Despite increased restrictions at the University of Michigan, the school’s athletic director said he is planning a full-capacity football stadium this fall.
Sporting director Warde Manuel said this week that he “looks forward to a full stadium” for Michigan’s season opener on September 4 against Western Michigan, a welcome sight after the 107,601 seat settled at the corner of E. Stadium Boulevard and S. Main Street was largely empty last year.
“I can’t wait for our fans to come”, Manuel said on “Conqu’ring Heroes”, a podcast produced by the sports department. “We’re not doing anything – and I’m not anticipating at this time – in terms of any restrictions or how many fans we can have outside of Michigan Stadium.”
Manuel’s comments come just a day after Michigan unveiled new guidelines for campus sporting events on Wednesday, requiring the use of face coverings in all indoor spaces. While fans are not required to wear masks in their seats or when walking through the lobby, they are required to wear them inside the restrooms, inside The M Den store, or upstairs in the club or the press gallery.
The mask requirement, reintroduced by the school on August 11, is also extended to student-athletes inside locker rooms and football facilities.
“I encourage people to protect themselves,” Manuel said. “We’re going to bring back over 100,000 people, and we all need to know where we are and who is around us. “
Michigan resumed season ticket sales for football games over the summer, and the school has been pushing hard for group and individual game sales in recent weeks. Manuel said he expects more than 100,000 for the opener against Western Michigan.
The Wolverines’ seven-game home schedule this year also includes non-conference opponents from Northern Illinois and PAC-12 contender Washington, other Big Ten enemies East Rutgers and Indiana, the Northwestern Inter-Divisional School and the favorite of the Ohio State league, the final on Nov. 11. 27.
“Our fans have done a great job,” he said. “I can’t wait to see our fans. Last year, getting to the stadium took me 10 minutes. It was sad to go to the stadium without fans.
A Big Ten policy restricting general ticket sales last fall meant largely empty stadiums throughout the conference, but it also had a financial impact on sports department budgets. In June, when presenting a budget plan for fiscal year 2022 to the school’s board of regents, Manuel said the department projected a deficit of $ 62.9 million for 2021. Much of that was the lack of ticket sales.
Yet health officials across the country remain concerned about the high transmission of the Delta variant of COVID-19, which has left tens of thousands of people hospitalized in the southeastern United States and Texas.
“It’s a life where people spent fall Saturdays together watching Michigan football,” Manuel said. “It was great with you (because) you can watch it on TV. But it is not the same. And it wasn’t the same watching him in the Big House with no fans.
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