Marching Band’s Elbel Field poised for major makeover

U-M’s iconic Elbel Field will be transformed into a marching band practice facility now that the Board of Regents voted Feb. 16 to approve project design plans and authorize construction.

The relocated field will be nearly twice the size of the Michigan Marching Band’s current outdoor practice facility on the southwest edge of Central Campus. It will feature upgraded technology and an array of amenities befitting a world-class outdoor classroom.

“The School of Music, Theatre & Dance and the Michigan Marching Band could not be more excited about the new Elbel Field and would like to thank the Board of Regents and university officials for their support of the project,” said John Pasquale, who has directed the 400-member Michigan Marching Band since 2013.

“This state-of-the-art classroom space with integrated technology will set a new standard in pageantry arts instruction and provide us a rehearsal facility that redefines boundaries of instructional efficiency, student assessment and creative output.”

Work at the site is expected to start this month and conclude in August—just in time for the band to make final preparations for the 2023 football season. The project’s estimated cost is $15.4 million, with funding provided by reserves.

U-M purchased the 6.5-acre property from the Fingerle Lumber Co. in 2018. It is located just across Hill Street from the current Elbel Field.

The new practice area will be 2.7 acres, which is larger than the 1.5 acres at the existing Elbel Field. The main field will be sized and oriented in a north-south position to match the game field at Michigan Stadium.

A broad, tree-lined pedestrian walkway along the western side of the property called Wolverine Way will connect the field with the band’s existing indoor practice facility at Revelli Hall. Large, open parcels of green space will border the north and south ends of the site.

Like its predecessor, the revamped Elbel Field will have field lighting, an instructional tower, fencing and bleachers. But there will also be many new amenities including:

  • A secondary, partial practice field with an end zone
  • 18 water bottle filling stations
  • A sound amplification system
  • Sophisticated audio-visual technology
  • Overhead cameras
  • A video board
  • A goal post
  • Wi-Fi
  • Power outlets
  • Temporary shading around the tower for use in hot weather

Pasquale said it was important to the Michigan Marching Band community that the new site retain the name Elbel Field in honor of composer Louis Elbel, a U-M alum who wrote the university’s legendary fight song, “The Victors,” as a student in 1898.

“It’s an iconic part of the institution,” he said.

U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance Dean David Gier said he is grateful for the university’s investment in the Michigan Marching Band, the single most visible musical ensemble on campus.

“The band not only contributes to the unparalleled atmosphere of our athletic events, but inspires pride across our Michigan community,” he said. “This new field will provide the best possible environment for their preparation as they carry forward the 125-year tradition of Bands at Michigan into the future.”

The Elbel Field project is one piece of a transformative plan to expand affordable student housing options on Central Campus.

A 2,300-bed residence hall and dining facility is slated to be built on the original Elbel Field site. Also on Feb. 16, the Board of Regents approved the housing facility’s schematic design and authorized the project to move forward.

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