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Posted on Tue, Dec 14, 2010 : 1:53 p.m.

Guinness World Records confirms Big Chill at the Big House record crowd, puts initial number at 85,451

By Jeff Arnold


Ann Arbor residents Ed Chadd, Kary Oetjen, Brian Bartek, and Katari Carello dance during the fireworks show at the conclusion of the Big Chill at the Big House.

Angela J. Cesere |

As expected, the Big Chill at the Big House produced a world record crowd.

Michigan officials announced an attendance of 113,411 on Saturday for the outdoor hockey game in Michigan Stadium, shattering the mark of 77,803. A Guinness World Records official who attended the game, however, says the number likely will be smaller. The base number he is working with is 85,451, which is how many tickets were scanned by the third period of the Michigan hockey team's 5-0 victory over Michigan State.

Guinness uses a different system of calculating attendance than the NCAA. Guinness adjudicator Mike Janela said Saturday that Guinness relies on the number of tickets scanned on the day of event rather than tickets sold.

"It's a little better system than going down in the bleachers and counting them," Janela said during Saturday's game. "Technology has advanced to the point where it's easy enough. Now that everything is electronic, it makes jobs like this a lot easier. We've done a lot of records with tens of thousands of people, in this case hundreds of thousands, and the electronic element helps a lot."

Guinness officials also have a list of non-ticket holders who count toward the record. Media members and players are among those who would not be included in the final count, Janela said.

Michigan relies on the number of tickets sold for an event and then includes media members, stadium workers and other people present for a game to reach an attendance mark. The announced crowd of 113,411 is considered the largest crowd to witness an event at Michigan Stadium, which also holds the NCAA record for attendance at a sporting event.

The official said Guinness will continue to work with Michigan officials in establishing a final number, but that it would not become available for some time. Michigan associate athletic director for media relations David Ablauf said Tuesday afternoon that the number only partially represents the game's attendance as that scanners were still calculating totals when the initial number was reached. He said he did not know when a final number would be reached.

Janela presented Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon a plaque at Saturday's game, awarding the university the world record. The previous mark was set earlier this year at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships in Germany.

More than 74,000 attended the Cold War game between Michigan and Michigan State in 2001 at Spartan Stadium, but Michigan State officials did not go through the proper procedure of registering the mark with Guinness.

Fox Sports Detroit announced Monday that the game was the highest rated college hockey telecast in its 14-year history. The game delivered a 5.1 Nielsen household rating in metro Detroit (equivalent of approximately 96,400 households). The previous high was a 3.5 rating on Oct. 6, 2001 for The Cold War. Saturday's game was also broadcast nationally by The Big Ten Network.

Brandon said Saturday he was initially concerned about a late-arriving crowd, but was pleased with the final result. Brandon said he will continue to push for bigger crowds at Michigan Stadium, which will host its first night football game next September against Notre Dame. He said he would like to see crowd size eventually reach 114,000.

"When we put the tickets up for sale the latter part of March, we’re all holding our breath. We’re doing something for the first time," Brandon said. "We started seeing people buy tickets - 20, 30, 40, 50, 100 at a time—and you start saying, 'Gee, did we price these things too low?' and, 'Are people buying all these tickets really going to show up?'

"I walked in the stadium about 45 minutes before we dropped the puck and there were a lot of empty seats, and frankly, I was like, 'Where is everybody?' But it was amazing how people jammed in there."

Video from Guinness World Records official Mike Janela sports reporter Michael Rothstein contributed to this report. Jeff Arnold covers Michigan hockey for and can be reached at (734) 623-2554 or by e-mail at Follow him on Twitter @jeffreyparnold.



Wed, Dec 15, 2010 : 3:59 p.m.

The "Big Myth @ the Big House" -- even if Michigan counted all of the concession people, media, staff, etc. -- it would make up for the 27,900 attendance discrepancy -- see this article:

Craig Lounsbury

Wed, Dec 15, 2010 : 3:42 p.m.

"Michigan relies on the number of tickets sold for an event and then includes media members, stadium workers and other people present for a game to reach an attendance mark." While I realize tickets sold is acceptable to the NCAA as part of a count I believe most people would say that unless the ticket is actually used by someone it shouldn't count. I believe the nature of the event was ripe for more than the usual number of no shows. Tickets were relatively cheap, the weather was winterish (mild for winter weather no doubt) and it wasn't football it was Hockey.

Jeff Arnold

Wed, Dec 15, 2010 : 1:54 p.m.

Let me reiterate a couple of things. The 85K figure is just an initial jumping point. Guinness had to start with a number based on scans that pushed the number over the existing world record. That doesn't mean all of the scanning had been completed. From what I have heard, a final official attendance figure will be announced in the next couple of weeks. That number will include complete scanned tickets as well as other Guinness-approved people that count toward the final attendance mark, but were not ticket holders.

Jacob Bodnar

Wed, Dec 15, 2010 : 11:39 a.m.

@EVERYBODY You are all absolutely insane and hypocritical. While complaining that the stadium fails to be honest and lies about it's attendance number, and you seem to rejoice in the fact that Guinness "called them out," you fail to read the FACTS of this article. The fact it, Guinness has only calculated scans. Once again: That's not indicative to the number of people that actually showed up. Like I've stated, when pressed, ushers are allowed to stop using scanners and tear tickets, and they will do so when it gets busy. If scans was equal to the number of people in the stands, Guinness would stop at that, but the article makes it very clear their calculations are not over. This in no way proves that the university has by lying about attendance for years and years. I've been to every game since 2002, I can assure you, that place is 95% filled about 98% of the time. And the university does not only report on tickets sold. They use that as a starting point but they do take into consideration empty spots in the stands.


