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The university's sports fame makes it difficult for Ann Arbor to stay small
Robert Cantwell
November 15, 1965
Drive over one of the expressways to a University of Michigan football game and you rarely see a road sign pointing to Ann Arbor. The signs merely read EXIT TO STADIUM. The stadium was built in 1927, and more than 12 million spectators have since watched football games there, but so secluded, closely knit and community-minded was the little town of Ann Arbor that many of the visitors scarcely glanced in its direction. And the indifference was mutual: people in Ann Arbor scarcely glanced at the crowds. The university has been so famous for so long as a powerhouse of intercollegiate sport—the home of Fielding Yost's merciless point-a-minute teams, the creator of an intramural sports program without parallel anywhere, and right now, with an indifferent football season, gaining another reputation with some extremely interesting and artful basketball—that Ann Arbor as a college town was certain of only one fate. It was going to be overlooked.
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November 15, 1965

The University's Sports Fame Makes It Difficult For Ann Arbor To Stay Small

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One of the mysteries of Ann Arbor history is where people stayed when they visited the town. In the old days the accepted social pattern for a football Saturday included a big dinner after the game, with guests spending the night on cots and pallets which covered every available foot of floor space. By 1959, however, as many as 103,234 spectators were in Ann Arbor for a game with Michigan State. Where did they stay? Ann Arbor had only the small Allenel Hotel, since torn down, the Bell Tower on campus and a scattering of motels on the outskirts of town. Visiting teams usually put up at the Huron in Ypsilanti, a small-town hotel where a player piano in the diminutive bar provided a measure of gaiety. But in the past two years motels have proliferated along the expressways. This year building permits in Ann Arbor come to about $100 million. The new buildings include an 11-story motor inn, a 14-story hotel and 13-story and 26-story apartment houses. There is also the new Events Building at the university, a $5 million structure needed because the famous old Yost Field House is overcrowded. It is a tribute to Basketball Coach Dave Strack and such stars as Cazzie Russell and Oliver Darden, who have made basketball a subject that engages popular interest in Ann Arbor. "It's their gift to the city," said a local historian.

Ann Arbor, in short, seems to be in the process of discovering that it has become a city, astonished at its present population of around 80,000 and uneasily expecting a population of 150,000 before long. In 1967 the university will be celebrating its 150th anniversary. Main Street, with its linden trees, will be ready.

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