Michigan Stadium Renovation- The Media Elite to the Rescue!

A few well-connected fans of the Michigan football program have mounted a campaign to turn back the clock in Ann Arbor.  While most fans and alumni are excited by the changes coming to the Big House, a few have taken it upon themselves to substitute their judgement for ours.

What really irritates me about this effort is how traditional media is being “spun” by opponents of the renovation plan.

Unable to arouse interest in their agenda they have turned to their media contacts to pump up their flagging campaign.  The latest media salvo comes from Frank Debord at Sports Illustrated.

So can you believe it? There is actually a place in America today where humble citizens are fighting the construction of luxury boxes. Yes, in Ann Arbor, Mich., home of what is called the Big House, the largest stadium in America, many alumni and professors of the University of Michigan are vigorously trying to persuade the Board of Regents not to approve the plans of the university president and athletic director to spend something like a quarter of a billion dollars to build 78 suites that would rent for up to $85,000 apiece for a mere seven college football games…So finally, somewhere in the Republic, the lowly common folk have risen up against the sports aristocracy.

Hey Frank- you want to define MANY for us?  And who are these “humble citizens” fighting the renovation of the Big House?  Last I checked the figurehead of this effort is John Pollack who created a web site which claims thousands of electronic signatures opposing the renovation.  Of course, you need  to do some digging to track this information down because he doesn’t have his name anywhere on the web site.  Hey John- what’s with the mystery?

So who is John Pollack?  A web search turns up the following bio:

A former speechwriter for President Bill Clinton, John Pollack has built the world’s first cork boat.
Prior to his work in the private sector, John worked at the White House and on Capitol Hill, where he was the wordsmith for House Democratic Whip David Bonior. John’s speechwriting skills developed from extensive campaign experience and his work as a journalist, both in the United States and abroad.

A 1988 graduate of Stanford University, he began his writing career as a reporter for the Hartford Courant, covering local government in suburban Connecticut. Later, he spent three years in Spain as a foreign correspondent, covering everything from business to bullfights for the Associated Press, the Los Angeles Times, Advertising Age and other media. His first book, The World On a String: How to Become a Freelance Foreign Correspondent, grew out of that experience. Recently, he published Cork Boat, a non-fiction account of his 30-year quest to build a 22-foot Viking ship made completely from wine corks, and its 2002 voyage down Portugal’s Douro River.

Hardly an average Joe.  And this guy is telling us about Michigan Tradition?

John Pollock, who loves Ann Arbor but doesn’t live here.

John Pollock, who loves the University of Michigan but couldn’t be bothered to attend.

It’s great that he takes time to tell alumni and those who live here- us hicks in fly over country- what we should be thinking.  Thanks.

I don’t need someone to tell me about Michigan tradition.  And I don’t think that most Michigan fans need to be told either  Michigan fans are quite capable of deciding for themselves what they think about the renovation plan.

Fans have no problem reacting to things they don’t like.  Criticsm of the halo was immediate and vociferous.  When Michgian and Ohio State made plans to sell the naming rights of THE GAME, phones lit up at the athletic department when Lloyd Carr himself made it known that he didn’t support the plan.  A few days later the plan was scrapped.

I’ve been critical of how the athletic department with the approval of the regents have gone about their business in the past.  I may not like their tactics, but the plan itself seems sound.  There is only one issue that Michigan fans are united on- an issue that the Michigan Athletic Department and these “opponents of the renovation” aren’t addressing.  Fans want the Big House to stay the Biggest House in the land.  When attending a game at Michigan Stadium, they want be “among largest crowd watching a football game in America today.”

The current renovation plan adds a minuscule amount of seats to the football stadium and adds debt that will probably preclude any large scale addition of seats, such as an upper deck, in foreseeable future.  The foes of the renovation want you to believe that most fans want things to stay the same, indeed most fans want change that embraces the Michigan Tradition of having the largest capacity stadium in the country.

Moving Ahead in Ann Arbor

I can’t support the opponents of the stadium renovation.  The fact is that the stadium has been evolving practically from the time it was built.  To stop this evolution is a betrayal of the great Michigan tradition of being the “Leaders and Best.”

But I do have a recommendation for the foes of the renovation.  The next time you fly into Detroit-Metro airport head east to Dearborn before visiting Ann Arbor.  Pay a visit to Greenfield Village at the Henry Ford Museum and you can see a number of historical buildings that have remained unchanged.

But in Ann Arbor were heading into the future and we’re taking steps to make sure that Michigan Stadium is safe, sound, and viable for generations of Wolverines to come.