Archive for Thursday, May 29, 2003

Spartans seek big crowd

MSU, Kentucky to play ball in dome in December

May 29, 2003

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— Move outta the way, Steve Mariucci: Your buddy Tom Izzo is taking over Ford Field for a day.

Michigan State will play Kentucky in a basketball game on Saturday, Dec. 13 at the football stadium with the potential to draw a world-record crowd.

About 10,000 seats will be added to the 65,000 already in the stadium, and the goal is to break the basketball attendance world record of 75,000 set in 1951 at a Harlem Globetrotters exhibition at Olympic Stadium in Berlin.

The event will be called the BasketBowl -- Hoops at the 50, MSU and Ford Field officials said Thursday. The game will feature marching bands, pregame and halftime entertainment and will be televised by CBS.

"I think of this as the sequel to the Cold War," said MSU athletic director Ron Mason, referring to a hockey game against Michigan at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing. It set a world record for hockey attendence of 74,554 on Oct. 6, 2001.

So what's the obsession with record-breaking at Michigan State, anyway?

"I get bored," joked associate athletic director Mark Hollis.

Hollis, associate athletic director Greg Ianni and David Glazier, the Lions' vice president of business development and sales, developed the idea while sitting in a suite at the Lions' final home game last season.

One of them brought up the Cold War. Then someone threw out the idea that MSU should try for the basketball record.

"The wheels started turning," Ianni said.

They decided a game against Kentucky would be best. Kentucky fans travel well, both schools are basketball powers and the date worked. The Lions play on the road that weekend -- at Kansas City -- and CBS had an open time slot.

When MSU presented the idea to Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart and coach Tubby Smith, they were hesitant at first, but finally agreed, Ianni said. Thursday's press conference was scheduled to coincide with a visit from the NCAA Final Four site selection committee so members could see how the basketball court was laid out at Ford Field.

Detroit is one of six finalists to host the Final Four in 2008-2011, and the committee will tour Ford Field today. The stadium will host the 2006 Super Bowl, which might help Detroit land the Final Four bid, said Lions chief operating officer Tom Lewand.

The BasketBowl is expected to help fill hotel rooms in the Detroit area, said Wayne County executive Robert Ficano, and Mason said MSU might double the $200,000 it usually takes in for a home game.

Izzo's only concern is relinquishing the advantage of playing at the noisy Breslin Center.

But 5,000 tickets are reserved for students, and Ianni said some Izzone members will get seats on the floor. The Izzone is a section at Breslin Center reserved for students.

"They obviously want to try and make it equally a Kentucky and an MSU thing," Hollis said. "But we're making sure it's an MSU game."

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