Michigan Stadium. The Big House. Home of Michigan Football. One of the country’s most classic, widely recognized sporting facilities, Michigan Stadium has come to symbolize the pride, tradition and excellence of the University of Michigan. There is truly no place like it on a fall Saturday afternoon.
In the early 1920s, Fielding Yost formed a vision that would become Michigan Stadium. With winning teams and large fan turnouts, Yost realized the need for a larger football stadium. He asked for the Regents’ approval, but considering the 1921 expansion of Ferry Field, they were hesitant to move forward with a new stadium. With Yost’s dogged perseverance, they finally approved it on April 22, 1926.
The new structure was built on land that had been home to an underground spring. The water posed a problem to the construction, creating a surface that resembled quicksand. It was this moist ground that during construction, engulfed a crane which remains under the stadium today. The high water table also led to nearly three-quarters of the stadium being built below ground level.
Yost envisioned a stadium that would seat between 100,000 and 150,000 people. After much debate, the Regents, the University of Michigan and Fielding Yost reached an agreement by which the stadium would seat 72,000, with the ability to expand to more than 100,000. The construction would be financed not by the taxpayers of the State of Michigan, but by the sale of 3,000 $500 bonds.
Fashioned after the Yale Bowl, 440 tons of reinforcing steel and 31,000 square feet of wire mesh went into the building of the 44-section, 72-row, 72,000-seat stadium at a cost of $950,000. As the stadium neared completion, Yost requested an additional 10,000 temporary seats for the concourse. This request was passed, and Michigan Stadium opened at the corner of Main Street and Stadium Boulevard with a capacity of 84,401 — the largest college owned stadium of any team in the nation.
On Oct. 1, 1927, Michigan played Ohio Wesleyan in the first game at Michigan Stadium, winning 33-0. Dedication of the new stadium came three weeks later, Oct. 22, 1927, against Ohio State, in another Michigan victory. The Buckeyes had hoped for revenge from the dedication of their own stadium five years earlier when the Wolverines came away with a 19-0 victory, but it was not to be.
Michigan Stadium has seen 251 consecutive crowds of 100,000 plus through the 2013 season, including 115,109 in attendance for the 41-30 win over Notre Dame on Sept. 7, 2013, that broke the all-time attendance record for a college or NFL game. Many changes and renovations have continuously improved the quality of the facility, while increasing its capacity to its present 109,901. While there are many things known about Michigan Stadium, one aspect that remains a mystery is the location of Fritz Crisler’s seat — the one “extra” seat that is indicated in the capacity number given to Michigan Stadium every year since 1956. Despite this anonymity, the legacies of Crisler and Yost live on as Michigan continues to pack the stadium full of 100,000-plus fans game after game.
Varsity men’s lacrosse debuted at Michigan Stadium on March 17, 2012, when the Wolverines lost 13-9 to Bellarmine in front of 858 fans. Later that spring, on April 14 after the Michigan football spring game, a program-record 4,458 fans were on hand for “The Battle at the Big House” as Michigan fell by a 12-9 count to Ohio State in one of the most watched regular-season lacrosse games in NCAA history.
The inaugural varsity women’s lacrosse team made its first appearance inside Michigan Stadium on March 20, 2014, where it dropped a close 14-12 decision to Winthrop. The program’s first win at the Big House came 10 days later on March 30, 2014, as the Wolverines outlasted UC Davis, 13-12, in a double-overtime thriller.