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  • Paul Swaney

Spartan Stadium - Michigan State Spartans

Photo courtesy of Michigan State University athletics

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.14

Spartan Stadium Red Cedar Rd and Shaw Lane East Lansing, MI 48824

Year Opened: 1923

Capacity: 75,005

Party with Sparty

In a span of 15 years, the Michigan State Spartans football program laid claim to six National Championships (1951-1966). It was a period of domination that has never been duplicated. Those halcyon days of Spartan supremacy may be gone, but much of the tradition of a proud program remains today.

Spartan Stadium has been the home of the Michigan State football team since 1923. It’s great to imagine that six championship squads have played in this stadium. Of course much has been renovated since those years in the 1950s and 60s. Nearly $100 million has been pumped into stadium renovations since 2005, and the additions have certainly helped the overall game day experience.

More seating, suites, and a beautiful press box were the results of the initial round of renovations. New scoreboards, ribbon boards, and sound system were installed in time for the 2012 season. For the 2014 season, new construction on the north side of the stadium provided an updated gate and entrance, additional restrooms and concessions, an updated locker room, as well as a training center, media center, and recruiting lounge.

The stadium arms race is in full swing in the Big Ten, and the folks in East Lansing are doing their part to ensure that Michigan State football keeps up. Perhaps, they will even raise the program to its glory days. After all, it’s been nearly 50 years since their last national championship.

Food & Beverage 4

One interesting twist on the food and beverage selection inside Spartan Stadium is that some of the best, or most unique, food items can be found in the corner of the stadium nearest the student section. Travel to the southeast corner of the concourse and you’ll find local Sparty’s Pizza ($4.50 a slice) and Maria’s Tacos (3 tacos or a burrito for $7.50). Both of these are perfect for students on a Saturday, and may make you feel like you’re back in college again as well. The best food items in the stadium however are found near section 24 at the Turkey Man stand (you can also find a stand set up outside the student entrance before the game begins). Here you’ll find gargantuan smoked turkey drumsticks ($10, and a personal favorite), as well as turkey sandwiches or wraps ($6), turkey ribs ($6, also delicious), turkey sausage, and turkey wings. Unless you have some kind of an aversion to turkey, this is the place to go at a Spartans game.

General concessions are found throughout the concourse, with enough stands to avoid lines. Basic offerings include bratwursts and Italian sausages ($5), hot dogs ($4.50), soft pretzel ($4), popcorn, nachos ($4.50), peanuts ($3), and other expected stadium food items. Soft drinks (referred to as “pop” in Michigan, not “soda”) are from Pepsi with drinks going for $4.50-$5, or $8 in a souvenir mug. Bottled water is $4.

Overall, there is a good selection, friendly service, and short lines throughout the stadium. Prices are up slightly since our last review during the 2013 season. Trust me on the turkey stand though, and head over there.

Atmosphere 4

Michigan State was founded as an agricultural college. The campus includes the longest continuously run botanical garden in the United States. This all sets the background for what is a lovely campus to walk around, with paths that are surrounded with trees. About two hours before kickoff, it is worthwhile to make the trip to the corner of Kalamazoo and Chestnut where you’ll find “The Spartan” statue. 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, individually touching the statue, is a very cool way to get things started. If you want to get some great pictures of the team as they walk up to the statue, consider hanging out closer to McLane Baseball Stadium, and the team will walk right by.

As with many college football experiences, the tailgating is a huge part of game day. You’ll find cars and tents up around the campus, and the smell of grilled sausage in the air. The most popular spot seems to be Munn Field, just outside Munn Ice Arena, where you can find parking for $20. There is no alcohol allowed on Munn Field, but I have noticed that this is enforced only for those people who are being deliberate and obnoxious. Parking garages are available in the vicinity for $20 and $15.

