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  • Paul Swaney

Michigan Stadium - Michigan Wolverines

Photos by Paul Swaney, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.71

Michigan Stadium 1201 S Main St Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Year Opened: 1927

Capacity: 109,901

The Big House

On a sunny Saturday autumn afternoon, there are many people across the Midwest who think about a day of tailgating and watching football as the perfect way to spend their day. This activity is not unique to Ann Arbor, Michigan, but there is certainly enough demand to justify a venue that holds nearly 110,000. The third largest stadium in the world and the largest stadium in the United States, Michigan Stadium was constructed in 1927 at the insistence of legendary Michigan coach Fielding Yost. It originally seated 72,000, but was quickly updated to seat over 85,000. Renovations over the years have gradually boosted capacity until 2010 when it reached 109,901, its current capacity. On September 7, 2013 the stadium hosted a record capacity of 115,109 in a night game against Notre Dame.

Michigan is one of the (if not the) most storied programs in the history of college football. Coaching legends such as Fielding Yost, Fritz Crisler, Lloyd Carr, and Bo Schembechler have walked the sidelines. Great players such as Tom Harmon, Desmond Howard, Tom Brady, and Charles Woodson have awed the massive crowds. The 38th President of the United States, Gerald Ford, wore number 48 for the maize and blue and was a star at center on teams that won back-to-back national championships in 1932 and 1933. The program has won more games than any other college football program in any division by a margin making up several seasons worth of games. “Hail To The Victors” is among the most recognizable fight songs in all of football and the famous winged helmets are immediately recognizable to even the most casual sports fan.

Since Jim Harbaugh’s return to his alma mater as head coach there seems to be a revamped energy around Wolverine football games. With the recent ascendancy of the program, this may just be the perfect time to see a game at Michigan Stadium.

All of this is to say that the Big House and a Michigan football game should sit squarely on even the shortest list of must see venues for any sports fan. The grandiosity, history, and pure joy of a Saturday in Ann Arbor is a must for all avid stadium travelers.

Food & Beverage 4

The quality of concessions at a Michigan Wolverines football game is better than what you may be used to at other stadiums. You won’t be blown away by the variety of options, but everything here is done well, and there are numerous outlets so that waiting in line will not be a major hassle. The majority of standard concessions are found along the interior of the concourse. Hot dogs ($5-$6.50) and bratwursts ($7.50) are provided by Dearborn Sausage Company, and they are very good. The price is probably slightly on the high side, and I would recommend the bratwurst for your encased meat needs.

Cottage Inn, a local chain, provides pizza at Michigan games. It costs $11 for a small pepperoni or cheese pizza. Other options include BBQ pulled pork sandwiches or nachos ($9), popcorn ($5.50), boxes of candy ($4.50), and soft pretzels ($5.50).

Coca-Cola products are on offer in various sizes. A souvenir beverage mug is $10, a 32-ounce souvenir cup soda is $7, and a 20-ounce bottle of pop is $5. Bottled water will cost $4.50, while hot chocolate or coffee is $3.50. Keep in mind that there are “hydration stations” located in at least three locations around the concourse where you can pick up a free cup of water.

At the Victors Grill you can find even greater selections, including the rather unique Buffalo chicken waffle taco ($8), chicken tenders basket ($10), cheeseburger ($9), vegetarian black bean burger ($9), French fries ($7), and chicken sandwich ($9).

There is a gluten free concession stand near the Tisch Tower, and you can also find gluten free hot dogs at some of the main concession stands.

For the best food available inside the stadium, I recommend a stop at Big C’s Smoked BBQ, located along the outer concourse near section 8.

Overall, the food and beverage is somewhat expensive, but better quality than similar stadiums. If you’re staying in Ann Arbor though, save your appetite for the large selection of excellent restaurants found downtown.

Atmosphere 5

Perhaps the most important thing about attending a game at the Big House is to take your time. Make a day of it and soak it all in. If you love to tailgate, then this is a great place to do it. You can shoot for the Ann Arbor Pioneer High School parking lot, the University of Michigan golf course, or in numerous driveways, church parking lots, or public parks surrounding the stadium. This is an important part of the game day experience, and really adds to the visit. As you may imagine, getting into the stadium can be a somewhat crowded experience. Be aware that bags of any kind are not allowed inside the stadium, so only bring essentials with you, and what you can comfortably fit into your pockets.

Gates open approximately 2 hours before kickoff, and I would recommend entering the stadium around one hour prior to kickoff. If you wait too long, you can experience a bottleneck and may miss the opening kickoff. The Michigan marching band performs about 20 minutes before kickoff. They are without a doubt one of the best marching bands in college football, something you won’t want to miss. This goes for halftime as well. Try to avoid a trip to the restrooms or concessions during intermission if you can.

Despite the massive size of Michigan Stadium in terms of capacity, it actually feels rather intimate due to its bowl design. There is only minimal space between the stands and the playing field, and a view from the back row hardly feels like a negative to your viewing experience.

