ANN ARBOR, MI (AP) University of Michigan is moving down a path taken by Michigan State and other Big Ten schools –– spending millions of dollars for a luxury upgrade of its football stadium.
Michigan Stadium opened in 1927 with seating for 72,000. Several additions have increased its capacity to 107,501, the largest in the nation and 219 seats more than Penn State’s Beaver Stadium.
To pay for more restrooms, concession stands, a press box and other changes, Michigan athletic director Bill Martin said he hopes to add as many as 79 luxury suites.
“We don’t want to put this cost on the backs of all of our season-ticket holders,” he told The Detroit News.
In East Lansing, Michigan State will open 24 suites and 862 club seats at Spartan Stadium this year as part of a $61-million renovation. Suite-holders will pay $35,000 to $80,000 each year.
Public access to Michigan State’s April 22 spring football scrimmage will be limited because of a construction project.
Only members of Michigan State’s Football Players Association and Downtown Coaches Club will be invited to attend the intrasquad scrimmage. The general public won’t be allowed in because of safety concerns related to the ongoing renovation.
“I know this isn’t going to be a popular decision, but fan safety is our No. 1 concern,” Michigan State Athletic Director Ron Mason said. “With the ongoing construction, there’s no way we can safely accommodate a sizable crowd for the spring scrimmage.”
Michigan State considered alternative sites for the scrimmage, but opted against them because of scheduling and logistical problems.
An Internal Revenue Service ruling says 80 percent of a lease payment is tax deductible as a donation to the university. That makes them popular with big donors, said Sheldon Steinbach, a lawyer of the American Council on Education.
Martin said the school will move slowly and deliberately. Construction likely would not begin until after the 2006 football season.
“We have to respect the traditions of Michigan Stadium,” he said. “Michigan Stadium is a landmark, it’s an icon.”