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Students, Alumni Say Farewell to Elbel Field

Popular recreation space closing for new campus housing project.
By Jeremy Carroll

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Read time: 2 minutes

Students, staff, and alumni bid goodbye to the popular Elbel Field on April 19.

The recreation space will be turned into a 2,300-bed student housing complex with construction set to begin May 1. The dorms are expected to open in the fall of 2025.

“It’s a bummer because there isn’t a lot of green space in Central Campus,” said student Talen Christensen of the closure of Elbel.

The freshman was playing the Frisbee-based game Kan Jam with his sister, freshman Kyra Christensen, and sophomore Andrew Reno. The trio was among the dozens that turned out to play games, snack on food, and share memories of Elbel.

The University of Michigan acquired the land on the corner of South Division and Hill streets in 1956 when it was named Wines Field. The space was later renamed after the composer of “The Victors,” Louis Elbel, 1900. It has served as a practice field for the marching band, along with fields for intermural sports and two beach volleyball courts. The marching band will move into a new practice facility being built nearby.

“It’s pretty bittersweet to lose Elbel because it’s a historic venue here on campus,” Ben Belanger, ’10, Recreation Sports assistant director of facility rentals, said. “I know a lot of students enjoyed coming here over the years. It’s one of the few green areas on this part of campus, so it will be sad to see that go. But the University has to grow in some way, and this is one way to do it.”

Belanger said that as an undergraduate, he spent many hours playing football and softball at the Elbel, but his most memorable moment at the field had nothing to do with sports.

“At graduation in 2010, [President] Obama was the speaker. They staged all the graduates out here on Elbel before the ceremony because security was crazy. It had thunderstormed all night, and it was still pouring rain that morning. I remember just being out here soaking wet before graduation,” he said, laughing.

Dan Henne, ’83, strategic engagement lead for Recreational Sports, also had fond memories of Elbel as a student.

“Elbel was always a great hangout,” he said. “It was a central place on campus for everyone to get together, especially if you have a great fall day or spring day.”

He said students will lose the green space, but additional campus housing is needed.

To replace the lost recreational space, the University is installing two new turf fields on Hubbard Road on North Campus.

“Hopefully, we can carry this tradition up there,” Henne said.

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