Michigan Stadium

Michigan Stadium

Michigan's football Stadium was completed in the fall of 1927 and formed one of the most satisfactory and practical football fields in existence. Its designation was in reality a misnomer since it was of the amphitheater or bowl type of construction, rising only slightly above the ground level on the east side.

The site of the structure was decided upon in the spring of 1926, and plans for construction were made during the following summer. Increased interest in the record of Michigan's football team, resulting at almost every game in an attendance much larger than the old stands on Ferry Field were able to accommodate, eventually led the Board in Control of Athletics to consider expansion of the University's athletic facilities. As the result of a report presented in January, 1926, by a University committee under the chairmanship of Professor Edmund E. Day, later president of Cornell University, a plan was developed for the reorganization and expansion of the athletic facilities of the University. Thus, the Stadium was only one part of a broader program which included the construction of the Intramural Sports Building, the Women's Athletic Building, the development of the University Golf Course, and the Women's Athletic Field.

To finance this extensive program, bonds were sold to alumni and to friends of the University, giving them preferred seats at all games for a period of years, these bonds to be retired progressively as the receipts warranted. The total improvements cost amounted to more than $2,000,000, of which the cost of the Stadium represented $1,183,545.

The site for the Stadium was a matter of some discussion, but eventually property, including some sixteen acres and 119 city lots, was acquired on South Main Street just across the Ann Arbor Railroad tracks from Ferry Field. This area was purchased by the Board in Control of Athletics for $239,000, including the cost of some lots which were taken under condemnation proceedings. The right of the Board in Control of Athletics to acquire land by this means was upheld by the state Supreme Court during the course of the negotiations. The site formed a gentle slope rising from the valley of the old Allen's Creek near the Ann Arbor Railroad to the level of South Main Street.

In considering plans for the Stadium it had been decided, in accordance with the recommendation of the Day committee, to make it a place to hold football games under the most favorable circumstances, with no emphasis upon monumental construction. Accordingly, a bowl type of structure was chosen which took advantage of the natural characteristics of the terrain so that the Stadium rested in the soil of the hillside instead of being enclosed within high concrete walls. The structure was above ground only on the east side, the only wall being on this side; on the west the top seats were level with the street, with some seventy rows of seats, seating 85,753 originally, stretching down to the playing field. A series of steps on either side of the main entrance led to a wide areaway for the players.

The architects, instead of designing the structure in the form of a perfect ellipse, as in the Yale Bowl, provided for sides parallel to the playing field, bringing the spectators much closer to the side lines. This feature alone — the proximity of the seats to the playing field — made Michigan's Stadium one of the most satisfactory in this country. The Stadium was 756 feet long and 586 feet wide and included fifteen and one-half acres.

The strategically placed entrances and exits around the entire upper edge and in the center of the east side made it possible for crowds to disperse rapidly; in fact, the exact time for emptying the Stadium was thirteen minutes. To care for the throngs which came to Ann Arbor on football days, parking facilities were supplied on all sides of the Stadium, and special city traffic regulations permitted street parking during the games. Locker and shower room facilities for home and visiting teams were provided under the east side of the stands. A press box was erected over the west side of the Stadium. It afforded room for five radio booths and 250 newspaper correspondents. The box was designed by Bernard L. Green (1891e) of the Osborn Engineering Company, of Cleveland, Ohio, and was built by James Leck and Company, of Minneapolis, general contractors. A new press box was built later.

In 1949-50 additional steel seats were erected at the top of the Stadium at a cost of $304,340, making the total seating capacity 97,231.

Wilfred Shaw (The University of Michigan: An Encyclopedic Survey, p. 1584)

Michigan Stadium Excavation
Ferry Field in the background

Michigan Stadium Press Box

Fans walking to the game.

Michigan Stadium Press Box

Commencement in Michigan Stadium

Wilfred Shaw’s sketch of Michigan Stadium

1932 Big Ten Championship Team

A Michigan Wolverine

Stadium Communications Center

In September of 1956 the Board in Control of Intercollegiate Athletics financed an addition to the football stadium for a significantly improved Stadium Communications Center at 1201 South Main Street, at a cost of $520,000. It was constructed by the Henry deKoning Construction Company. The Center was designed by Osborn Engineering Company, the firm who designed the Stadium. This new facility replaced the original 1927 press box with a modern, triple-deck, 16,978-square-foot communications center. Situated at the top of the west side of the bowl, between the 20-yard lines, the overhanging structure permitted seating underneath and raised the Stadium's seating capacity from 97,239 to 101,001. The lower deck was designed to accommodate 203 sports writers in three rows of seats. The unenclosed middle deck was reserved for photographers, and the top deck contained 18 radio and television booths. An elevator, lunch room for the working press, as well as such support service areas as dark rooms, duplication machines, and wire service facilities were also provided. Projecting from the center of the first deck on the west side was a private dining room with kitchen, seating approximately 75 persons, for use by the University President for special events for visiting dignitaries. A private box for use by the President and his party was adjacent.

(The University of Michigan: An Encyclopedic Survey, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer>Physical Properties>Buildings, p. 90)

Michigan Stadium - New Communications Center