Once the gates open, about an hour and half before kickoff, you’ll find students pouring in as they try to get the best seat in the student section. The rest of the crowd is slower to descend, enjoying their tailgate party. In any case, make sure you’re in your seat 25 minutes prior to kickoff. The Michigan State marching band will take the field about 20 minutes to kickoff, and you don’t want to miss this very talented squad.

The football team will take the field about eight minutes before the kick, with the iconic Sparty, one of the best mascots in college athletics, leading the charge and planting an American flag at mid-field.

The new scoreboards and sound system will help to enhance your experience. The end zone scoreboards give you all the information you need to enjoy the game, and also keep you updated on other scores throughout the country. The real stars as far as energy are the students. Yells of “Go GREEN!” are answered with “Go WHITE!” and you can’t help but join in.

Seating consists of cold metal bleachers throughout, with decent leg room. Given a choice of seats, find your way into the upper deck, above the students so that you can have a great view of the play on the field, and soak in the infectious energy of the crowd.

Neighborhood 4

Anytime you’re in East Lansing, your first stop should be Harrison Roadhouse. They have an excellent beer selection and delicious burgers. Best of all, if you’re not tailgating, you can park in their parking lot at the cost of $20. In exchange they give you a voucher for $20 in food, so if you plan on eating there, parking is essentially free. You then have a walk of about a mile through the scenic campus to Spartan Stadium. This is my recommendation for those who aren’t planning on tailgating. Another favorite is the Dublin Square Pub. It is a slightly upscale version of your Irish pub, with a beautiful bar and good food.

There are plenty of hotels in the area, but it’s a good idea to book well in advance if you’ll be staying near the stadium on a Saturday game day. I have stayed at the Howard Johnson on Trowbridge Road in the past, and it is adequate for your stay.

Other options in the neighborhood include a trip to the Michigan State Capitol building, about three miles to the west. You may also want to check the schedule of the Lansing Lugnuts to see if they have a home game at Cooley Law School Stadium if you want to catch some minor league baseball (for early season football games only).

Basketball fans should walk over to the Breslin Center, and get a picture with the bronze statue of Magic Johnson. You may also want to check the schedules for the volleyball team, soccer team, and hockey team as you may have an opportunity to see two games in one day depending on the month of the season you’re visiting.

Fans 5

Spartan Stadium averages more fans per game than its official capacity lists, typically at or around 20th in the nation in average attendance. Students will be lined up hours in advance to get into the stadium, and they are loud and energetic throughout the contest. You’ll find generations of Spartan alumni and fans. It’s a happy atmosphere, especially when the green and white are winning.

Access 4

Once you get inside the stadium, it is fairly roomy, especially for a stadium in its 9th decade hosting football. Restrooms are spacious and reasonably clean. There is certainly plenty of parking, and the price is reasonable. You’ll pay anywhere from $10-$20 depending on how much you’re willing to walk. You can park in Lot 89 at the corner of Mt. Hope Road and Farm Lane and take a shuttle to the game, which will cost you $4 round trip.

If you plan on tailgating, then consider purchasing a parking pass in advance, as most of the lots closest to Spartan Stadium are filled up.

There’s a parking garage on Harrison, which charges $20 to park on game days. It’s a good option if you can’t find anything else, or if it is a rainy day.

Return on Investment 4

Tickets are priced as either regular games or premium games. Prices range from $50-$100 for regular games, and $80-$150 for premium games (games against rivals or big name opponents). Concessions and parking are both affordable, and if you do the experience the right way and spend the day tailgating or on campus, then you will surely have an experience that is worth every penny you spend.

Extras 4

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 six National Championships. An additional point for the renovations and commitment to continuing the game day experience at Spartan Stadium.

The ribbon boards above the end zone are an especially nice addition as they maintain the current scoreboard of conference foes and the rest of college football.

Final Thoughts

There’s no doubt that Spartan Stadium is one of the best college football stadium experiences in the country, and certainly a venue that you should try to see once in your lifetime. It’s a lot of fun, has plenty of history and enthusiasm, and it is priced right.

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