Fan Traffic for MSU vs. CMU Game Could Overwhelm Mount Pleasant
Space will come at a premium this weekend as Central Michigan University hosts the Spartans for the first time in Mount Pleasant.
The game has been sold out for more than a month and even for those with tickets, finding parking spots could be a challenge.
Police say fans will need to bring lots of patience this weekend. Parking at CMU is slim, about 5,000 spots. The university is expecting well over 30,000 to attend the game.
"The road infrastructure will be tested, we know that," Captain Paul Lauria with Mount Pleasant Police said. "We know that there's going to be an unbelievable amount of foot traffic, something that we probably have never seen in the history of Mount Pleasant."
Police and the university have been preparing for the game, and the fans it will bring, for more than a year. They say they're ready, but Saturday will be a test.
Central's record crowd is just over 30,000. The meeting of these teams will shatter that.
"It will and obviously we'll have more people that that," CMU Athletic Director Dave Heeke said. "We have some standing room tickets, we have obviously all the people here that are working and observing."
Add to that the tailgaters and you get a weekend influx of 40,000-60,000 fans, possibly more.
"I think it's going to be our busiest day ever," John Hunter, co-owner of O'Kelly's Sports Bar said. "My dad's been here 38 years, so that's saying a lot."
O'Kelly's is one of many businesses pumped for the game. Along with specials, it's added parking to the menu, selling spots to fans who can't find a place on campus.
"It's a hard town to drive in on a normal day, I can't imagine with 70,000 extra people what it's going to be like," D.J. Baker of Mount Pleasant said. "I think it's going to be good for the university, good for the town, but I'm not looking forward to it, I can tell you that much."
Parking's not the only challenge. If you're looking for a hotel you won't find one in Mount Pleasant. Every room is booked, and even surrounding communities are filling up.
Police say the city will be congested, but the game should also be fun.
"There's a healthy rivalry between the two schools, of which we've had a little bit of success, so that fuels the interest level," Heeke said.
Those rivalries did not extend to traffic planning. Central Michigan and police say they took some tips from their opponents while preparing for the huge traffic volumes. Officers talked with both MSU and Michigan about how to handle the crowds.
Police say fans will find getting out more challenging that getting in. According to officials, leaving the game will take you between two and two-and-a-half hours.
Fans can find additional parking at businesses along Mission Street.