It’s hours before tipoff at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, Michigan and there are lines that are hundreds deep. Even in the polar vortex of 2014, the Michigan State student section, known as the Izzone, is as hard core as they come. Combined with the pep band they take up 15 of the lower 18 sections closest to the floor. This is the essential element to making a fantastic college basketball environment: The students.
The Jack Breslin Student Events Center, opened in 1989 with a capacity of just under 15,000. It is not only one of the best basketball arenas in the Big Ten; it is among the top venues in all of college basketball, and even the sports world in general. The arena was named for student-athlete and administrator, Jack Breslin from Battle Creek, Michigan.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Along the outside perimeter of the wide single concourse that surrounds the seating area, you'll find very basic offerings from the concession stands, which are simply labeled with the word "Refreshments." Hot dogs ($4), bratwursts ($4.50), and pizza ($4.50) are on offer. Served next to this are Pepsi products ($4-$4.50), and Tim Hortons coffee and hot chocolate ($2.50). You can make it a combo for either $11 or $11.50 depending on the entrée. With this you get a large drink and small popcorn, saving $1 if those are the items you happen to want.
The real culinary delight at the Breslin Center comes from the Turkey Man stand, a staple at MSU athletic events. I like either turkey ribs ($6) or turkey smoked drumstick ($8), because they make me get in touch with my inner caveman. All of their offerings are delicious though including the turkey sandwich ($6), turkey sausage ($4), or turkey wrap ($6).
Also worth trying are the offerings at Smokestack BBQ, including the sliders (3 for $7), wonderful BBQ nachos ($6), and regular nachos ($4).
There is no doubt that the Izzone section is a large part of what makes up the raucous atmosphere at a Michigan State basketball game, but take that element away and this is still a very good venue.
The pep band is one of the nation's best, and their classic fight songs and modern recreations of pop songs keep fans excited. I'll take the MSU pep band over piped in music any day.
The seating is outstanding, with 27-28 rows above the student section in the lower bowl (100 level), all with steep pitch between rows, and above average leg room. I wish there were also cup holders, but every arena has room for improvement. I'll never understand how fans are expected to cheer with a beverage in their hand, and if it's placed on the floor, it's just as likely to be knocked over as not. But I digress...
The upper 200 level also offers wonderful pitch between rows, above average leg room, and no cup holders. That is, the first 13 rows do. After that you'll find metal bleachers. When looking for your seats in the 200 level, make sure you're in the first 13 rows. This makes a significant difference in your overall comfort and experience. Hopefully this is something that can be addressed soon.
The center-hung scoreboard is four-sided with live action and highlights of important plays during breaks. It also shows the player numbers of those on the floor along with points and fouls.
Another aspect to the atmosphere certainly hangs overhead as well. Final Four banners from 1957, 1999, 2001, 2005, 2009, and 2010 hang along with the two National Championship banners (1979 and 2000). The women's team also has a Final Four banner, from 2005 in Indianapolis.
Programs are available as you walk through the doors. You may be alarmed at the $5 cost, but they are really well done and make for a great memento of your visit.
The Breslin Center is nestled within the heart of the sports complexes at Michigan State. Nearby you will find Spartan Stadium, McLane Baseball Stadium, and Munn Ice Arena, among other athletic facilities.
My go-to spot when I'm in East Lansing is the Harrison Roadhouse, located just a little over a ½ mile from the Breslin Center. They have wonderful burgers and a good beer selection, along with TVs to keep up with the games. They charge $20 to park on game days, but present you with a $20 voucher to be used in the restaurant on the same day only. This is a good deal if you plan to eat at Harrison Roadhouse, and better still if you're willing to walk to the game from here. It's an easy walk if the weather isn't too bad, but this is Michigan, and it can be frigid on the right day.
The main drag in East Lansing is along East Grand River Avenue, where you can find several familiar restaurants and bars. I like Dublin Square, which is just off of Grand River on Abbot. They are a fairly typical Irish-style pub, as the name suggests, and offer really good sandwiches, and a decent selection of local and Irish beers.
The Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center is the nearest place to stay, with rooms starting around $130 per night. Be sure to book in advance as they can fill up for certain games.
