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University leaders asked to reconsider
The Ann Arbor News
By Dave Gershman
October 24, 2007
A University of Michigan faculty group has added its opposition to a plan for building luxury boxes at Michigan Stadium, passing a resolution asking U-M leaders to reconsider the massive project only a few weeks before its groundbreaking.
The U-M Senate Assembly, an elected body representing professors from the Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Flint campuses, voted 18-7 in favor of the resolution Monday. Three members abstained.
Construction of the stadium expansion, which received final approval from U-M regents in June, is scheduled to begin in November after the Michigan-Ohio State football game.
The latest vote by the faculty group joins opposition to the project by a disabled veterans group that has sued to stop the project because the group says U-M is not adding enough handicapped seating as required by federal disability law.
The faculty resolution refers to concerns expressed in a petition spearheaded by Irwin Goldstein, an emeritus professor of biological chemistry and former associate dean of the U-M Medical School. As of Friday, Goldstein had gathered 612 signatures of faculty and staff who oppose the addition of 83 luxury boxes as part of the stadium project. The petition also questions the affordability of the $226 million project, and its compliance with regulations governing access for the disabled, the issue raised in the lawsuit by the Michigan Paralyzed Veterans of America.
Goldstein said faculty and staff agree the stadium needs work, but this project is flawed.
"I wish that the regents and (U-M President) Mary Sue Coleman would take it seriously and say, 'Well maybe we ought to get together with the faculty and staff and citizens,''' said Goldstein about the faculty vote on Monday.
"I do not believe they will do it,'' he added. “I think they will ignore it, unfortunately.''
Kelly Cunningham, a university spokeswoman, said Coleman had not yet received a copy of the resolution on Tuesday afternoon. "She will give it careful consideration when she does,'' Cunningham said.
Athletic department officials have previously said the veterans' lawsuit won't affect progress on the project.
Richard Bernstein, a lawyer representing the veterans group, said the veterans are grateful for the faculty vote.
He said a trial in the lawsuit could begin next fall. "Now the university has to make a decision,'' said Bernstein.”Are they going to ignore their own faculty?''
University leaders have said the project was thoroughly discussed during the regents' approval process, which required three votes over several months. They have said it is based on a conservative financial model and will benefit all fans when it's finished.
The design calls for more seats for disabled people. The renovated stadium will have 315 seats for disabled football fans, counting new seats in the bowl and the pricier luxury box and club seating areas. Currently, it has 90 seats for disabled people.
The university expects sales of luxury boxes and club seats, which will be part of two massive new sideline structures, to generate $14 million annually, and help pay for the other improvements in the project. Those improvements include wider aisles in the stadium bowl, additional concourse space, and more bathrooms and concession facilities. A new press box also will be built.
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