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Posted on Thu, Oct 11, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Neighbors living in the shadow of U-M's Big House 'embrace Michigan football'

By bob horning


Chris Kiser stands outside his house on Keech Avenue in Ann Arbor. After struggling with parking, he decided to buy a house near Michigan Stadium. Now, friends come into town and celebrate game days with him.

Daniel Brenner I

Talking with some of the residents just west of Main Street and across the street from Michigan Stadium the other day brought some surprises.

Even though Ann Arbor is winding down its third straight week without a home football game, this is the area where usually thousands of football fans cross on their way to and from the game on Saturday, bringing noise, chaos, and some litter.

Life changes in the neighborhood during autumn weekends. I had assumed that many would resent the intrusion upon their peace, or at least be glad when the day was done.

However, it seems clear from my small sampling that just the opposite is true — that football games and all that go with them are a big, intentional, and welcome part of their life. Everyone I talked to looked forward to the fans, the tailgaters, the excitement, the atmosphere and socializing they bring with them.

Chris Kiser is one example. Years ago, he grew frustrated always trying to find parking for the game. He came up with a radical solution: buy a house near the stadium. Now he provides parking for others.

At first, he rented the six or seven parking spots on his property, but gradually opened them to friends, mostly fellow pharmacists who work at or attended U-M. They come from as far away as Kalamazoo, and even from Tennessee and Minnesota for a game or two every season.

"The nice thing," he said, "Is that they all turned out to be good cooks, so we each bring a dish and eat together. One week every year we have a chili cook-off. I have some secret ingredients, so I do pretty well."

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He has what he calls a three bears (as in Goldilocks) attitude towards the starting time of the games: "Noon is too early, 8 p.m. is too late because it leaves too much time for some fans for (bad) merriment, but 3:30 p.m. is just right. It lends to a varied menu and allows sufficient time for eating.

A block west of Kiser is Tim Sperlbaum, his wife, Kim, and two daughters, Alexa and Daleaney. When it was near time for Alexa to be born about 13 years ago, Kim began taking castor oil to induce labor so that Alexa would arrive before the football season. That way they wouldn’t miss any games and also could show her off to those who tailgate on their lawn.

As his daughters have grown, they have sold cookies, Rice Krispies treats, and hot apple cider to raise money for school trips. And those who park at their house have come to know each other well — some even attending the weddings of each other’s children.

Sperlbaum said his neighbors are close-knit, too. "We have block parties during the year and constantly help each other out. Football Saturday becomes another social event for us. Everyone looks forward to it. If there are a few who don’t, they still like making money parking cars."

Tim doesn’t even mind night games, though he has to get up at 3:30 a.m. Sunday for work. Last year, he recorded the Notre Dame game so he still could get to bed by 8:30 p.m. and watch it later.

Karen Moore lives with her son Tyler, 12, on Potter Street. Her claim to fame was having Joe Falls, the late sports columnist for the Detroit Free Press and News, park at their house whenever he came to the game. "He was wonderful," she said.

Tyler enjoys the excitement and the fact that every one is so nice that parks at their house, especially when he gets a free ticket from one of them. If he doesn’t go to the game, he plays football with other kids in the area.

"Most neighbors I know like the atmosphere of the day," Karen said. "We don’t even leave after the game starts because it’s nice hanging around. There are lots of second and third generation families in the neighborhood. I lived here with my parents, moved away, and then came back. We also like how the stadium is being used for other events now."

Alex and Julie Roberts met at U-M. Like Karen, they moved away from Ann Arbor, but when they returned, wanting to live close to downtown and near the stadium.

"We embrace Michigan football," Julie said. "When our son and daughter, now 12 and 10, were younger, we would often have the windows open while watching the game on TV. We heard the roar of the crowd when we scored, so would tell them to watch closely because something good was going to happen. Right after, due to the video delay, the touchdown would show on TV. They never could figure out how we knew every time."

Now, after the family watches Bridget’s soccer game in the morning, Julie usually goes to the football games with her son, Jackson, so a mid-afternoon kickoff is perfect for their schedule. Alex prefers watching on television with Bridget.

Then there is Marie McGonagle. She lives with her son, Jason Kehrl, who owns their home on Snyder. Ten of the people who tailgate on their property were fraternity brothers at U-M. "Their wives always send along good food, and they share it with us, so I don’t have to cook," she said. "I like that. Having them around brings back good memories of when I was in school here in the seventies."

She has to think a moment to come up with negatives, but finds some small ones. "It does tie up the whole day, and there is a loss of privacy since the tailgaters are here a long time and use the downstairs bathroom; there is also some extra clean up of trash and beer cans; and our neighbors played loud music until four in the morning after the night game last year. That’s why I prefer noon games. All in all, though, it is a great experience, and my son makes exactly enough on parking cars to pay his property taxes."

Across the street from Marie, Al Renfrew lives, alone, since his wife died. Some of you will remember him as the Michigan hockey coach from 1957-1973. An Internet search told me he won the NCAA hockey championship as both a player and coach. After retiring as coach, he became ticket manager for the athletic department.

His son and daughter have friends who park in the backyard and go to the game, though Al, 87, doesn’t go anymore. "I’m too old for that," he said. "I watch it on TV instead. It can be a mess over there. After the Notre Dame game there were people looking for their cars at 2:00 a.m."

Renfrew, being the oldest person I talked to, gets the last word with an interesting summary of game day. He said "it seems that there is so much else going on that the game has become incidental."

Bob Horning, a lifelong Ann Arbor resident, is writing U-M gameday stories for If you have ideas for future columns, please email


Lifetime AA ND Fan

Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 5:51 a.m.

Not all of us :)

Nice in A2

Thu, Oct 11, 2012 : 4:51 p.m.