That said, something has to give when you factor in the number of people in the stands and the relative proximity to the game. Seats are small and uncomfortable, with very little room between rows. If you’re in the student section, this is somewhat alleviated by the fact that the young men and women stand throughout the contest, but in other sections , where you mostly sit, it is quite uncomfortable. In fact, a back row seat may be the best seat in the house if you would like some back support and avoid having someone’s knees pressed against you.

There are two large scoreboards with HD video screens behind all of the seats at each end of the stadium. They measure 4,000 square feet and provide announcements, stats, replays, and scores from around college football for fans throughout the stadium. In 2016, the pre-game hype video is narrated by Michigan alumnus James Earl Jones, and it really is quite spectacular. Fun fact, Michigan Stadium was the first sports stadium in the United States to utilize electronic scoreboards, back in 1930.

Neighborhood 5

Ann Arbor, Michigan is truly one of the great college towns in the United States. If you’re not tailgating, then spend your day exploring campus and downtown. Main Street is less than a mile away, where you’ll find a great variety of excellent restaurants, bars, shopping, and breweries. There are numerous places I can recommend from personal experience, and all are listed on the location tab of this review. If you have a specific question or want a recommendation, then feel free to ask in our forum area.

Ann Arbor is full of local places to eat worth trying. Zingerman’s is a favorite spot and is featured on ESPN as the local place to go, and would be a perfect early morning stop if you want to get supplies for a gourmet tailgating party. Places like the Blue Tractor and Arbor Brewing Company provide excellent options as well.

If you like Italian food, then Gratzi and Mani Osteria are both great places to go, especially if you want something a little more upscale. Frita Batidos serves up tasty Cuban-inspired food. The Blue Nile serves up Ethiopian food which is both unique and delicious. Kids will love the Ann Arbor Children’s Museum. There are several other great spots. If you’re not a regular in town, and don’t want to tailgate, then go downtown and explore a bit.

Hotel accommodations can be found clustered near I-94 just to the south of the stadium, but expect to pay a hefty sum to stay here. If you’re flying in, the Detroit airport is about 20 miles to the east along I-94 and there are plenty of hotels there for a much better rate.

Fans 5

Michigan fans love their team and it shows on game day. The stands are decked out in maize and blue with only slight flecks of green or red depending on the visiting teams’ colors. The crowd is appreciative of the program’s rich history and will explode when a former great visits the stadium, or a video of a recent standout graces the big screen.

This crowd loves to cheer, and the playing of Hail to the Victors, one of the absolute best pep songs in the history of mankind, will bring students young and old to a fevered pitch.

Access 4

The key here is patience. If you are looking to set a new record of stadium to highway, then you will likely be frustrated by the traffic involved in attending a Michigan football game at the Big House. Take your time and enjoy the atmosphere, and set your expectations low when it comes to fighting traffic, both before and especially after the game. That said, the university and police do an excellent job of keeping folks moving on their way.

Parking can be quite expensive, with premium spots in the Ann Arbor Pioneer High School parking lot ranging from $50-$80. Further south, consider parking in the lots near the corner of Main Street and Valhalla Drive. The rates vary based on the opponent (generally around $40), but if you mention “Stadium Journey” they’ll take $5 off the cost of parking for the day.

You’ll find numerous other parking options surrounding the stadium, with $20-$25 being a typical price, but you may have to walk quite a distance. If you’re not tailgating, then consider parking downtown in one of the many parking structures.

Lines for restrooms can certainly form at halftime or immediately following the game. Consider missing a couple of minutes of game action in return for waiting less in line.

Return on Investment 5

Ticket prices vary based on the opponent, but generally you should be able to get end zone seats starting around $65. Consider using our ticket partner, Ticket Monster, where Stadium Journey premium members get 10% off ticket purchases. Overall, if you go all out and tailgate in one of the nearby lots, purchase good seats, and eat at the stadium, you can spend $200-$300 per person, but there are certainly ways to save money and cut that price drastically, especially if you’re willing to walk a bit from your chosen parking location. This is one of those stadiums that will be found on many bucket lists, and well it should be. Make the trip and you’ll feel like it is money well spent.

Extras 5

Just pick anything. There are so many things to award points for here that it’s almost pointless counting. Whether it’s tailgating on the UM Golf Course, rising in chorus to “Hail To The Victors,” marching through the brick gates into one of the most storied stadiums in college football or the team running from the tunnel and jumping to touch the “Go Blue” banner, there’s something spectacular around every corner. The Big House is on the short list of top treasures in college football. An extra mark for Michigan having a US President (Gerald Ford) in their group of Legends.

An extra mark for the Michigan Marching Band, which is worth the show all by itself.

An extra mark for over 130 years of Michigan football tradition. The fact that Michigan has the most wins in the history of college football, and is also an 11-time National Champion, just adds to the ambiance of the home venue. You can’t help but appreciate the history as you walk the concourse and see the tributes to the championship teams outside sections 20-26, or the great player tributes outside sections 1-5.

Final Thoughts

There is no doubt that a trip to Michigan Stadium belongs in any list of the best stadium experiences in college football, the United States, North America, or worldwide. Come to Ann Arbor and see what the Big House is all about.

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