"On the banks of the red cedar, there's a school that's known to all." I wonder how true that statement is today? While there are only 7 FBS schools who can claim to have more national championships than the Michigan State Spartans (Alabama, Michigan, Notre Dame, USC, Pittsburgh, Ohio State, and Oklahoma), the green and white are rarely a team that comes to mind when thinking of the all-time great college football programs.
Since 1923, the Michigan State football teams have played their home games at Spartan Stadium. With a current seating capacity of 75,005, the stadium feels large and loud, without feeling like one of the behemoths of college football venues.
Spartan Stadium is located amongst many of the other sports facilities on the campus of Michigan State, including the Breslin Center, Munn ice Arena, and Jenison Fieldhouse.
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".
My experience at college football stadiums was telling me to expect the ordinary, but I was pleasantly surprised at Spartan Stadium. The best food selection can be found near the student section between sections 10-16.
Maria's Tacos (near section 16) offers single tacos for only $2.50, a great little snack for the college fan. You can also choose from a burrito, taco salad, or 3 tacos ($7). Down the line a bit more is Sparty's Pizza, a typical college pizza joint with slices going for $4.
Smokestack BBQ is also in this area of the course. Here you can find a BBQ sandwich, smokestack ribs, and BBQ pork nachos (delicious), and each are only $6. If you would rather have an encased meat, then the Spartanville stand (Johnsonville products) is also in this portion of the concourse. Selections include various brats and Italian sausage ($5 each).
Perhaps my favorite place to grab a bite inside Spartan Stadium is from the Turkey Man stand near section 24. Here you'll find a pork chop sandwich ($6), smoked turkey drumstick ($8), turkey sausage ($3.50), or the fantastic turkey ribs ($6).
Soda is provided by Pepsi and is offered in three sizes, both the large and medium coming in a cup that you can take home with you ($3.50, $4, or $6.50).
For the Spartan football team and many fans, the experience begins at the Spartan statue about 2 hours before kickoff. Designed by Leonard D. Jungwirth in 1945, the current bronze statue is a replica of the original terra cotta design. The experience of the marching band playing as the team walks by, dressed in their suits, and individually touches the statue is a very cool way to get things started. The statue is due north of the stadium just off of Kalamazoo Avenue.
Once inside the stadium, the interactions between the fans and the marching band, under the direction of John T. Madden, are an absolute highlight and a big reason why the energy is so electric, even against a lower-tier opponent like I saw during my visit.
Each time the marching band plays the fight song, during the portion that would be accompanied by the lyrics, "see their team is weakening" - the students yell out, "WEAK!" to emphasize their disdain for the opposing team. Another indication comes during the pre-game when the marching band pays tribute to the opponent by playing their fight song. However, they do so as they march away from the booing student section. When the song is over, the band does an about face toward the students again, and you hear the cheers as they play the MSU fight song once again.
Just before kickoff, the PA announcer comes on and gives a rundown of the temperature, chance of rain, and general forecast for the game. He then says dramatically, "It's a beautiful day for football." Many in the crowd say this familiar phrase along with him, which I imagine he says even if it's 20 degrees and snowing, because after all, isn't it always a beautiful day to play football?
The seating is cold metal bleachers throughout, with the exception of 7 rows of green plastic seats on each sideline running between the 25 yard lines. The room in the bleachers is relatively good with ample leg room and some room under the seat.
The funny thing about the room underneath the seat is that it is completely unnecessary. The reason is because there are absolutely no bags allowed in Spartan Stadium. Student backpack? No. Small purse? No. Sandwich bag? Nope. My camera was allowed in to the stadium, but the small bag I carry it in was prohibited. This is just plain overkill and is a policy that needs to be revisited by the administration to improve the fan experience.
The campus is beautiful and it is worth the time to meander about, especially if it is one of those crisp fall days. Many people are busy tailgating and enjoy the sprawling areas around Spartan Stadium and the rest of the athletic complexes.
It's a bit of a hike if you're going to walk some place to grab some food or a brew. Two places that I particularly like are Harrison's Roadhouse and Dublin Square. The Roadhouse has excellent burgers and food in general, and has a great Spartan vibe. Dublin Square is a slightly upscale version of your Irish pub, with a beautiful bar and good food.
The students at Michigan State are tremendous fans. I knew this already from my experience attending MSU basketball games, and I was happy to see that this was still the case for football, but in even greater numbers. The trademark cheer is the simple, but effective split where one half yells, "GO GREEN!" and the remaining side answers, "GO WHITE!"
Like many student sections, you'll see keys on third down, indicating the fans' desire for a key defensive stop. Overall, the student section is packed, and overflows into the upper deck and surrounding sections. Alumni and other fans do their part to help cheer on the Spartans as well.
I parked in the parking garage near the Breslin Center for a reasonable $15. There is plenty of additional affordable parking, with one of the favorites being the alcohol-free lot near Munn Ice Arena.
Once you get inside the stadium, it is fairly roomy, especially for a stadium in its 9th decade hosting football. Restrooms were large and spacious.
Tickets are $49 for non-conference games, and then jump up to $75 for Big Ten play. There is a good selection of food and the prices are reasonable, pricing is about average and perhaps slightly below average. In all, a September game will cost you about $80, and the price jumps to just over $100 for Big Ten games. There's history and excitement at Spartan Stadium, and it is definitely a worthwhile trip for any fan of college football.
I'll award one extra point for the full rosters of their Big Ten winning squads on the Spartan Stadium wall near Gate D. Another extra point for being in a building that hosted the winners of 6 National Championships.
I'll give two additional points for just turned out to be very good timing. The first is a point for making my way to the Spartan statue just in time to see the team walk by. It is one of those special moments that happen in college football, and worth your time. I was also fortunate to witness B.J. Cunningham's catch which made him the all-time leader in receptions for the Spartans, and I was very impressed by how many fans stood to applaud before being prompted on the significance of the moment.
There's no doubt that Spartan Stadium is one of the 25 or so college football stadiums that you should try to see once in your lifetime. It's a lot of fun, has plenty of history, and is priced right. Now, they just need to reconsider their bag policy.
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122 N Harrison Rd
East Lansing, MI 48823
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