Sparty or New Year’s party? MSU fans plan for both

Simon Schuster
Special to The Detroit News

When the ball drops on New Year’s Eve, most Michigan State fans’ attention will be elsewhere, and they’ll just hope it won’t happen on a Spartan possession.

MSU alumni will be watching the Cotton Bowl battle with Alabama, fine with bypassing traditional get-togethers, said Kathy Herzog, secretary of the MSU alumni club of Eastern Wayne County.

“There’s not a Spartan in the world that cares (about New Year’s Eve plans),” Herzog said. “Every Spartan is happy to be watching the football game.”

While Herzog’s enthusiasm is evident, that mentality seems to have spread across the state. Gary Mescher, who works on strategic alumni initiatives with the MSU Alumni Association, said he heard from a friend in Grand Rapids “there’s not a big-screen TV to be had” in the western Michigan rental market because of the excitement surrounding the game.

“Restaurants and the like have had to change their plans in many cases because people want to see the game,” Mescher said. “It’s turned into a bigger party, especially here in mid-Michigan.”

In Lansing, Rochelle Carrasco and Jeremy Jehnsen will have their first dance as a newly married couple close to the 8 p.m. kickoff. Most of the bridal party are Michigan State fans.

While Carrasco asked guests to put down their phones during the first dance, a television will be wheeled into the reception hall afterward.

“I’m getting my moment,” Carrasco told the Associated Press, “and then they can have their TV.”

Jeremy Jehnsen and Rochelle Carrasco will have their first dance as a newly married couple close to the Cotton Bowl’s 8 p.m. kickoff.

Around Detroit, too, Spartans will gather in bars, living rooms and basements.

Detroit Spartans, a group of younger alumni, will be converging at Hamlin Corner, a bar in Royal Oak popular with MSU fans.

Ian Thompson, the general manager of Hamlin Corner, said the combination of the big game and New Year’s Eve will make for a “really insane” night.

“We’re known as the State bar over here, so two days after they announced the bowl schedule we filled up all our reservations,” he said.

Thompson said he’s never seen a bigger night at the bar.

“Nothing like this, with sports fans and a New Year’s Eve,” he said. “It’s just going to be incredibly busy.”

He said some parties will be arriving as early as 4 p.m. to catch both games in the second College Football Playoff Semifinal; Clemson plays Oklahoma in the earlier game. But the latter part of the night will be devoted to ushering in the new year.

“As soon as the game’s over, we’re going to switch over and have a DJ and music and everything,” Thompson said.

Herzog’s group, meanwhile, is gathering at a brewpub in Grosse Pointe Park, Atwater in the Park.

Herzog said she anticipates 75 percent of the bar will be wearing green, and had a piece of advice for fans, considering the Detroit brewery-offshoot doesn’t take reservations — “Get there early to get a seat.”

Michael Fabian, an MSU alumnus and attorney based in Farmington Hills, said he is having friends over to his home for a New Year’s Eve Spartan bowl game party.

His wife, though, did not attend MSU and is not a big fan. While his buddies are in the basement “man cave” watching the game, his wife and her friends will likely be upstairs with a movie. But he said she understands the importance.

“She knows how avid a Spartan fan I am and would not want to deprive me of the experience,” he said, chuckling.

They’ll still watch the ball drop on television and pass around glasses of champagne — if there’s time after the game, that is.

Fabian said he’s “optimistic” about No. 3 Michigan State’s chances against No. 2 Alabama. But Herzog is more confident.

“At midnight when we’ve won, it’s going to be a wonderful beginning to 2016,” she said.

Associated Press contributed.

Some Metro Detroit Spartan gatherings

Detroit Spartans

Where: Hamlin Corner, 386 N Main, Royal Oak

When: 7 p.m.; New Year’s Eve celebrations begin after the game.

Availability: Reservations are already filled. Bar seating and largely standing-room only.

MSU Alumni Club of Eastern Wayne County

Where: Atwater at the Park, 1175 Lakepointe, Grosse Pointe Park

When: Kickoff is at 8 p.m., but best to get there early. Specials begin at 11:30 a.m. (also at the Brewery’s Detroit location)

Availability: No reservations. First come, first served.