The earliest demands for recreational facilities on the part of University of Michigan students were answered by the transformation, in 1858, of a manual exercises building, erected in 1856 (R.P., 1856, p. 650) and used as a drill room, into a gymnasium of sorts with apparatus which consisted of a few bars, poles, ropes, and rings. This building, which stood near the site of the heating plant on the east side of the campus proper, was used only in warm weather, as it was erected on poles sunk in the ground and had a tanbark floor. In 1868, however, these facilities were increased with the construction by the class of 1870 of a "gymnasium in embyro," near the center of the campus behind the Museum, and to the south of South Wing of University Hall. This structure was described as "two uprights with a crossbeam and ropes dangling from eye-bolts." A third recreational center, provided in 1885, was the Old Rink, later to become the Armory, which was fitted up as a gymnasium.
In the meantime, demands for outdoor play facilities had already been met. In early times informal play was limited to that corner of the campus where later Page 1580Waterman Gymnasium was built and to the old Fair Grounds, now Burns Park, in the southeast part of the city. The University first recognized the need for athletic facilities in 1865, when the Board of Regents appropriated $50 for the care of a cricket field and $100 for the same purpose in the following year.
Because the playground on the campus was wholly inadequate and the Fair Grounds unsatisfactory, since they were not adapted to college games and not subject in any way to University control, the Regents in 1890 purchased for $3,000 the south ten acres of what is now Ferry Field and made necessary improvements by grading and drainage. This original field, called Regents' Field, included a quarter-mile track with a 220-yard straightaway on the north side and inside the track a baseball diamond and football gridiron.
In 1902 Dexter M. Ferry, of Detroit, donated to the University an additional seventeen acres to the north of the old field, and the combined tract was called Ferry Field. In 1904 the brick wall was constructed on three sides of it, and in 1906, through the gifts of Mr. Ferry, the gates and ticket offices at the northeast corner of the field were added. Later expansion to the west of the original acquisitions and to the south below the wall has enlarged the entire plot to approximately eighty acres.
Football games were played on the first gridiron, which ran east and west on the original Regents' Field, until 1906. Wooden stands to accommodate 400 persons were put up in 1893, but these burned in 1895 and were then rebuilt to seat 800. A grounds-keeper's house was also erected, and stands seating 1,500 along the straightaway of the running track were constructed. By various stages facilities were expanded, and a record crowd of 17,000 was accommodated at the final football game on the old Regents' Field in the fall of 1905.
In 1906 the site of intercollegiate activities on Ferry Field was shifted to the north part of the field. A new gridiron running east and west, with a quarter-mile cinder track around it, was built there. The baseball diamond was also moved north to the present site of Yost Field House. Wooden stands were erected beside the new gridiron, but in 1914 those on the south side were moved, part of them to the baseball field, and the first unit in the construction of a contemplated U-shaped concrete stadium was begun.
Only the south unit of the concrete stadium, first used in the fall of 1914, was ever completed. It was designed after a study had been made of similar stands in other universities, and at that time it was considered one of the best bleachers in the country. It provided seats for 13,600 people and was constructed at a cost of $100,000. The north and west sides of the old field were occupied by the wooden stands, which were kept covered during those seasons of the year when they were not in use. These stands, which seated approximately 46,000 persons, proved far from adequate, however, in that they did not begin to accommodate the huge football crowds attracted to the intercollegiate games after 1920, and, as a result, a strong movement developed favoring the erection of a larger stadium.
The site of the Stadium includes more than fifteen acres and provides a practice fairway on the east side. The first football game was played there in 1927.
The crowded condition of Waterman Gymnasium as the result of increased demands on the part of the Physical Education Department created an urgent need for added facilities, particularly for intercollegiate competition, and in 1922 Fielding H. Yost, Director of Intercollegiate Athletics, was appointed Page 1581chairman of a committee to investigate the possibility of a gymnasium on Ferry Field. Final action approving such a building was taken later that year with the acceptance of plans by the Board in Control of Athletics and the erection in 1923 of Yost Field House at a cost of $563,168.
The Field House, which made it necessary to move the baseball diamond and stands about 150 feet west of their old site, replaced the previous club house, erected in 1912 to provide locker and shower facilities previously available only at Waterman Gymnasium. In 1928-29 forty tennis courts (clay, concrete, and asphalt) for intercollegiate and intramural play were constructed on Ferry Field.
The importance of physical education for women was early recognized by the erection of Barbour Gymnasium, as an addition to Waterman Gymnasium, in 1896-97. The building was made possible largely by a gift of property, valued at the time at $25,000, from Levi L. Barbour, of Detroit, a Regent of many years' standing. This particular gift, as it developed, was only partly used for the erection of the women's gymnasium. The women's athletic field was purchased in 1908 as the result of two gifts, one of $1,500 from the Honorable Peter White ('00) and one of $3,000 by Senator Thomas W. Palmer ('49), of Detroit, and was named Palmer Athletic Field. The original field comprises almost seven acres west of Lloyd, Mosher-Jordan, and Stockwell halls. It affords facilities for outdoor track, including two cinder tracks and jumping pits; a hockey field used also for soccer, lacrosse, and golf practice; an outdoor picnic site with fireplace; sixteen tennis courts, twelve clay and four cement; a putting green with an adjacent court used for volleyball or croquet; space for horseshoes and quoits; and an elevated terrace used for instruction in the various sports.
In 1955 the athletic plant of the University of Michigan covered approximately 235 acres and was valued at approximately $6,000,000. Plant expansion of more than two million dollars had been accomplished since 1921, when Yost became Director of Intercollegiate Athletics. From 1941, when Herbert O. Crisler (Chicago '22) became Director, more than $3,000,000 has been spent on plant expansion. This was made possible mainly by revenues of the department itself.