Michigan Stadium OK'd for Classic

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The 2013 Winter Classic is one step closer to being played at Michigan Stadium.

In the special meeting Wednesday of the University of Michigan Board of Regents, the group approved the license of Michigan Stadium for the NHL Winter Classic.

"It's a great win for everybody," regent Andrea Fischer Newman said during a teleconference.

Denise Illitch, another member of the board, recused herself from the vote because her family owns the Detroit Red Wings and Comerica Park.

The game, widely reported to be between the Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs, would be scheduled for Jan. 1, 2013, with a backup date of Jan. 2.

"I think it's a really unique situation," Detroit's Drew Miller said after the Red Wings' 4-2 victory over Edmonton on Wednesday night.

The NHL has scheduled two news conferences Thursday -- the first will be at 10:30 a.m. ET at Comerica Park, the second at 1:15 p.m. ET at Michigan Stadium.

Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said Wednesday a contract for the game has not been finalized, but the approval of the Board of Regents gives the university the go-ahead.

The NHL is offering to pay $3 million to the university for the licensing of the stadium, and the university would give the NHL use of Michigan Stadium from Dec. 1, 2012 until mid-January 2013 -- including time for all potential set-up and breakdown scenarios.

"This whole process has been far more complicated than I ever would have dreamed possible," Brandon said.

Part of the challenges, Brandon said, are working on the licensing as well as the liquor license. Brandon said the liquor license would be handled by the university, using one of its 12 one-day liquor licenses given by the state.

By leasing the stadium to the NHL, Michigan gives up control of ticketing and parking. The only thing Michigan likely will have control over is game operations, on which the university will work with the NHL.

Brandon said the NHL, through its charitable foundation, also will give "significant contributions" to fund student scholarships at the university.

Brandon said Ann Arbor and the surrounding area benefit economically from a regular football weekend to the tune of $14 million. This, he said, could top it.

"This, I actually would suggest, would be greater because I think we'll bring in more of a national crowd for this," he said. "The fact that many people will be traveling in for New Year's Eve and spending New Year's Eve in the surrounding area will be significant."

Michigan has experience both playing in and hosting a giant outdoor hockey spectacle.

In 2001, Michigan State hosted Michigan in an outdoor hockey game at the Spartans' football stadium in front of 74,544 people. Then, "The Big Chill" game, against Michigan State on Dec. 11, 2010, was attended by 104,173, a Guinness Book of World Records mark.

Miller, who played at Michigan State, recalled watching his brother Ryan play in the 2001 game for the Spartans.

"I was a spectator for that one, and that was a lot of fun to be a part of," he said. "It's going to be amazing to play in front of 110,000 people, and the way they pack the people in there, it's going to be really fun."

Michael Rothstein covers University of Michigan sports for WolverineNation. He can be reached at michaelrothsteinespn@gmail.com or on Twitter @mikerothstein. Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.