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April 03, 2014 - Image 7

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The Michigan Daily, 2014-04-03

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Thursday, April 3, 2014 - 7

Final Lap: Ferry Field's run comes to an end

Once the home of
Michigan football,
Ferry Field is slated
to be demolished,
turned into a
parking lot
Daily Sports Writer
The white Frisbee glided
through the air, drifting further
right than anticipated toward
the shot-put fence. The intended
recipient of the throw,wearinga
maize 'Team 134' football shirt,
rolled his eyes, took a breath and
sprinted after it.
Never losing sight of the disc,
the man wouldn't be denied, as
he snagged it mid-divejustcabove
the cool grass. The necessity of
the dive - a glorified tumble,
really - was debatable, but to
the man, and his two friends,
there was no doubt; victory was
in the air at Ferry Field.
They weren't alone. Thirty
yards south, a boy had just
defeated his younger brother in
a race. Occupying lanes one and
two of the track and wearing
matching purple soccer jerseys,
it surely wouldn't be their last
race. It was the first warm day
of the year, and all around them,
joggers, photographers and
aspiring football players were
celebrating the defeat of an
impossibly cold winter.
Few on it
may know, but
Ferry Field is
no ordinary "It's gm
track. The
orange the com
polyurethane loving O
beneath their
feet was so M
once grass
whose growth
with Michigan football. It then
became unbreakable black
concrete that reflected the
unbreakable Black athletes
who blazed trails above it. But
despite the tradition, the track's
days are numbered.
An hour later, Frisbee tossers
were calling it a day. The sun
was setting, and the cool March
air Michigan is known for slowly
crept in. Walking toward the
southeast corner of the track,
they dodged several joggers -
including the brothers - before
exiting toward the parking lot.
As they left, they stopped
to read a plaque on the wall.
The man of honor wasn't a
Wolverine, but a Buckeye named
Jesse Owens.
Since its opening in 1906,
Ferry Field has been home to
plenty of legendary history, but
its open-door policy has also
allowed it to host plenty of other
stories. From football to Jesse
Owens to Frisbees, Michigan
history has been embedded in
the track.
But in today's age, history
takes a backseat. In Sept.
2012, the Michigan Athletic
Department announced its plan
to revamp the athletic campus.
The $250-million project will
provide 16 new or upgraded

facilities to the University.

athletics. Both programs have
lamented their frustration with
recruiting visits gone sour.
The puny stands and a run-
down track simply don't cut it
The track is currently the
onlyone inthe Big Ten incapable
of hosting a conference
championship meet, a fall from
grace for a facility that used to
host the Olympic trials regularly.
After plans for a new track fell
through in both 2005 and 2010,
Athletic Director Dave Brandon
has been adamant about getting
a new facility that will be among
the best in the country.
But when the cement is finally
laid over, more than a century
of memories will be buried
beneath it. The lore and history
of the field is something even the
winning-driven Henry will miss.
"It's a piece of history," Henry
said. "You don't always think
about it, but when someone
pulls out a camera to take a
picture, it hits you: Every day,
we train and compete on the
same track Jesse Owens did, or
the Michigan football team did,
sometimes you just have to step
back and say 'Wow!'
"The new track will be like
trading in a '63 Mustang for a
brand-new Mustang. The new
one doesn't have the memories
or sentimental value the old one
did, but it is a brand new car. You
miss the '63 and keep it in your
heart, and you just have to hope
the new one can make just as
good memories too."
In recent years, Michigan has
opted for the

Ferry Field was the home of the Michigan football team after it drew crowds that were too large for Regents Field. Since 1926,it has been used for track and field.

Behind the shining proposals
and hype around the expansion,
the plan spells the end for Ferry
Field. Proposed plans have
slated for the once-great facility
to be paved over and turned into
a parking lot.
Less than
half a mile
at to see of the track,
the Michigan
mu iy women's
ur track team was
uch." its first-ever
victory at
Stadium. The
storied house that Yost built
blared "The Victors" for all to
hear, echoing to the storied
track where Yost's teams once
The decision to pave over
Ferry Field was a monetary
decision, but it wasn't long ago
that Ferry Field actually made
money for the University. In
1902, realizing that 800 seats
were no longer enough to host
Michigan football games, the
University's Board of Regents
set their eyes on expansion.
Dexter M. Ferry, a Detroit
businessman and owner ofFerry
Seed Company, stepped up.
In part to support the football
program, but also to divert
students away from tearing
up central campus (and his
new botany fellowship), Ferry
donated 20 acres of land, now
home to most Michigan athletics
After going 87-2-3 at Regents
Field, the Wolverines began
their 20-year tenure at Ferry
Field on Oct. 6, 1906 with a
28-0 victory over Case Western
Reserve ina stadium that seated
As the years passed, the
following of Michigan football
expanded beyond just students
and locals. By Michigan's
return to the Big Ten in 1917, the

