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April 4, 2014

Reid This: Outside-the-box ideas for The Big House

The Michigan athletic department held a press conference this afternoon to announce that Manchester United and Real Madrid, two of the most famous soccer clubs in the world, will play a game in Michigan Stadium this summer.

This is a landmark announcement, opening The Big House to the world - and it will undoubtedly be a sell out and a huge event for the city of Ann Arbor.

In recent years, the athletic department has explored new and exciting ways to use Michigan Stadium. Since athletic director Dave Brandon took over, the Michigan football team has hosted two night games (the first two in stadium history), the Michigan hockey team hosted a record-breaking outdoor game called The Big Chill and the NHL took over the stadium for this year's Winter Classic, which pitted the Detroit Red Wings against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

What other outside-the-box ideas could the athletic department bring to its centerpiece, The Big House?

Bruce Springsteen

In its long history, The Big House has never hosted a concert, but there's a first time for everything. There had never been a hockey game played in the massive stadium, before The Big Chill and, subsequently, this year's Winter Classic.

It could definitely work. In June 2011, Michigan State opened the gates of Spartan Stadium to U2's famous 360 Degrees Tour, which played in front of stadiums all over the world with a tour-wide attendance of more than 7.000,000 fans from 2009-11.

The event - which I did not attend - was a smashing success, and the place was packed to the upper reaches of the top deck.

To pull off a similar stunt in Michigan Stadium, organizers would have to pull in a major act that appeals to a huge audience - the young and old, alike. That's why Bruce Springsteen is the perfect fit.

The Boss has one of the highest-grossing live acts of all time. His Wrecking Ball World Tour, which spanned 2012 and 2013, sold 3.5 million tickets and is ranks eighth among the highest-grossing music tours ever.

People flock to see Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, and, with the proper hype machine advertising the show - something the Michigan athletic department has proven great at, time and time again - they could sell out the show, no problem.

Michigan students, Springsteen fans and interested spectators would flock to the show.

Although the athletic department has not hosted a live music act in 13 years, it is not unprecedented. From 1969-2002, Crisler Arena hosted 101 concerts, everything from Joan Baez to The Ike & Tina Turner Revue to Jefferson Airplane to Alice Cooper to Bob Dylan to Elton John to Billy Joel to Elvis Presley to Bob Seger to Aerosmith and more.

It could absolutely work - and be an amazing, memorable setting for a concert.

The Super Bowl:

Why not?

After an initial backlash for setting the game in a cold-weather, open-air stadium last year, the NFL had the last laugh, when Super Bowl XLVIII in East Rutherford, N.J. went off without a hitch.

That has possibly opened the door for more cold-weather games in the future.
The attendance record for a Super Bowl is 103,985, set in 1980, when the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Los Angeles Rams, 31-19, in the Rose Bowl.

This one may take some crafty work on the Michigan side, however. The NFL enacted a rule that limits the hosting Super Bowl teams to NFL cities and their surrounding metropolitan areas. That's why the Rose Bowl hasn't hosted a Super Bowl since the Rams and Raiders left Los Angeles.

Ann Arbor is not technically in the Detroit metropolitan area, although it is considered part of the city's combined statistical area. Would that be enough to convince the NFL to allow Michigan Stadium to host the biggest sporting event in the world?

It's hard to say - especially since this is a hypothetical situation. But it would have to be intriguing to have the chance to smash the attendance record in a stadium as historical as The Big House.

The next three Super Bowls will be played at University of Phoenix Stadium, home to the Arizona Cardinals, Levi's Stadium, the San Francisco 49ers' new home that will open this summer, and Reliant Stadium, home to the Houston Texans.

This suggestion may be far-fetched, but who knows?

A Basketball Game:

When Michigan was preparing to host The Big Chill, converting Michigan Stadium into the world's largest hockey arena for a game between the Wolverines and Spartans, then-Michigan point guard Darius Morris joked with reporters that he would like to see a similar event happen for the Michigan basketball team.

With weather and sight line concerns, this may be the most far-fetched idea of them all, but it would be an incredible experience, if the Michigan athletic department could find a way to make it work.

They could divide The Big House, putting up bleachers on the field to cut down on the massive size of the potential game. When Syracuse does this at the Carrier Dome, it cuts the size of the capacity from 50,000 (football games) to 35,446 (basketball games), which is about 70.8 percent of the building's full capacity.

Extrapolating on the scale of The Big House, there would still be 77,809 fans in attendance, with a sell out.

Still, with unpredictable weather patterns, the event could be a disaster - rain or snow would eliminate any chance of being able to play the game.

What other events do you think could feasibly be held in Michigan Stadium? Join the discussion on The Fort (click here).


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