Marching band’s Elbel Field poised for major makeover


The University of Michigan’s iconic Elbel Field will be transformed into one of the country’s best marching band practice facilities after the Board of Regents voted Feb. 16 to approve a project design and authorize construction to proceed. 

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 D. Pasquale, who has directed the 400-member Michigan Marching Band since 2013.

Map of new Elbel Field location and features

“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 parcel from Fingerle Lumber Co. in 2018. It is located across Hill Street north of the current Elbel Field. 

The new practice area will be 2.7 acres, as opposed to 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. 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 also will be many new amenities, including:

  • A secondary, partial practice field with an endzone.
  • 18 water bottle filling stations. 
  • A sound amplification system.
  • Sophisticated audio-visual technology. 
  • Overhead cameras.
  • A video board. 
  • A goalpost. 
  • Wi-Fi.
  • Power outlets.
  • Temporary shading around the tower for use in hot weather.
Artist's rendering of band members practicing on new field
This artist’s rendering shows the proposed new Michigan Marching Band practice field, looking north. (Courtesy of Robert A.M. Stern Architects)

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 alumnus 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. 

SMTD 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.”

Pasquale revealed the project details to band members in a Zoom call immediately following the regents’ meeting.

Drum major Rachel Zhang, a senior, said while band members have a sentimental attachment to the existing Elbel Field, there’s excitement about the new facility’s video board, sound system and artificial turf that will cover not only the main practice field, but the secondary field, as well.

“We’re very grateful that such a huge project is happening for the band, and we’re really thankful for the support from the university,” she said.

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 planned for the original Elbel Field site. The Board of Regents on Feb. 16 approved the housing facility’s schematic design and authorized the project to move forward.



  1. Beverly Strassmann
    on March 7, 2023 at 3:51 pm

    Please plant native oak trees in the green spaces and along Wolverine Way. Oak trees provide the most ecological benefits and over their lifetime will sequester the most carbon. For information to back this up please consult the book: “The Nature of Oaks: The Rich Ecology of Our Most Essential Native Trees” by Douglas W. Tallamy. I am a neighbor to the immediate north of the new Elbel Field.

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