The MAC is anticipating record numbers for this year’s MAC Championship Game at Ford Field, with eyes to surpass the 25,483 mark set 10 years ago when Central Michigan and Ohio met in Detroit. That was just the third ever MAC Championship played at Ford Field, and the first to feature a Michigan MAC team.
A Mid-American Conference official spoke to Hustle Belt last night, and while they would not discuss specific figures, they noted that “a record crowd at Ford Field is expected.” When asked if this year’s MAC Championship attendance could break the all-time record - 28,085, set back in 1998 between Marshall and Toledo when the title game was played at campus sites - there was some hesitation, but optimism.
“It’ll depend on how many fans show up, but with 36,000 tickets out there, this could be the most attended MAC Championship in history, surpassing the 1998 game.”
Tickets have been flying out of the box office, with Western Michigan’s allotment sold out by Monday morning (according to their ticket page). As early as Monday afternoon, the Ford Field site had opened the 200 level seating for fans, and as of Tuesday evening, nearly all of the 201-215 section seats (“home” sideline) had sold out. As of Wednesday morning (and possibly earlier), $10 general admission seating (one end zone) had completely sold out.
With regards to the 36,000 ticket number given by the MAC official, that number can be assumed to be tickets available, not sold. How? For football, Ford Field lists a capacity of 65,000 fans. Take away one end zone that has been “sold” to advertising (Marathon), and the entire 300 level, and you could have a plausible 36,000 seat figure. (NOTE: as of Wednesday morning, the 300 level along the “visitor” sideline was being sold on the Ford Field site).
The 2016 MAC Championship is the first one since 2009 to not feature NIU. The “breath of fresh air” effect might help inflate figures, as well as the fact that this year’s MAC West Champion only has a two-hour drive to Detroit versus the five-hour road trip taken by a select few Huskie fans. In the the seven MAC Championship Games featuring NIU, Ford Field has only seen 20,000 fans or more once (2014, when the Huskies were 12-0 and played Bowling Green), with average attendance for the other six games around 14,500 fans.
The #13/14/17 Western Michigan Broncos (12-0, 8-0) take on the Ohio Bobcats (8-4, 6-2) on Friday at 7 pm for the MAC Championship.