation is that, as game time of 2010 approaches, most of these seats will be purchased.
Assistant AD Bruce Madej asked me what I thought about the aesthetics of the renovation. With the caveat that the finish work has a way to go (and with the AAO's expert views to the contrary
), I told Bruce that I thought the "east and west sides of the stadium will be terrific, but that the fit with Crisler is a bit awkward." I also suggested that the north and south vistas "didn't really make sense, that the convergence of the new brick work and the old circus structure" (think halo) didn't work for me.
Madej then dropped a bombshell: plans are on the drawing board to expand the north and south ends of the stadium, to brick in the entire structure, and add 27 rows to the north and south.
Now, these plans are quite latent. Whether such seats can be sold and money can be raised to "complete" the work seems pretty iffy at best. However, it is hard to deny Madej's point, that it makes little sense to attempt conformity of the North and South with the whole when it is at least possible that the work would be ripped out in a major renovation/conformation. (I didn't suggest demolition of Crisler, though I concede it was on my mind.)
Even in last year's 3-9 debacle the stadium seemed louder than in the past, the girders and partial construction creating a heretofore non-existent reverberation. Brian Cook, an engineer and the MGoBlog magnate, believes the completed boxes will increase the decibels and that the Michigan Daily has reported the sound level "might double." Cook and I both doubt that, but think the stadium will be louder.
When I asked University Architect Doug Hanna the question, he said "it will be louder." I asked why. He said "because we won't be 3 and 9 again this year."