The Big House

[Ann Arbor, MI, Apr 14, 2019]

My first opportunity to explore Ann Arbor came on Sunday night, after a full day of pre-conference training. The conference is hosted by a different university every year, and this year’s host was the University of Michigan. The conference itself was taking place off campus at a Sheraton hotel. However, the Sunday night welcome reception, which kicked off the conference, was located at the famous University of Michigan football stadium, nick-named the Big House.

The Big House is the largest stadium in the United States and the second largest in the world. It’s the 34th largest sports venue in the world. The stadium was built in 1927 and could host 72,000 fans at the time. However, the chief architect envisioned a much larger venue in the future, so the stadium was constructed with footings to allow expansion up to 150,000. A three-year renovation starting in 2007 and with a budget of $226 million expanded the capacity to 107,000 and included the addition of the Jack Roth stadium club along the east side of the stadium. The club spans the entire side of the field and provides great views of it.

A 2013 football game between Michigan and Notre Dame drew an excess of 115,000, which was a new record. The population of the entire city of Ann Arbor was about that at the time. Every Michigan home game since 1975 has drawn 100,000 or more. This should tell you something about the school spirit at Michigan.

The neat thing about the reception is that we got to actually walk out on the field, which apparently is a big deal. The ability to walk out on the field is normally reserved for players, cheerleaders, marching bands and big-time donors. I didn’t know this at the time, but women and children were not allowed on the field till 1969. Sara Krulwich, who was working as a journalist for the Michigan Daily at the time, defied the “no women or children” policy on her press pass and became the first woman to walk on the field. Obviously, things have changed since then.

We also got to go through the locker rooms. The walls were full of photos of football players, celebrations of championships won and inspirational quotes. There were plenty of photos of Tom Brady from his years playing college football at Michigan – I did not realize he was once a Wolverine. I tried my best not to hold that against Michigan. 😉 At any rate, it was a fun event and I am glad I got to see this iconic stadium, even though I am probably as further away from a football fan as one can be.

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