Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Day The Grey Lot Died

A long, long time ago...

I can still remember

How that Grey Lot used to make me smile

For the past 26 straight years, I have been a proud Michigan Football season ticket holder. The first four years I was an undergrad and was allowed a single student section ticket. Every "Football Saturday" in Ann Arbor was a chance to be part of the wonderful tradition that for me included a chance to bring a few of my new found college friends down to the "Grey Lot" and tailgate with my parents (both alums of UofM) and a group of my parent's friends from college who still gathered religiously to support the Maize & Blue. As an undergrad the tailgate spread of nearly unlimited food, beer, and bloody mary's all proudly laid out for us to share was a dream come true on those sleepy, slightly hung over Saturdays in the fall. I marveled at the fact that my parents and their friends from college had stayed so close for all these years. The consistency and dependability of their tailgate party was comforting and everyone looked forward to seeing each other at the next game. The "Grey Lot" was their pre-determined meeting point every football Saturday and it was an ingrained part of their Michigan Football tradition and experience.

And I knew if I had the chance

That I would see those people dance

And, maybe, they'd be happy for a while

When I graduated I applied for and happily received (2) season tickets in the end zone and (1) Grey Lot parking pass. Two other fraternity brothers of mine who graduated with me and had tailgated with my Mom & Dad also were granted Grey Lot passes for the 1986 season and the tradition was officially passed on. The Grey Lot became the designated tailgate spot where Delt alumni and current undergrad brothers would gather. Soon our group had grown to include more graduated fraternity brothers, ten Grey Lot parking passes, and the official Delt Party Hut to mark the spot where we would raise the flag every football Saturday for the past two decades. Delt brothers coming in for a game at The Big House knew the Grey Lot would be the place to go to find everyone before or after the game. It has been common to see 30 to 50 people turn up for our Grey Lot tailgates, all connected through Delta Tau Delta Fraternaty, the Grey Lot, and the University of Michigan.

But December made me shiver

With the news U of M would deliver

Bad news on the doorstep

I couldn't take one more step

My "Preferred Seating Location" invoice came in the mail yesterday along with my Victors Club packet, all glossy and glowing with details of the "Michigan Stadium Expansion Project", the "Preferred Seating Donation Program", and the dreaded "Priority Point Rankings." Bill Martin, the Director of Athletics at U of M, penned some wonderfully sugar coated phases meant to make me feel warm and fuzzy about everything that was about to be explained in this packet. Here are some of my favorites:

  • "Because of donors, alumni, and fans like you, our self-supporting department has the resources to field 25 varsity sport teams with more than 750 student-athelites."

  • "Your contributions help secure this Michigan tradition.."

  • "The Priority Point Program is a comprehensive measure of your support & association with the University Athletic Department. Further, (oh no, here it comes) it is a means of allocating (that's never a good word) tickets, parking, and other benefits in an equitable way. (No! No! Noooooooooooooooooo!)

  • "To qualify to purchase a football season parking pass, a Victors Club member must hold football season tickets (check) and have contributed an annual gift of at least $1,500." (check)

  • "Beginning with the 2008 season, parking permits will be assigned based upon the priority point program and populated in descending order starting with Blue, Green, Grey, Purple, Red and Brown." (Huh? This doesn't sound good)

  • "We regret to inform you that your priority points no longer qualify you for a Grey Lot pass. " Thanks for playing. See Marty Bodnar on your way out for some nice parting gifts. Enjoy the Brown lot. Have a nice life.

I can't remember if I cried

When I read about my wounded pride

But something touched me deep inside

The day the Grey Lot died

So just like that after 26 years of building a tradition around Michigan football Saturdays my friends and I have been "prioritized" out of the Grey Lot. Our gathering spot that we have paid for every year for the past 22 years has been taken away because we no longer "qualify" based on our financial contribution ranking. I hope Bill Martin and company find this post and take a look at the photo of one of our recent "Bring your kids" games. Every one of those kids are potential UofM students who have been raised on fond memories of going to the games with their parents and meeting up with their tailgating friends in the Grey Lot. Just as my parents had passed that tradition on to me, I had hoped to pass it on to my children but instead I have been "measured, allocated, and prioritized." So sorry, no soup for you. Next!

So bye-bye miss american pie

Drove my chevy to the Grey Lot

But the Grey Lot was dry

And them good old boys were drinkin' whiskey and rye

Singin' "This'll be the day that I die."

"This'll be the day that I die."


Assman said...

It's a crying shame that the AD is choosing to bump people from the traditional parking areas that they've held for years. And it's all because of money. And make no mistake - they are "choosing" to do this. They don't "have to," as I'm sure they are claiming. I hope I can make it to a game next year and find you guys in whatever lot you end up in. Cheers.

Adman said...

What proves that it is all about money is that they give no priority for the fact that people have held grey lot passes for over 20 years. Some combination of giving PLUS grey lot seniority would have been decent and respectable.

