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Official Review by Joshua Guiher, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The Little Caesars Pizza Bowl is played at Ford Field. The game was originally known as the Motor City, but Little Caesars became in the title sponsor in 2009. The game generally pits a team from the MAC against the 8th bowl eligible Big Ten team. For our 2011 visit, the match-up featured the Purdue Boilermakers and the Western Michigan Broncos.
Beginning in 2014, the bowl will be known as the Quick Lane Bowl with the Ford Motor Company as the title sponsor, and backed by the Detroit Lions. Conference tie-ins are with the Big Ten, and the ACC.
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".
There are so many food options it is hard to just pick a few. Some of the more popular options were the Big Boy stands, which sell a double decker burger ($6). There is also a Poletown Sausage stand that offers kielbasa ($8). If you want a more traditional hot dog, try the Extreme Dogs stand where you can get just about any topping you want on a hot dog, but it will cost you up to $7.50.
The main drink focus was alcohol. They offered draft beer, bottled beer, mixed drinks and margaritas and the stands were everywhere. A draft beer cost $8.75 while a bottle was $8. The mixed drinks were $8 and margaritas cost $11.
They also offered soda, although it wasn't displayed as prominently. The best purchase was the $6.50 souvenir cup that offered unlimited refills.
As for Little Caesars pizza, well, you aren't going to find it because Hungry Howie's has an exclusive deal for pizza at Ford Field. In fact, they couldn't even serve Little Caesars in the press box. Ultimately, this is why I rated food & beverage as a 4 star instead of 5.
The atmosphere at a bowl game varies so much based on what teams are playing and how many fans make the trip. In the case of the Little Caesars Bowl, traditionally the atmosphere is lacking, but this year the bowl got two teams who traveled well to Detroit for the game, Western Michigan and Purdue.
The game itself was entertaining as well, which helped keep the crowd loud throughout the contest.
The real drawback is that no matter how much bowls try, the atmosphere just isn't the same as a home game. Unless the game itself is high profile and sold out, the atmosphere just isn't noteworthy.
The ads and sponsor mentions just get in the way of the bands and crowds naturally cheering and jeering the action, sometimes actually distracting from the atmosphere.
Overall the Little Caesars Bowl did a decent job of keeping a balance between letting the bands play and keeping the sponsors happy.
If you read the reviews that I write, you probably notice that I am not a huge fan of big cities. I find it difficult to find parking and to get where I want to go without being hounded for money.
While I didn't venture too far, I found it easy to get around the area near Ford Field. It was snowing and I was carrying a laptop, my camera bag with multiple lenses and two tripods, so I just made a quick stop in Hockeytown Cafe to check out the menu before working my way past Comerica Park and to Ford Field. While I didn't eat at the cafe, I wish I had as I have been told the food is good and the hot dog I had at the stadium was less than filling.
The area where I parked was nice as well and I didn't feel worried leaving my car in that area, which I cover more in the access section.
Both teams traveled with a decent number of fans, especially when you take into consideration their average sized home crowd. The stadium was only about half full, but the fans that showed up were pretty loud. I know some of that can be artificial since Ford Field is a dome, but I was on the field and at times it was very difficult to hear.
The best part was the fans were quite civilized to each other and I didn't witness any fights like you normally see at bowl games when you have so many opposing team fans.
Tailgating was pretty non-existent, but based on the cold weather than can be excused.
Parking was $20-$35 at the stadium, which is cheaper than a Detroit Lions game, but still too much in my opinion for a game that was nowhere near a sellout. I did a little exploring and found an entire neighborhood that has free street parking just two blocks from Ford Field and Comerica Park.
Just travel up Brush Street or John R Street and park anywhere you can find space anywhere from Winder Street north. It was such an easy walk and I beat most of the traffic from the stadium lots to the Interstate.
The concourses were wide enough for the number of fans at the bowl game, but I can imagine they are a bit tight during a sold out game.
Restrooms were easy to find, clean and there was hardly any wait.
Tickets were a bit pricey in my opinion for a game that has never sold out. It was much easier to buy from a scalper for well below face value than to pay full price to get tickets through the bowl or the schools. Tack on the Ticketmaster fees and there is no way I would pay face value for a ticket to the Little Caesars Bowl.
The game and the experience were worth the trip, however, so I guess it has more to do with how much following your school is worth to you.
Because the bowl is located in Detroit, it lacks some of the great fan interaction events that you get at warm-weather games. Not being able to interact with the players at a beach bash or at an amusement park really detracts from the bowl experience.
There is just not a lot planned to keep visitors in the city for anything but the game. No Lions game at Ford Field the day before or the day after, and the only Red Wings game at Joe Louis Arena was played at the same time as the bowl game.
I have to say this was the most disappointing part of the entire experience. Bowls are meant to attract people that would normally never visit a city and to encourage them to experience the entire city. To me, the Little Caesars Bowl seemed to be on its own island only bringing fans in for the game and nothing else.
The stadium is fairly decent, but a single game experience and the cold weather left me wanting more from my bowl experience at the Little Caesars Bowl.
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