Friday, February 10, 2012

Hot Topics: Whether The Winter Classic Should Be In The Big House

So the Winter Classic is on January 1, 2013 at Michigan Stadium.  Lots of people think this is a great thing and there is a minority, of which Joe is a part, that thinks it is NOT a good thing for the University of Michigan or the "Michigan brand."  So we decided to have a little debate to decide who is right about whether the Winter Classic should be held in the Big House or not.  So judge for yourselves:


Representing Those Against the Winter Classic In Michigan Stadium

1) The biggest game for Michigan football is also on January 1 in Pasadena, CA.  "The Grandaddy of them All," the Rose Bowl, is that day and should have the full focus of the University, Michigan fans, and the larger Michigan community.  People might say "well, hockey fans will focus on the Winter Classic and football fans will focus on the Rose Bowl."  Well, I'm sure there is some overlap and its a shame that some people will have to choose between two great events.  A potential Michigan Rose Bowl berth coinciding with the Winter Classic might take away some of the glitz that comes from a Rose Bowl game.  There is a remote chance that it happens but, lets be serious, what a mess that would be.

2) Michigan hosted the largest outdoor hockey game in the world and holds the Guinness Book of World Records title that goes along with that achievement.  Michigan basically sold that record for $3M and might not be able to get it back.  Michigan Hockey did something special... they played an outdoor rivalry hockey game in the Big House and it was something unique.  However, as Michigan Hockey plays more and more outdoor games, it dilutes how special that game was and, surely, another outdoor game in Michigan Stadium ( that has the potential to be bigger, with beer sales and NHL-level theatrics), will tarnish the grandeur of that once-unique event.  Person A: "I went to the Big Chill at the Big House", Person B: "Oh nice! I went to the 2013 Winter Classic. Biggest outdoor hockey game ever. Red Wings played!  Cool, huh?"

3) Michigan has the biggest football stadium in the country.  Nobody says the Big House is a huge event venue.  However, thats just what the Big House is being treated as...just another awesome event venue. Is the Big House a football stadium or is it just a venue for sale?  I guess we know now, don't we?  You can get married in the suites or on the field and now you can rent it out for hockey games?  Come on now. This is Michigan fergodsakes.  The Big House is a shrine to football and the visions of Yost surely didn't include the Big House having its occupancy rights sold to the highest bidder, as some are apparently willing to do (...and ok with??)  Leave the "special event" title to the occasional Michigan Football night game, The Game, and select other FOOTBALL related events that show off the ad-free football stadium, the history of Michigan Football, and what its like to enjoy a fall saturday in those hallowed stands.  Don't sell out to the NHL...


Thomas Beindit - Representing Those For The Winter Classic In Michigan Stadium

1.  The first and perhaps greatest advantage of hosting the Winter Classic next year would be the economic benefits.  The clearest benefit is the $3 million check the university will be receiving from the NHL for "renting" out the Big House.  There's no designated purpose for this money at this time (or maybe I haven't seen it), but I'd assume that the money would be directed towards scholarships and the athletic department.  Those new scoreboards everybody loved?  Yeah, imagine what could be next with another $3 million in the bank.  Along with this, fans from both Toronto and Detroit will flock to Ann Arbor.This means that local bars, hotels, and merchandise outlets will be able to bring in thousands of new customers.  Plus, since many of the fans will be from the Detroit area there is a good chance that there will be return customers.  Many people might enjoy their experience so much in Ann Arbor that they will return to check out the sites again.  Sure, there are a ton of Michigan fans from the area who have already seen the city, but this will probably be the first real chance Sparties have to enjoy the city and the Big House.  There's no guarantee about how big an impact the game would be economically, but at the worst the university would still bring in $3 million.  That's not so bad, is it?

2.  Of course, the economic benefits will likely be fantastic, but the Winter Classic will also bring the spotlight to Ann Arbor and energize the entire community.  Typically, as soon as Michigan wraps up its last home football game the entire area almost enters some type of hangover hoping for another event that never comes.  I mean, think about it.  The Big House will be used eight times in 2012.  That means that stadium is used about 2% of the year.  In fact, if it wasn't so big one might almost forget it's there!  Granted, bringing one more event doesn't exactly make the Big House an everyday site to visit, but it's at least being used.  Think about if the Winter Classic was in Detroit instead of Ann Arbor.  The Big House would sit vacant and all the spotlight would be on Detroit (not that that's a bad thing).  I realize the stadium has a designated purpose (football), but it's already used for other things like lacrosse and graduation.  What's wrong with actually using it for something that will bring a lot of fun and money to the community?

