Kelly/Shorts Stadium – Central Michigan Chippewas
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Fire Up Chips!
Established in 1892, Central Michigan University is one of the key football members of the Mid-American Conference. The Chippewas have been one of the most consistent performers on the field over the last twenty years. The Chips lay claim to seven MAC championships and have a 3-6 record in their nine bowl appearances entering the 2016 season. Central Michigan joined the MAC in 1972 and in their final year in Division II football in 1974, the Chippewas won the Division II National Championship. They have also won nine IIAC conference championships.
Central Michigan has an enrollment of over 28,000 students and is located in Mount Pleasant, Michigan, a quintessential college town with a smaller population than the enrollment of the school.
The home for the Chippewas is Kelly/Shorts Stadium. The stadium is named after a generous alum of 1900, R. Perry Shorts and former football coach Kenneth “Bill” Kelly.
Kelly was the coach of the Chippewas from 1951 to 1966. The Chippewas have seen great success over the years and have many distinguished football alumni including Joe Staley, Dan LeFevour, Jahleel Addae, Ray Bentley, and Antonio Brown. In 2005, the NCAA placed Central Michigan on the list of schools with abusive mascot names. Central Michigan, along with the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe appealed the decision by the NCAA, which was granted and the Chippewa name remains in use to this day.
The rallying cry at Central Michigan is “Fire Up Chips” a cry that even first time fans can’t help but join in on.
Food & Beverage 3
Concession options at Kelly/Shorts Stadium are pretty standard. There are a number of regular concession stands with a few portable concession tents. The expected items are found at the main concession stands. Hot dogs ($4), nachos, pretzels, popcorn ($7/$3), cookies, and candy are all available. The Grill has cheeseburgers, brats and andouille sausage. Pizza can be found at the Domino’s Pizza tents. Other items that can be found at portable tents include kettle corn, apple cider slushies, almonds, and walking tacos.
There are no alcohol sales at Kelly/Shorts Stadium so fans are relegated to hot and cold soft drinks. Pepsi products are available at most stands ($3.50/$6) as well as Gatorade and water. Hot chocolate and Tim Hortons coffee are also available in a couple different sizes including a souvenir travel mug.
Kelly/Shorts Stadium is not one of those massive, intimidating stadiums that you can find in various places in college football. It is also not one of those old classic stadiums where it is all about the history. With a capacity of 30,255, Kelly/Shorts Stadium is a great venue compared to other football stadiums in the MAC. It is not fancy, but it is also not just thrown together. The exterior of the stadium is not intimidating and features smart looking brick and wrought iron fencing around the perimeter.
The stadium features a horseshoe configuration with all of the seating on aluminum benches. The field has a north-south configuration and is open at the north end. The field is below grade level which aids the feeling that Kelly/Shorts is not intimidating.
Seating is a simple bowl with grandstands on the east, west and north sides. The west side has an upper level which includes the press box and suites. The northwest corner also features the Touchdown Terrace, which is a party deck for large groups. Both the north and south ends of the stadium have scoreboards and the north side scoreboard includes a very old video board that is in need of replacement.
Fans looking for that perfect picture of the the field with the logo facing the right way, the west bleacher is the place to be. Central Michigan does a decent job washing Kelly/Shorts Stadium in maroon and gold. Where the players enter from the north end there are large murals honoring the nine IIAC championships, 1979, 1980, 1990, 1994, 2006, 2007 and 2009 MAC championships, and the 1974 Division II National Championship. College Football Hall of Fame member, Coach Herb Deromedi is honored on the murals as well as the retired number 62 of Jim Podoley.
The game day experience at Kelly/Shorts Stadium is what you would expect from a good college program. The band and cheerleaders enter from the northeast corner of the stadium. The cheerleaders have their own pre-game routine followed by The Marching Chippewas, complete with high-stepping drum major, flag twirling, and full musical ensemble. The raising of the flag is a pretty big deal at the beginning of the game as the national anthem plays. A unique feature at a Chippewas game is the traditional ceremony by members of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan. Central Michigan has done a decent job of partnering with the tribe to help keep the Chippewa name at the university.