Wolverines player
crowds of 25,000
time in school his
in Ann Arbor we
Though Ferry
hosted a football g
'20s, its impact o
program can't be
where Michigan
from an afternoo
a way of life, goi
front of crowds tf
year. It was whe
Brown Jug was fi
where Michigan S
State became rival
After World
more successful
opportunity to
brought up agair
Michigan coach
Director Fieldin
bigger plans. HeN
Ferry Field to 41,t
use increased fun
new stadium tha
150,000. He settle
Stadium, which
70,000 at the time
The football te
Field behind dec.
without it, the pro
be the same. The t
Field still stands t
can look through
from South State
imagine one
of the most
storied football
playing on the
grass in the
shadows of the
But when
the cement
trucks come
in the summer c
imagination will b
Even as the s
a warehouse by

d in front of momentous achievement that
. For the first warranted the honor.
tory, athletics On May 25, 1935, Owens had
re generating what Sports Illustrated would
call "The Greatest Hour in
Field hasn't Sports History." Setting four
same since the world records - the 100-yard
n the football dash, long jump, 220-yard sprint
forgotten. It's and 220-yard low hurdles - in
football grew just 45 minutes on a bad back,
n activity to Owens not only showed what
ng 90-13-2 in minorities could accomplish
hat grew each in sports, but what the human
re the Little body can achieve when in
irst won, and perfect sync with itself.
tate and Ohio There were, of course,
s. legendary Wolverines who
War I and blazed their own trails and
seasons, the broke racial barriers at Ferry
expand was Field. William DeHart Hubbard,
n. This time, Booker Brooks, Eddie Tolan,
and Athletic Willis Ward and Bill Watson
g Yost had combined to win 31 individual
would expand Big Ten titles, six individual
000, and then national titles and four Olympic
tds to build a gold medals.
t would seat But the highest honor Ferry
d for Michigan Field can give didn't go to
"only" seated any Michigan athlete, but the
Buckeye Bullet. A year after
am left Ferry beating Michigan and setting
ades ago, but four world records, Owens
gram wouldn't shattered the Aryan elitist ideas
unnel to Ferry of Adolf Hitler on his home turf,
oday, and one winning four gold medals and
the archway capturing America's hearts at
e Street and the 1936 Olympic Games. His
glory shone
across the
world, but he
"It's a piece of wouldn't have
gotten there
history. You without his
day at Ferry
don't always Field.
In two
think about it." years, the
honoring one
of America's
tf 2015, even greatest heroes won't overlook
e paved over. the track where it all began, but
rows of cars. The plaque may be
* taken down altogether. When
the cement trucks come in the
un sets over summer of 2015, even the work
the railroad of legends will be paved over.

course, legendar'
makes Ferry Field
you don't have to
to receive its ben
University Presid
Angell originally
Michigan to pr
uncommon educa
common man," as
the school's missi
In Ferry Field,
the statement
makes a
translation into
has dozens of
facilities for
its 27 varsity
sports, but only
one remains
unlocked. Even
inthe dead of wint
is littered with am
following the colo
of Yost, Owens anc
greats that once
"They come
said Michigan w
and field coach J
"I'm one of the
anywhere that has
off of our Division
about every day. It
the community lo
so much."
In the decad
the football team
this - above all e
Ferry Field stood
years wore on an
have made nearby
lucrative for the "c
doors were lockec
very second, Ferry
at three different
anyone who desir
exercise an opport
where world-class
Beginning in 21
and women's trac
have a new home
of its current on
all a bad thing, m
Ferry Field's cur
unacceptable fo

y, but what
special is that
be a legend
efits. Former
ent James B.
oviding "an
tion for the
still found in
on statement.

new car time
and again.
"We train and The new
facility will
compete on the be for varsity
same track Jesse and paying
Owens did." only, not the
common man.
er, Ferry Field
ateur athletes With the sun and its
ssal footsteps accompanying warmth gone,
d all the other the track has emptied out. A
roamed the pair of walkers exit the gate,
and another man walks in. With
in droves," short black jogging shorts, a
omen's track grizzled face and thin limbs, the
lames Henry. man - like the track - has seen
only coaches better days.
to kick people Ferry Field is cold and dark,
I facility just but the man stretches anyway.
's great to see With numbered days for the
ving our track track, opportunities like this
won't be around much longer.
es following With a deep breath, the man
i's departure, steps into the outside lane.
else - is why Sometimes, the best solution is
1 out. As the to just start running.
d renovations
'facilities too BY THE NUMBERS
ommon man,"
d. But at this Ferry Field
'Field is open
places, giving
es a place to
unity to do so Yearsthat the Michigan football team
athletes do. spentoccupying Ferry Field.
016, the men's Minutes it tookforJesse Owens to break
k teams will four records, per Sports Illustrated.
a mile south
e. That isn't
rany feel that
rent state is Wins for the Michigan football team at
r Michigan Ferry Field.

tracks just west of Ferry Field,
the plaque of Owens glimmers.
It isn't a physically large, but
it's impossible to deny the

Legendary stories are, of

Ferry Field sits in the shadow of the Intramural Sports Building, the crowning jewel of the first-ever intramural program. By the 2016 track and field season, proposals have slated Ferry Field to be turned into a parking lot for nearby facilities.
r a J 1

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