The Chippewas of Central Michigan University are often overlooked in the scene of college football in the state of Michigan due to their Big Ten cousins in the southern part of the state. While Kelly/Shorts Stadium won’t be taking the title of best college football experience over Michigan Stadium or Spartan Stadium anytime soon, it would be a mistake to dismiss the Chips altogether.
Kelly/Shorts Stadium has a capacity of just over 30,000, which seems to be the right size for this university. For big games, they’ll fill the stadium and the rowdy student section packs enough energy to carry the day, and a better than average pep band keeps the crowd in the action regardless of the score.
As for the product on the field, Central Michigan has had a strong program over the years and they are typically in the running for a Mid American Conference title. The team has won 15 conference championships over the years (seven in the MAC), and have appeared in six bowl games. Their most recent bowl victory came in a thrilling three point win over Troy in 2009 in the GMAC Bowl (now the GoDaddy.com Bowl).
If you’re only willing to go to games in the Big Ten across the Midwest, then you’re missing out on some really good smaller venues, and Kelly/Shorts Stadium definitely fits that description.
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The food and beverage selection is decent enough at Kelly/Shorts Stadium, but there is one star item. Make sure you visit the small stand known as Jose's Pig Gig. Here they offer authentic "Caribbean Style Open Pit Grilling". I tried the pulled pork sandwich, and it was amazing and more unique than you will find with other pulled pork items around the country. Just be sure to grab one more napkin than you think you need, because you'll need it.
At the main concession stands you'll find about what you would expect. Above many of the main stands you'll see a mini scoreboard, so you can keep up on the game. Hot dogs ($3), pretzel bites ($4), and nachos ($3.50) are available, with each one being about 50 cents more than they probably should be.
Drinks include mammoth-sized Pepsi products in either a 32-ounce ($3.50) or 44-ounce ($4) options. You can also spring for the souvenir sized drink and have a cup to take home with you ($7). Coffee ($2.50) and hot chocolate ($3) are also available in a larger size than what you might expect. There's a souvenir sized cup available here as well ($7). Water ($2.50) and Gatorade ($3) is also on hand. Beer and other alcoholic drinks are not served at Kelly/Shorts Stadium.
The Central Michigan Chippewas enter the playing field through an inflatable CMU helmet and a cloud of smoke, and head across the entire field over to the student section where they embrace (and are embraced) by the student section. It is a love fest that sets the tone for much of the energy that is seen throughout the contest.
The Chippewa Marching Band is also very good, adding an enjoyable atmosphere for pre-game, halftime and from their seats near the 20 yard line throughout.
The seating is mostly bleacher seats, and not ideal for the long game time of a college football contest. This is one stadium where I would advise sitting as far back as possible in the hopes that you may find a little extra room to stretch out. Also, because of the stadium's smallish size, you will have a great view, even if you find yourself in the very back corner of the seating at Kelly/Shorts Stadium.
If you like to sit at the 50 yard line, then you should be aiming to sit in section F, but one section over in either direction (E or G) would also work well.
It's a horseshoe shape design at Kelly/Shorts Stadium with the main scoreboard found in the end without seating. The scoreboard is fairly basic but does have a nice videoboard, and displays down and distance, as well as the rushing yards, and passing yards for each team, giving fans some good additional information to analyze the game from their seats.
There are several nearby locations to have a meal or a drink, as well as plenty of nearby hotels if you are staying the area for a night. My favorite place to visit while in Mt Pleasant is the Mt Pleasant Brewing Company. It is located a couple of miles away from Kelly/Shorts Stadium. If you are a fan of local microbrews, then this is the place for you. They generally have eight of their beers on tap. Mt Pleasant Brewing Company also has really good (and affordably priced) sandwiches, and very friendly staff.
If you want to stay in the area, then Buffalo Wild Wings is a safe choice and has plenty of TVs to stay up on the action, especially on a Saturday. There are plenty of other options along Mission Street, including several chains. The original La Senorita can be found here, which is a personal favorite of mine.
Central Michigan University is consistently named as one of the top party schools in the United States, so if you are expecting to find a vibrant tailgating scene before a Chippewas game, then you will not be disappointed. Greater restrictions were put in place prior to the 2009 season for tailgating, specifically in the hopes of curbing the raucous behavior often found in the notorious Lot 63. It is worthwhile for fans to read up beforehand to ensure they meet the requirements. In any case, tailgating is still the way to go if you're going to see a game at Kelly/Shorts Stadium.
Once inside, the student section will be full for whatever game you attend. They will be standing and they will be loud, you can count on it. The student section is in the end zone and provides tremendous energy for the entire stadium which the team clearly feeds off.
Parking for Central Michigan football will cost fans $15 for premium games (big non-conference opponents and games vs Western Michigan), and $10 for other games. It may be advisable for higher profile games to get your pass in advance, but in most cases you will be fine to pay when you arrive.
Inside Kelly/Shorts Stadium, the concourses are very wide to accommodate the flow of pedestrians, and rest rooms are clean and ample in size.
Tickets are reasonably affordable with seniors/youth tickets going for $15 and all other seats starting at $22. The concession prices are just a tad on the high side, and parking prices are about what you would expect. All in all, you get what you pay for when you see a game at CMU's Kelly/Shorts Stadium.
The school has been able to find a balance between providing a safe environment for tailgating while still having that edge as a top notch party school. Compared to most tailgating scenes that I have seen in the MAC, Central Michigan is top notch. Even if you don't plan on tailgating yourself, take a walk through the student tailgate area and let the excitement of the students prepare you for what awaits.
One additional extra point for the Chippewa Marching Band, one of the best squads in the MAC.
A trip to Mt Pleasant, Michigan is worth your sports dollar. Located in the middle of the Great Lakes State, Kelly/Shorts Stadium is an easy drive for any resident of Michigan's Lower Peninsula. I would recommend taking a look at the schedule and making the trip.
Central Michigan University football has probably been the best kept secret in the Midwest College Football landscape over the past decade for two reasons: 1) Mike DeBord for his four years of caveman-like football regression and 2) the school's location (Mount Pleasant is exactly 60 minutes north of Michigan State on U.S. 127, but there is nothing for miles coming from the east, west and north!). So, how can a stadium in a town in the middle of nowhere (a good sized town, too) named after two major donors (no, not after Brian Kelly) be good for FBS college football?
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