Before the opening kickoff, the cannon in the northeast corner of the stadium fires, startling those who are not expecting it. The cannon fires on Chips scores and the band does what it can to keep the energy up from their spot in the east grandstand. The Marching Chippewas play during halftime and do a terrific job.
Central Michigan University is a pretty significant part of Mount Pleasant. There are a few options for pre and postgame meals that are in the immediate area of Kelly/Shorts Stadium. On the opposite side of Mission St there are a few national chain restaurant options including Olive Garden, Red Lobster, and Buffalo Wild Wings. Some more unique options, like the Mount Pleasant Brewing Company, are available, but require a hop in the car to get there.
Fans looking to pair a Chips football game with other sporting events may be lucky enough to catch the Chippewas playing basketball at McGuirk Arena in November.
For fans coming to the game from a distance and looking for a place to stay, there are a few spots that are within walking distance of Kelly/Shorts Stadium. The Comfort Inn and Courtyard Marriott are options that are close by and reliable.
Considering the success that the Chips have seen over time, the crowds are a bit surprising. In the 2014 season, Central Michigan attracted an average of over 16,000 fans per game to Kelly/Shorts Stadium. That average dropped to just over 15,600 for the 2015 season. The Chips draw about the conference average, which is a little surprising. The game that was reviewed in the 2016 season saw the Chippewas draw under 10,000 fans.
For a program that has been as successful on the field as it has, more fans in the stands are generally expected. Of the fans in the stands it is clear that the most ardent, hardcore and vocal fans are members of the Marching Chippewas. From their vantage point in the east grandstand, the Marching Chippewas are constantly in motion and making noise, above and beyond their musical duties.
Mount Pleasant is located northwest of Saginaw, Michigan. The town is small and Central Michigan University is not too far from the south end of the city. Campus is easily reached by highway 127 and fans won’t have to drive too much through town to get to the stadium. There are plenty of parking lots on campus so parking should not be a problem. However, a little research will go a long way and pre-purchasing your parking from CMU is a wise idea and will make game day a little smoother.
Fans interested in public transportation can catch the Isabella County, I-Ride green or red routes for transport to and from the Chips game. Check out the I-Ride website for fares, maps and schedules.
The main ticketing window can be found at the north end of Kelly/Shorts Stadium. There’s plenty of space and no real issues with this permanent part of the stadium.
Getting around the stadium is no problem, especially with less than a capacity crowd in the house. The washroom facilities are more than adequate at Kelly/Shorts Stadium.
Return on Investment 5
Probably one of the best reasons to catch some MACtion, especially at Central Michigan, is the great return that the fans get on their investment. This is not one of the big, intimidating, expensive programs that can be found in the NCAA. Advance sales tickets go for $22 for adults with discounts for seniors and youth. Getting your tickets at the door will cost an extra $3.
Parking can also be purchased in advance for $10, which is recommended. Combine this with concession prices that are reasonable, and an on the field product which is vastly underrated, and fans have a recipe for a fantastic evening or afternoon of entertainment, without spending a ton of money. Central Michigan football may not be a bucket list item, but at these prices, it doesn’t need to be.
An extra mark for Central Michigan University partnering with the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan to keep the Chippewa name alive in a positive and respectful manner.
An extra mark for the underrated product of the Mid-American Conference. MACtion is pretty darn good.
An extra mark for the success the Chippewas have seen on the field, and the solid teams they continue to put out there.
Mount Pleasant, Michigan is not exactly a holiday destination. The Central Michigan Chippewas also do not carry the luster of their brethren in Ann Arbor or East Lansing. However, a trip to see the Chips is worth it. The MAC provides a great product at a great price and Kelly/Shorts Stadium is a good facility. After not too long, fans will find themselves joining the Marching Chippewas in shouting out the Central Michigan rallying cry “FIRE UP CHIPS!”
Food and Drink Recommendations
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