If you can learn what a "Detroit left" is when driving around campus and the town of East Lansing (essentially a legal U-turn on a divided road), then you'll have no trouble enjoying this truly special basketball arena and the town.
The Izzone are as good in person as they appear on TV. They stand throughout the game, harass opposing players and coaches, and cheer throughout. Their favorite cheer seems to just be a dull low chorus that sounds like an airplane engine. The other fans are somewhat more subdued, but they are engaged in the game as well.
Be in your seat at least five minutes before tipoff, not only for the great pre-game video, but also to watch the students welcome their team on to the floor. Pre-game begins, of course, with the playing of the National Anthem, the last time you will hear anything resembling quiet from this crowd. The students silently raise one finger in the air towards the end of the song, corresponding with the lyrics "home of the free."
As the opponents are introduced, the students hold identical newspapers in front of their faces, displaying their lack of interest for their guests. When it is time to introduce the Spartans, those papers are placed aside and arms wrap around the shoulders of their fellow students as they sway back and forth cheering. When the final player is introduced for Michigan State, the students throw their wadded newspapers up in the air, retrieving them in time to throw them again when the home team scores their first basket.
Parking in the nearby parking structure along Harrison is $10 on game days. It's still a little bit of a walk from there, so this price feels a bit high, especially if you see a lesser Big Ten opponent. After the game, you can expect it to take about 15 minutes to get from your spot and on to the street and on your way.
Inside, the Breslin Center is very easy to get around with just one main wide concourse servicing both the 100 and 200 levels of the facility. There are six restrooms for each gender. They are large and clean, although modern hands-free fixtures would be a nice improvement.
100 level seats cost $32 per game, while the upper deck seats go for $24 for a chairback, or $15 for a bench seat. I think it's worth the extra $9 to get a back, but if you're looking to get in on the cheap, then you can grab a bench seat. If the opponent is not in the top tier of the league, you may be able to move down. Ushers do not check tickets in the upper deck. You can also expect a $6 "order charge," a despicable practice that in this day and age should not exist. I would rather the charge just get built into my ticket than to have a 25% surcharge added.
Concession prices are reasonable, and parking is probably a bit on the high side. It's hard to complain too much, because this is certainly a must-see venue, but the price feels like it is starting to creep up to the upper most limit of being worth the price you pay for the experience.
One extra point for Tom Izzo. You have to appreciate both his loyalty to his program, and his entertaining antics on the sideline during a game.
I will always award an extra point for an arena that hangs a National Championship banner, and Michigan State has two that they can proudly display.
The fans are worth an additional point because it's only a 5 point scale, and they deserve a 6 or higher.
One final extra point for Sparty, one of the best mascots in all of college athletics.
The Breslin Center should be on your list to visit if you love college basketball. You never know how long Coach Izzo will be there, so make your plans to make it to East Lansing soon. You won't be disappointed by the experience.
With the success that Michigan State has had over the past 20 years, it's easy to see why the fans have become a ravenous crew. With high expectations and a devoted following, it's easy to see why the Breslin Center is a great place to catch a college basketball game.
They are known as the Izzone, the student section that can has come to define the basketball experience at the Jack Breslin Student Events Center on the campus of Michigan State University. There is a line to get into the building hours before the tip time and much of the student section is full within minutes of when the doors open an hour and a half before the scheduled game begins.
Gray concrete with accents of green is what you see when you enter the building. This would be just an ordinary looking arena without these students - nothing special.
However, since Tom Izzo took over the program from the legendary Judd Heathcote, the program has gone from solid to superb. It only feels like Michigan State is one of the most historic programs in college basketball history. In truth, prior to Izzo's arrival, the Spartans only reached the Final Four twice (in 1957 and 1979), winning the iconic championship with Magic Johnson and Greg Kelser in '79. Since Izzo, the program has reached the Final Four on 6 occasions ('99, '00, '01, '05, '09, and '10), winning the title in 2000 behind Mateen Cleaves and Morris Peterson.
You are bound to see a quality team and a fantastic crowd when you see MSU at the Breslin Center. Go grab a turkey drumstick, find your seat, and enjoy the experience!
Breslin center is a pretty plain typical basketball arena. Pretty good atmosphere inside.
122 N Harrison Rd
East Lansing, MI 48823
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1100 Trowbridge Rd
East Lansing, MI 48823