Been living not far from Allmendinger for about ten years now. Didn't do it for football but I do enjoy the atmosphere. I like to walk around the tailgates before the big games (my vote for nicest away fans, Wisconsin), then go home and watch with the extra crowd noise out the window. I don't park on my property but I do keep a lookout for parents with Michigan colors who are "late and looking" and give them a spot on my driveway.


Thu, Oct 11, 2012 : 6:07 p.m.

Awesome. I do the same for my towns fall festival and have let some older folks with no chance of finding parking come on in. One year I let this pretty rough looking bike gang park their motorcycles in my One of the gals bought me some fudge as a thank you.


Thu, Oct 11, 2012 : 4:14 p.m.

There are also quite a few neighbors who get REALLY protective of their property lines. I learned that the hard way.


Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 4:29 a.m.

You have no idea


Thu, Oct 11, 2012 : 6:09 p.m.

I can only imagine the arguments over the public parking..."in front of my home" too.

Linda Peck

Thu, Oct 11, 2012 : 3:18 p.m.

Even though I dislike football (hate is a strong word, but I have used it), it is a festive atmosphere in the neighborhood around the stadium on football Saturdays. I enjoy seeing people having a good time. Probably quite a few people who live there are motivated to purchase property there, and by the potential income from parking cars, a nice boon to boot.


Thu, Oct 11, 2012 : 6:05 p.m.

I'm with you. If I had fifty yard line seats and backstage passes or whatever the only reason I would go is to people watch. The game itself is to me useless and redundant and just really stupid, but you can't argue with the ambiance on a nice fall Saturday.


Thu, Oct 11, 2012 : 2:40 p.m.

I do literally live in the shadow of the stadium, as my garden now has a few less hours of sunlight each morning.

Craig Lounsbury

Thu, Oct 11, 2012 : 3:05 p.m.

how many cars might you be able to park in your garden, hypothetically of course.


Thu, Oct 11, 2012 : 2:31 p.m.

Why is the city of Ann Arbor not taxing the revenue from parking and other things being sold by the stadium? They could use it to Fund the "ART" program! "As his daughters have grown, they have sold cookies, Rice Krispies treats, and hot apple cider to raise money for school trips. "


Thu, Oct 11, 2012 : 3:14 p.m.

do not give Ann Arbor any ideas.they might just do it.

Craig Lounsbury

Thu, Oct 11, 2012 : 3:04 p.m.

Income from parking is income. Ann Arbor does not have an income tax. I think its that simple although I am not an accountant or tax lawyer.

Ron Granger

Thu, Oct 11, 2012 : 1:20 p.m.

"One week every year we have a chili cook-off. I have some secret ingredients, so I do pretty well." -- Indeed. That is because he is a pharmacist, and they have *the best* secret chili ingredients.


Thu, Oct 11, 2012 : 3:48 p.m.

Being a pharmacist myself, I can't disagree with that comment.


Thu, Oct 11, 2012 : 12:42 p.m.

Turn down those infernal speakers!


Thu, Oct 11, 2012 : 12:16 p.m.

Love it and love the spirit of the folks in the neighborhood -- keep it up and enjoy to the fullest.


Thu, Oct 11, 2012 : 11:25 a.m.

I know one person that pays her property taxes with income from parking cars!


Fri, Oct 12, 2012 : 4:32 a.m.

She must have a huge yard...... Or a TINY house. It's decent money, but doesn't go far, especially when the friends and family lock in their spots, lol


Thu, Oct 11, 2012 : 6:02 p.m.

Big bucks is all relative. Few grand a year for letting people drive on your lawn wouldn't be worth it to me. I also wouldn't think people who can pay 350,000 for a 100,000 dollar home would need to worry about a few grand either. *shrugs*


Thu, Oct 11, 2012 : 3:13 p.m.

i know of a family that lived 3-4 blocks away who earned some big bucks parking cars in their yard

Craig Lounsbury

Thu, Oct 11, 2012 : 3 p.m.

"Of course she pays income tax on that first, right?' rhetorical question of course but that would be between her and the IRS. Just because one has income does not necessarily mean one has a tax obligation on that income. Many of the so called 47% have income but when they take advantage of the small handful of tax breaks for the working lower class they can get their net income below a tax obligation.


Thu, Oct 11, 2012 : 12:46 p.m.

Of course she pays income tax on that first, right?

music to my ear

Thu, Oct 11, 2012 : 11:30 a.m.

yea that's what I am talking about the bennies


Thu, Oct 11, 2012 : 11:15 a.m.

Man, unless I was under the age of 23, you couldn't pay me enough to live around that place. Every Saturday during the most beautiful time of year would be ruined.


Thu, Oct 11, 2012 : 3:11 p.m.

If they like it fine but it's not for me however i guess it goes with the territory


Thu, Oct 11, 2012 : 2:36 p.m.

It's not every Saturday... just 8 of them, and only 6 this year.


Thu, Oct 11, 2012 : 10:58 a.m.

my family moved to edgewood st in 1962. at the time bump elliott was the head coach. you could get a student ticket for a couple of bucks but if you waited till half time you could just walk in! back in those days they had one game designated as BAND DAY,bands came from all over the state! homecoming days were always a big deal as the students wouldplay in the MUD BOWL at the corner of washtenaw and st. on the lawn of the s.a.e. frat house. there was always a parade with floats that the students made and along with the marching band they would travel from the campus to the stadium. those were the good old days!!!!


Thu, Oct 11, 2012 : 3:05 p.m.

I remember those days fondly.


Thu, Oct 11, 2012 : 11:24 a.m.

I participated in Band Day and loved it. What memories! Dr. Revelli directed us and it was a wonderful time.


Thu, Oct 11, 2012 : 10:58 a.m.

I remember my Dad parking along S. Industrial before they put in curbs.