ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- A recent survey of University of Michigan football season ticketholders and students confirmed that its many loyal fans have strong feelings regarding potential Michigan Stadium renovations. Fans identified several aspects of the Stadium that are most important to their game-day experience as the University considers renovations to the 78-year-old structure.
The high degree of fan loyalty to the Stadium is reflected in the 61 percent rate of return on the most recent survey of season ticketholders, compared to an average "committed audience" return rate of 24-26 percent. Among these respondents, 51 percent have had season tickets for 20 years or more, and over 77 percent attend nearly every home game. Close to half of respondents travel at least 50 miles one-way to attend games, and 78 percent say they do not have season tickets to any other athletic events, collegiate or professional.
"Throughout the process, we have asked our fans for their input," Bill Martin, Director of Intercollegiate Athletics, said of Stadium renovations that have been considered for many years. "These recent surveys show us they understand the need for modernization, and tell us what's most important to fans about the overall game-day experience."
Under consideration are numerous improvements that would enhance the convenience and safety of all those in attendance, according to Martin. These include an increase in the number and quality of restrooms; an increase in the number of concession stands and a greater variety of fare; widening the aisles, adding handrails and increasing the number of points of entry and exit, allowing for better traffic flow and creating a safer environment; and improving accommodations for fans with disabilities.
Season ticketholders were asked to agree or disagree with a series of statements about the renovation. Solid majorities agreed that the Stadium needs to be brought up to current standards (61 percent), that premium and general seating should be added if they will help pay for the needed renovations (60 percent), and that with increased ticket prices, fans should have wider seats and aisles (57 percent).
Among the 13 potential actions listed in the survey, season ticketholders were asked to identify those with the greatest impact on their game-day experience. A majority indicated widening the seats, maintaining an ambience free of advertising, and improving crowd circulation around restrooms and concession areas. When asked to rank the actions in order of importance, the results were:
- Widening seat room by 1-2 inches (60%)
- Maintaining ambience with no advertising (46%)
- Keeping Michigan Stadium the largest college football stadium in the U.S. (41%)
Other options listed on the survey included adding more women's and men's restrooms, adding premium seating, expanding the amount of general seating, increasing the amount of disabled seating, increasing crowd noise, widening the aisles, adding hand rails, and increasing the number of concession stands.
Martin emphasized that some of the proposed renovations, such as accommodations for those with disabilities and improved ingress and egress must be a priority for the University even if fans do not rank them as highly.
When fans were asked to consider the direct tradeoff between wider seats and maintaining the largest stadium, they chose comfort over stadium size, 60% to 40%. Yet when asked about maintaining the largest stadium capacity, even if it means aisles and seats remain the same, responses were deadlocked, with 41 percent agreeing and 43 percent disagreeing.
"One of the things this survey makes clear is that our renovation goals come with some tradeoffs," Martin said. "Our challenge as we move ahead is to balance all of our goals and the desires of our fans."
Student season ticketholders, who tend to stand throughout a game, consider a great game-day experience in terms of the quality of competition on the field, the final score, and how much crowd noise exists inside the Stadium. They consider keeping The Big House the largest college football stadium in the U.S. as most important, ahead of increasing crowd noise and keeping advertising out of the Stadium. A distant fourth was improving crowd circulation around restrooms and concession stands.
The 2005 survey of U-M football fans reflects responses from more than 1,200 randomly selected season ticketholders, with a mix of fans by seat location. The student survey reflects responses from more than 2,000 student season ticketholders.
Martin noted that the Stadium has undergone many significant changes during periodic renovations and upgrades. However, he said, a guiding principle in planning for this renovation has been that any improvements undertaken will respect the tradition and character of the Stadium.
"Of course, major renovations will inevitably mean changes to the Stadium's appearance," he said, "but we are confident we can work with the architects for a tasteful and respectful approach to the work, which will occur over a period of several years."
Answers to frequently asked questions about the Stadium renovations have been posted to the Athletic Department's website. Questions and comments about the renovations may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact: Bruce Madej (734) 763-4423