Proposal: A Better Big House Gameday Experience

How I'd Make the Big House a Better House

Photo: Patrick Barron

Like it or not, Michigan football is just over 45 days away. As is stands right now, fans and media will be in attendance for a full slate of 7 home games this fall at the Big House. As we count down to the opening kickoff, we thought it would be fun to start things off with a little hypothetical pondering, if you will. Bear with us, we'll get to the 2021 specific football bits soon.

There are some things Michigan Football does better than anyone else...the winged helmet, the Victors, the block M, the banner...those are all great traditions worth their weight in gold.

But there are some things that Michigan Football does that, shall we say...they could do differently, or better, or change all together (recent struggles on the field, notwithstanding). I've been working on this post for a while, coming up with things that I've noticed over the years from going to games at Michigan Stadium and other stadiums around the Big Ten and bowl games. There are some things that I think Michigan can and should address when it comes to the gameday experience at the Big House. I think with the current state of dropping attendance in college football, everything should be considered...and these are my thoughts.

Remember, these are just my opinions and ideas.

Let's go.

1. More room, more rows
Now is the time to make the changes necessary to not just lure new butts in seats keep existing butts in seats as well. That means more creature comforts and more amenities. I hate to say it, but wider seats would be a good thing. It's been both the largest gripe about going to a Michigan game for decades, and the biggest source of pride for the fan base. They love the attendance record (which may or may not actually be a real thing) but bemoan the small cramped seats. Make 'em bigger, I say.

The sidelines are also very tight all around the field. Even Jim Harbaugh mentioned he wants more room for QB's to warm up on the sideline. If Michigan could lose the first 3-5 rows stands, that would open up maybe 10 or so much needed extra feet of space around the perimeter of the field.

My solution to keep the attendance record, would be to add a deck to the endzone sections. This would increase seating options, add an upper concourse...which would create one continuous upper concourse around the entire stadium to be able to add more bathrooms and food concessions. Also, this will help alleviate congestion on the ground level outside of the stadium and expedite those long lines of people waiting to get into each section before the game.

2. Tickets & Parking
There's no getting around the fact that the cost of going to a CFB game has soared in recent years. The two main contributors are tickets and parking. It's crazy how expensive going to a Michigan game has become.

While the face value of a ticket to this year's Western Michigan is $60, the face value of the Ohio State ticket is $145. Michigan is lucky in that they're a blue blood school that has been able to weather the drop in attendance that has plagued much of the CFB world. Just up the road in East Lansing, tickets for lesser games on the secondary market are going for as low as $6.

With television becoming an increasingly attractive way to watch a football game, and those television dollars more vital than ever to the bottom line of CFB programs, even Michigan will have to eventually make changes to it's fan experience to not only attract people to games, but keep the ones they have from staying home.

3. Lower priced concessions
It's really simple. Just lower the price of everyday items in the concession stands. Fans are paying record prices for tickets and parking, give them a break on the little stuff that adds up in a hurry like food. Hot Dogs, popcorn, pop, water, pizza, pretzels, candy should all be at least 1/2 of their current price if not more. Sure, charge premium prices for premium items like subs, sandwiches, ice cream, etc. Stadiums are starting to do this all over and it's actually leading to higher revenue. It's simple, lower the cost, people will buy more.

3b. Beer sales
Let's face it, it's happening more and more elsewhere. It's really just a matter of time before it happens at here. You can be sure the folks at #1000SSS have weighed the pros and cons of allowing beer sales inside the gates. I predict within 3 years it'll happen. I just hope it's not $12 for a draft Bud Light...but it probably will be, let's be honest.

4. Move the band and the student section
The student section should be the entire north end of the stadium. See handy seating pic below:

For basketball, the student section is front and center (I know, it's for TV). But for football, they're stuffed into the corner. Currently, the student section stretches from the middle of section 25 to the middle of section 34. Yes, it would require relocating some season ticket holders around, but most of them would upgrade their seats because of this. Plus, I dig symmetry.

The band is in a horrible spot. If it weren't for the microphones and PA system assisting them, you'd barely hear the band if you're in the south endzone. Move them to the bottom of section 33, 34 or 35..facing out towards the entire field...not just the north endzone like they are now in section 26. Both the visual impact and the audible impact would be noticeable immediately for both students and the band.

5. Pregame pep rally
Speaking of the band, they should hold a pregame pep rally/concert at Crisler before the game. Ohio State does this with their "Skull Session" which I've attended. Originally it was meant to be a final rehearsal before the game...but has evolved into a huge fan favorite which both bands attend while fans fill the stands of St. John's Arena. The team and coaches attend prior to going into the locker room. Call it what you's a pep rally.

A little pregame hype never hurt anyone. I think it would add a much needed element missing from Michigan's gameday experience for both fans and players.

6. Bigger tunnel
I don't know if anyone notices or not, but the tunnel gets smaller on gameday. Seats are added to the left side of the tunnel opening as you're coming out to the field and then moved for non-game days. No idea why they do this other than to maximize sales/attendance. But the result is a very cramped path for everyone to enter/exit the field.

7. Better tunnel
I hate to make this comparison, but Ohio State has a damn fine tunnel. It's big, its screams Ohio State, and it's a proper tunnel for a proper powerhouse football school. Michigan's tunnel, by contrast, is small, cramped and boring. The cinder block walls are white, the floor is red and it's very dark. In my perfect world scenario, I would double the size of the tunnel, add cool graphics to the walls, add maize & blue lighting, speakers for music, a fan area for people to stand and cheer during pregame...just make it more exciting and increase Michigan's home field advantage.

8. Upgraded Lighting
Michigan needs to do this.
So those are some of my half-baked thoughts. Anything you'd change or improve? Let me know in the comments!

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