Michigan: Suites 70 percent sold out

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The University of Michigan has sold much of the premium seating at the Big House despite a poor economy, a school-record nine losses last season and a finished product people couldn't see.

Senior associate athletic director Joe Parker said Wednesday the school has commitments for 70 percent of the luxury suites and almost 70 percent of the club seats that will be in the new-look Michigan Stadium in 2010.

"We're pleased with where we are," Parker said during a tour of the $226 million renovation. "When the project is complete, we expect all of our premium seating to be sold."

For $55,000 to $85,000 per season and at least a three-year commitment, well-heeled fans will have 16 comfortable seats in a 15-foot wide by 28-foot deep box that comes with two TVs, granite countertops and sapele wood cabinets.

The climate-controlled suites have huge windows, which can be opened to let the air and crowd noise in or closed to keep inclement weather out. Suite owners will be able to have invite two guests who have tickets elsewhere in the stadium to watch games with them in the fourth quarter and can buy up to four standing-room-only tickets to put up to 22 people in the box.

Parker said 58 of the 82 suites have been secured with $10,000 deposits.

There are 3,000-plus club seats that cost $1,500-$4,000 each per season. Some of them are indoor and most of the outdoor ones are covered.

Eighty percent of costs for the suites are tax deductible while 73-82 percent of the money spent on club seats is tax deductible.

Parker said some fans have scaled back their commitments, downgrading from suites to club seats.

The school will begin giving tours of the premium-seating areas this fall on Fridays and Saturdays.

Construction began the day after the Wolverines lost at Ohio State in November 2007.

The masonry and roof on each side of the stadium has been completed and construction crews are working on finishing off the insides of the towering structures along each sideline at the storied venue.

After Michigan hosts the Buckeyes this season, the existing press box will be torn down and 704 chairback seats with contoured backs and cup holders will be built in its place.

To improve wheelchair access, the stadium's capacity dipped to 106,201 and slipped behind Penn State's Beaver Stadium as the country's biggest football venue. Parker expects the Big House will be back on top with 108,000-plus seats in the future.