The University of Michigan will spend $1.8 million to add permanent lights at 83-year-old Michigan Stadium. The school's board of regents approved the project Thursday, which comes on the heels of a recently completed three-year, $226 million renovation that boosted seating capacity to 109,901 - allowing the Big House to reclaim the title of the country's largest football stadium.
"It's going to be better for our fans in the stadium and those watching the broadcast," Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon told the lights. "It'll lead to less wear and tear on our newly renovated stadium and, over time, it will be a financially good decision, too."
Previously, the school rented temporary lights for football games that began at 3:30 p.m. and ended after dusk. Brandon said the HD-quality lights will be installed soon and provide ideal illumination for The Big Chill at the Big House on Dec. 11 against Michigan State and for the Wolverines' first nighttime football game against Notre Dame on Sept. 10, 2011. So far, those are the only two prime-time matchups on Michigan's schedule. "We really wanted to use this as a test game," Brandon said. "We've made no commitments to playing at night beyond playing one next season."
The board's decision met with mixed reaction among fans. "My husband and I watch a lot of the Saturday night games on TV, and we really like the atmosphere, so I'm thinking adding them here will be a lot of fun," Mary Lowry, who lives less than a quarter-mile west of the stadium, told AnnArbor.com's David Jesse. "But I'm torn. Traffic is really bad here during day games. What's it going to be like at 11 (p.m.)? I don't really want drunk college students and other people from the game walking past my house that late."
"It's going to give the university even more exposure," countered Wolverines fan Todd Washington, who doesn't live near the stadium. "People like to watch those night games all across the nation. It's going to be great."