As an alum living on the west coast for the past 12 years, I continue to support the university and the football program by re-purchasing my season ticket each year. Now, without the guarantee of the grey lot experience, the "value" for me of an increasingly expensive season football ticket has been diminished considerably.

Think about this: you could buy a beautiful large-screen LCD television for the cost of two season tickets to Michigan football. If that doesn't frighten Bill Martin and the athletic department, I guess nothing will.

P.S. GREAT post, PrinceJ!

Anonymous said...

This article sums up my feelings toward UM football (the business, not the team) since graduation in 1989. I will always support the Wolverines on the field, and will likely always be a season ticket holder. But the greed of the AD is unfortunately too obvious.

Anonymous said...

As a fellow Grey Lot (or former Grey Lot) holder I can feel your pain. The part that your posting does not discuss though is the new "directional parking" issue which I feel is far worse. One could argue that you could move your tailgate spot from one lot to a different lot (Brown in your example) and although you have to move - over the course of time that would become your new tradition.
Under the excuse of "safety" they are saying that you will not park in the same spot each tailgate Saturday. You will be told where to park based on the order in which you arrive at the parking lot. It will be sequential parking and you will no longer save spots for your friends or have the same location each Saturday.
I am guessing that the experience that your parents had and you have had over the years is primarily becuase you have tailgated with close friends for these games for years and years. Now that friend may be parking in an entirely different location and you will be in a different location each Saturday. This breaks up tailgaters and the traditions they have built over the years significantly.
I drive in from Evanston, IL each home game to see the friends I tailgate with - not to see Michigan play Eastern Michigan. I fear the "lower-tier" games will now have people choose the large flat panel TV in their living room versus the weather and crowds of an inconsequential game. How much longer does it take to go from there to then decide that only 3-4 games are worth it and you no longer need season tickets - you can scalp those games for less than the entire season (plus donation, plus parking pass).
I am afraid thaye have not thought this through very well.

Anonymous said...

come on----all the talk about "michgan tradition" or the "michigan family" is just complete and utter nonsense----we are "customers"---and nothing more----if we are willing to pay to pay more for tickets-----they are stupid to charge us less------if we accept less favorable parking---they would be foolish not to give the better parking to the people who are bigger donors, more politically influential, etc.,

Anonymous said...

Just saw this post - and I too - will be booted out of my spot in the Red Lot. I've been parking there for more than 15 years. I started with an Orange Lot pass - prior to the Field Hockey/Soccer complex development. It was also when the season parking was far from being sold out.

I seriously thought about not re-newing my PSD and moving to the endzone, etc. It was RichRod euphoria which moved my right hand to write the check this year. But I was really bummed about the parking pass - as it has been a traditional meeting spot for many of my friends.

We will now only pay to park on the golf course for the Big Games - and support Ann Arbor Golf and Outing, not U-M parking. We will also pay the neighbors for a spot when the tailgates aren't as big. It is our way to keep peace of mind. Yes, we are all customers, and the only loyality comes in the form of the check you write - not how loud you cheer or how much you suport the team. Welcome to the sporting world in 2008.

A 17-year season ticket holder and Michigan Fan.

Anonymous said...

No one can agree with you more than my family!!! I am 52, and started going to games with my dad in 1963 (against Navy and Roger Stabauch. We parked in what is now Revelli Hall (Gray lot). When RH was built, we moved behind the athletic offices on a nice stip of grass with shade (this is now the Athletic Academic Center). From there my family and I (now to include my wife and son), moved behind the Canham Natatorium and had freinds meet us for a big tailgate each week. Well after 45 years, I will be parking somewhere else (probably Brown Lot. My now 82 year old father will be parking with us, and to think he'll have to get from the Brown Lot (this is at the UM Tennis Complex near Briarwood!!) to the stadium, well, it's a crime!! I have never been more mad in my life, then the day I recieved the parking letter!! Michigan talks about tradition, no ads in the stadium, the band (can't see them warm-up anymore), etc. Well, I just got the Big 10 Network the other day. Looks like I might just be selling most of my tickets, and only go to "the big games", like many of my friends have done for years....

What a shame!! I'm glad I'm not Bill Martin. I couldn't look myself in the mirror each day.......

Kurt S. , Dearborn, MI.

Anonymous said...

What is funny (or not) reading this blog is how shit rolls down hill. I've been in the blue lot for over 20 years and now being pushed to the grey lot -- not happy to say the least. I guess the a big chunk of us are not happy with being downgraded. Guessing the only ones who are happy are those who are Champions. What irks me is I come in from Chicago for just a about every game. I tailgate 3 hours or more before and 2 to 3 hours after. 90% of those in the champions lot don't tail gate at all, and often leave early to beat the crowd -- how about we move them to brown or something else and give them 'premium' transportation to the stadium and let the Blue and Grey lots be for those who 'do it up right'

Generic Viagra said...

I was intrigued about each part that you mention, specially the bloody Mary's all proudly laid out for us to share was a dream come true on those sleepy, slightly hung over. I wonder to myself to many things about it.