UM Regents OK NHL Use of Stadium

At a special meeting called for Feb. 8, 2012, the University of Michigan board of regents voted unanimously to approve the use of Michigan Stadium for the National Hockey League’s Winter Classic, which is scheduled for Jan. 1, 2013. The NHL will pay $3 million for the license to use the stadium from Dec. 1, 2012 until mid-January. Areas surrounding the stadium would be used for a more limited period.

In January of this year, various media outlets reported that the 2013 Winter Classic would be held at Michigan Stadium, between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs. There has not yet been an official announcement from the NHL.

According to a staff memo, the university would be responsible for providing support activities similar to ones provided at Saturday football games. The NHL would have the right to include advertising and sponsorship throughout the stadium, and a liquor license would be obtained for the event. According to the university, Michigan law allows the university to obtain 12 licenses a year.

Six of the eight regents – all but Julia Darlow and Libby Maynard – participated in the meeting via conference call. Regent Denise Ilitch, who chairs the board, recused herself from the vote. She said that although she has no direct relationship to the NHL, it’s well-known that her family has an interest in the Detroit Red Wings and Comerica Park, and she didn’t want the appearance of a conflict.

David Brandon, UM’s athletic director, emphasized that this isn’t a university event, although the university’s game operations crew will manage the event and city police will be used handle security and traffic control. Regent Martin Taylor said he was comfortable with the liquor license, given that it was a third-party event. Regent Larry Deitch confirmed with the legal staff that indemnification and insurance issues were covered.

Several regents praised the deal, which has not yet been finalized but is expected to be signed soon. Regent Andrea Fischer Newman noted that the economic impact for Ann Arbor and surrounding areas will be significant – for hotels, restaurants and other businesses. Ilitch said the estimated impact would be around $14 million.

Taylor also noted that events like this are important as the university looks for ways to increase revenues.