The Michigan Union underwent major renovations beginning in 2017 to enhance the interior and exterior of the building while preserving its historic character.
The historic Union building has been at the center of the University of Michigan campus since 1919. One of the most recognizable landmarks at the heart of central campus, it reminds us of the university’s distinguished heritage. But a building built over a century ago requires updates to sustain its mission and satisfy the needs of students today.
To gather input for the renovation, a study team met with hundreds of students, alumni and staff. In 2016, the University Board of Regents approved the two-year, $85.2 million interior renovation, which was completed in 2020.
Explore the Union
Let’s start the tour.
If you like, you can use our ADA-accessible North Entrance. There you will notice the updated curved vestibule, which is reminiscent of the original 1919 design and provides an open, light-infused and welcoming feel. It opens to the Ground Floor level where you can find options for grabbing a bite to eat, retailers for finding campus essentials, and more. The handrail inside the North Entrance is a replica of original railing.
The State Street East Entrance is also available. Generations of Wolverines have walked on these steps and, in 1960, it’s where presidential candidate John F. Kennedy delivered a speech to propose an idea which later became the Peace Corps.
Willis Ward Lounge
Once inside and on the First Floor, you will see our Study Lounge and, to the left, the Willis Ward Lounge.
The Willis Ward Lounge, restored to the original 1919 size and design, pays tribute not only to the building’s heritage but also the U-M legend after which it was named. An African-American football player at U-M, Georgia Tech refused to play against Michigan in 1934 unless Willis Ward sat out for the game. The story gained Ward country-wide fame that year and, when the story was revived in 2011, it led to his lasting legacy and the dedication of this special lounge.
Head through the Willis Ward Lounge where you will arrive at the South Lounge.
The newly created South Lounge was once the overlook for the swimming pool, an addition to the Union in 1925. Notice the carpet, which outlines where the swimming pool overlook once was. In the last several decades, it served as a space for administrative offices before it was returned to students during the renovation.
Leave the South Lounge and continue across the hall to the enclosed courtyard.
The Michigan Union Board of Representatives has dreamed of enclosing the courtyard space since the early 1980’s. This dream became a reality when students requested a year-round performance or events space. The newly enclosed courtyard allows students to watch games and host events such as poetry slams, a cappella shows, and more. Fun fact: In order to support the column structure for the enclosure it needed to go all the way through the ground floor and basement to reach the bedrock. Also notice the Block M in the center of the floor. This is similar to the one on the Diag, and was previously located on the Fourth Floor. It is now more visible and can be enjoyed by all.
Sweetwaters Coffee and Tea owned by U-M alumni is a new addition to the building. The area was originally an open terrace when the Union opened in 1919.
Michigan Room and Opera Lounge
Exit the Courtyard and head toward Panera, in the University Club, and turn right.
Notice the restrooms, which were remodeled and include gender-inclusive and ADA-accessible locations on every level. The use of upgraded, low-flow plumbing fixtures were incorporated to reduce water usage by an anticipated 22%.
Take a left and head toward the North Entrance stairway. Down the hallway on your left, you’ll pass the Michigan Room and Opera Lounge.
Thirty-five operas were produced in the Opera Lounge between 1908 and 1956. Aside from the Life Member program, the Operas were a major fundraising effort to build and operate the Union. The productions were so popular, they would travel the country for alumni to view. One even went to Broadway. Because the Union was an all-male organization at the time, the productions were all-male.
Local and regional building materials were used whenever possible. For example, take a look at the drinking fountain with hand-crafted tiles by U-M alumna and owner of Motawi Tiles, Nawal Motawi.
Pendleton Room and Rogel Ballroom
Take the North Stairway, or the elevator located across from the Study Lounge, and head to the Second Floor.
On the Second Floor, you’ll arrive at the beautiful Pendleton Room with original architectural details, including: stained glass, curved architecture, original windows that were restored during the renovation, and Pond and Pond plaster detail. A total of 540 windows were restored during the renovation to reflect the original 1919 look and feel.
Take a right and head past the new meeting rooms before arriving at the Rogel Ballroom at the end of the hallway.
The Rogel Ballroom seats 600 and features the original floor, light fixtures, and three balconies that were restored during the renovation.
Head back down the hallway and, to the right, you will see the IdeaHub.
The IdeaHub is an innovative, collaborative space for student organizations that surrounds the Courtyard. The IdeaHub was envisioned by students and includes multi-purpose areas to inspire creative thinking and collaboration.
Movement Studios, two spaces within the IdeaHub, feature mirrored walls, a built-in sound system, and flooring suitable for dance practice. The spaces are perfect for rehearsing and can be reserved.
Student Resources, Restaurants and Shops
The Third and Fourth Floors house student resources, as well as the newly renovated Wolverine Room perfect for holding events. Feel free to view the full list of student resources (click link and scroll down on the website). Also take a moment to admire the ballroom overlook from the Third Floor balcony, as well as the original terrazzo floors which were restored during the renovation.
If you’re hungry, head to the Ground Floor by taking the elevator near the Wolverine Room or the East Stairway at the end of the hallway. The Ground Floor features additional restaurants featuring a variety of flavors, and amenities for banking, shopping, student groups, events, studying and connecting with friends. View the full list of restaurants and shops (click link and scroll down on the website) and be sure to stop by.
We invite you to continue your tour by roaming freely and exploring all the spaces of the Michigan Union. Wherever you land, know that you’re standing in the presence of over 100 years of history. We’re thrilled that you’ve been able to experience this exciting moment in time at one of Michigan’s treasured landmarks.