3.  Finally, the Winter Classic is a very unique event.  As of now, there have only been five of these games in history.  Of course, hockey used to always be played outside, but this new tradition is pretty unique for the NHL.  So far, no town has been able to host it twice and I highly doubt that trend will change anytime soon.  Do I think the Winter Classic will return to the area in the future?  Probably.  The Detroit Red Wings are a pretty storied franchise who have been competitive for a long period of time.  However, that doesn't mean it will be anytime soon and that doesn't mean they'd want to do it in the Big House by then.  The uniqueness of this event alone does not warrant support for Michigan hosting the Winter Classic, but it certainly should be considered.  If the Red Wings had asked to start holding their regular games in the stadium, that would be different.  However, because this isn't something that happens often, I think there should be an exception made.  If the Olympics came to Detroit and asked to hold an event in the Big House, would anybody oppose that?  The Winter Classic shouldn't be confused with the Olympics, but this event is still extremely unique and something fans will remember for a long time.

Final Points

Anti Winter Classic - My counterpoint to Tom is that I think assuming the $3M is going to do a ton of good for Ann Arbor is a little overstated.  Will the University or the NHL foot the additional cost of police and safety personnel?  If not, thats a huge cost for the city AFTER a long night of partying on New Years Eve.  Michigans Athletic Department has had a long running feud with the City regarding footing the bill for football game safety costs so I assume it will fall at the foot of the City (again...)  Also, I realize the FOOTBALL stadium is not used more than 6-8 saturdays a year plus the spring game and Fan Day but welcome to the reality that its a football stadium.  It is not an event space (as it apparently now is referred to) and just because the Big House is empty doesn't mean we should try and fill it with events.  The Winter Classic isn't even that special an event... how many times has it been done before?  We are going to lose our attendance record to an annual pro hockey game?  Thats not good.  Nobody remembers the UConn game when the stadium opened because BIG  games like the ND Night Game are what matter... why would we want to make the Big Chill a similar
footnote in Guinness Book/Michigan Stadium history?  I guess my take is that we are starting a trend of selling the "event space" to the highest bidder and thats wrong. Its a football stadium. It is hallowed ground in the history of major college football.  If  the Big House turns into a JerryWorld like sideshow event space, that would be really sad.  You don't see Bryant-Denny Stadium doing that... for good reason.

Tom - For my counter-point, I'd first like to bring up that those against the Winter Classic shouldn't attempt to jinx the Michigan football team (fingers crossed).  The city shouldn't attempt to plan it's events off of something that could potentially happen.  Sure, Michigan is a legitimate contender to make the Rose Bowl, but do we know if that's going to happen?  Nope.  Plus, the Rose Bowl is later in the day, so fans will be more than able to watch both I'd assume.  Would it take a little luster out of the game if Michigan played its bowl on the same day as the Winter Classic?  Probably a little, but it's not like anything will be going on around campus anyway.  All the students will be gone for break or in Pasadena.

Next, although that record at the Big Chill was something special and probably will be forever, I don't think the fact that the record will likely be broken means Michigan shouldn't host the game.  In fact, I think that adds to the game.  The Big Chill was and will still be a special event, even if the record is broken.  Tell me, was Michigan's opening game against Connecticut a few years ago any less special just because the record was broken against Notre Dame?  I certainly don't think so.  I had a great time at both games and I don't think breaking the record will be different in this case.  I completely agree that having too many outdoor hockey games dilutes the specialness of the event, but I think that's a different issue than hosting the Winter Classic.  The Red Wings were going to play that game regardless.

Finally, I also detest the concept that the Big House could become some place you rent out for all the great family gatherings.  However, I think having something like the Winter Classic shouldn't be confused with having a wedding in the stadium.  Personally, I'm not a fan of the weddings, but if somebody wants to share their special moments there, I'm not going to complain.  If you started hosting random events nonstop, then yeah, it might diminish the stadium's specialness, but something like the Winter Classic is not going to remove that.  If anything, people should be against the other things that are in the stadium now, not the Winter Classic.


Whether the Winter Classic should be in the Big House is a debate that will rage on, but it's now confirmed that it will take place on January 1, 2013 and should receive much publicity.  If you'd like to let us know your opinion leave a comment below.

Photo Credit: Paul Sancya

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