Final Four fans gear up to pack sports bars Saturday
When one of your state’s home teams is in the Final Four of the NCAA Championships, joining the celebration requires planning.
It’s a safe bet that just about any bar with a television will be showing the basketball game, so be prepared for crowds well before the 6:09 p.m. tipoff.
At Haymaker Public House in Ann Arbor — home of of the University of Michigan, which will battle Loyola University Chicago Saturday night for a chance at the finals — the owners and staff are preparing for an onslaught of fan frenzy.
“We actually redesigned the whole bar for a day like (Saturday) so we can fit more people in and so we can make it more of a party atmosphere,” said Operating Partner Mark Adams. “It makes it more conducive to crowds coming in and watching the game.”
Haymaker, 203 E. Washington in Ann Arbor, is known for being a sports pub with craft beers and hearty fare.
Adams said for the game last Saturday there was a wait to be seated as early as two hours before game started. His advice to anyone looking to party at a sports bar on Saturday is to arrive as early as possible.
“Be prepared to commit the evening to it,” he said. “It’s a good time. You’re with other fans that are all there for the same reason, so it’s not going to kill you to come in an hour or two early.”
Adams said a popular drink this weekend will be the newly-released Bell’s Oberon on draft — they went through two kegs of it earlier this week. He also said that UM fans go through “an inordinate amount” of their humongous, one-pound soft pretzels, which are served with beer cheese and ale mustard.
“It’s a perfect sharing food, especially for games,” he said, estimating that during the tournament they’ve sold four times as many of the $12 snacks as they normally do.
In other pretzel-related Wolverine news, the Pretzel Bell, 226 S. Main in Ann Arbor, is also preparing for big crowds Saturday and is calling itself “March Madness Headquarters.”
Owned by University of Michigan alumni, Pretzel Bell has 32 screens and on Saturday will offer shareable appetizers like fries, fried Brussels sprouts and wings for $4. There will be even more deals on Monday for the final championship game, including 75-cent wings.
“When Michigan is playing there is no better place to be watching the game,” said Pretzel Bell general manager Jason Wells. “We pack the entire house full, the excitement and passion and all of the Michigan fans in one place, it’s very surreal.”
The Pretzel Bell has room for private events, too. Call (734) 994-2773 to check availability.
Some fans may opt to watch the game in their living room, either to avoid crowds or to have the privacy for a meltdown should their team lose.
Joe Kirkland of Detroit is one of those fans. His family has deep ties to the University of Michigan, where he earned his graduate degree, but he attended Loyola University for his undergrad, so this game has a lot of emotion for him.
“I’m deeply conflicted,” he said. “These sort of games make me exceedingly nervous, so I enjoy being able to pace and mutter and swear in the relative privacy of my home, in the company of a few sympathetic friends.”
Kirkland does have fond memories of watching past NCAA tournaments at Third Street Bar in Detroit, where the fans were vocally in support of UM, yet there was still room for him to pace.
Michigan vs. Loyola
Villanova vs. Kansas