Tue, Dec 14, 2010 : 10:41 p.m.

Happy that Guiness called them out. It's embarassing to insinuate that 113k people were in the stands.

Kai Petainen

Tue, Dec 14, 2010 : 9:56 p.m.

a University of Michigan study found that Americans lie about church attendance. I'm originally from Canada, and in some parts of Canada, hockey is church. =) I actually think the entire event was AWESOME and organizers should be thanked! I'm not complaining, I just felt like adding to the attendance controversy.

Craig Lounsbury

Tue, Dec 14, 2010 : 9:34 p.m.

According to the link below to the NCAA website regading attendance it states "Attendance Figures Attendance figures for official box scores and/or NCAA reports can be calculated by turnstile count, tickets sold or estimates. NCAA championship tournament figures always are compiled by tickets sold. Schools should make every effort to record an attendance figure on statistical report score it produces." Based on that rather loose criteria they can pretty much say whatever they want. And evidently did till the Guiness people showed up with a different idea of how to establish a number.

Marvin Face

Tue, Dec 14, 2010 : 9:25 p.m.

I have seen the ACTUAL turnstile counts for an entire recent seasons worth of games at Michigan Stadium. In no instance were the numbers over 85,000. At a low, it was 70,000 and change. The numbers were pretty shocking to me. The NCAA counts all tickets SOLD plus all workers, etc. They could care less about the number of people that actually show up. If there are indeed 109,000+/- numbered seats in the stadium, I would be interested in seeing what it would mean if 109,000 actually came through the turnstiles and EVERY seat was filled. Those who have sat in a section row where every seat is filled once in a blue moon can attest that it is extremely uncomfortable.

Craig Lounsbury

Tue, Dec 14, 2010 : 9:15 p.m.

"Michigan relies on the number of tickets sold for an event and then includes media members, stadium workers and other people present for a game to reach an attendance mark." The key word is tickets sold which is not the same as people showing up. There could have easily been several thousand no shows.

Jacob Bodnar

Tue, Dec 14, 2010 : 8:50 p.m.

I think everyone should just calm down. For starters, this means nothing. Secondly, they said this was an initial number and the actual number won't be available or calculated for sometime, meaning they probably realize there were way more than 85,000 fans there and scanners aren't a reliable enough method to capture everyone inside the gates. @resnonverba - That stadium was 100% full for most games this year, the empty seats in your section are relatively meaningless to the capacity of a 109,000 seat stadium. I assure you the attendance numbers are not exact, why put that much man power into it? Plus, there's no true way of knowning exactly how many people are there, like I said they don't use the scanners all the time, ushers often just tear tickets when things get busy. @RobertinSaline I don't see a problem announcing all staff in that number, after all it's announced as "anyone watching football" the players and coaches are certainly watching the game, the event staff watch the game, the people in the press box watch the game. Why not include them? An entertainer at an event doesn't watch themselves. Meanwhile no one player is out on the field 100% of the time.

David Briegel

Tue, Dec 14, 2010 : 7:46 p.m.

So, an honest person says 85,000 paid and Mich claims 113,000. Has anyone ever DARED to ask for an accounting of the 28,000? Has anyone ever compared the revenue vs ANY of these numbers? I see empty seats for virtually every game I attend there. The student section is rarely completely full. The suites aren't sold out. The seats where the old press box once stood aren't sold out. Heck, I would buy those seats but not for their seat license. The Regents rubber stamp everything. Is there no accounting ever published? And next there will be the N & S end zone decks. Hmmmm?

Kai Petainen

Tue, Dec 14, 2010 : 7:41 p.m.

i'm not sure if this is possible... but since the stealth bomber flew overhead, then wouldn't it be possible to get a super high res photo from that? (assuming that it has the capability and that it took a photo of the event?). then, just have someone count.


Tue, Dec 14, 2010 : 6:42 p.m.

now these are hardy great fans.unlike the BLUE BRAINS who fill the joint up during the fall Lets hope Rich and the boys get beat seriously bad because then ROD NO BRAINS gets canned.he can always teach in the school of Dance. Certainly more than 85,000 people


Tue, Dec 14, 2010 : 5:54 p.m.

UM as a "Leader and the best" could use their expertise in math to announce truly how many people actually are sitting in seats at the game, not some trumped-up big number each week. (Everyone knows that the players, press, etc. have to be there; the entertainers are never counted at events as "attendees"). It would also be more honest.

Craig Lounsbury

Tue, Dec 14, 2010 : 5:24 p.m.

"Guinness officials also have a list of non-ticket holders who count toward the record. Media members, marching band musicians and other people attending the event are not added into the finally tally." That strikes me as confusing, indeed contradictory. Which is it? Do they "count toward the record" or are they "not added into the final tally"?


Tue, Dec 14, 2010 : 4:24 p.m.

Yippe Guiness World Record of Gimmick Hockey games goes to U-M! Now, where does hockey go from here and how long before U-M runs this concept into the ground by doing it too much... and then, where is the future of college hockey?


Tue, Dec 14, 2010 : 4:22 p.m.

an historical event and world record nonetheless. very impressive indeed. kudos to the athletic dept! i can't think of a better way to honor red. well deserved and the crowning achievement for a career that spans more than a quarter of a century. if and when there's a Big Chill II, i hope they make it an international affair. UM vs. MSU on saturday and the Red Wings vs. Toronto or Montreal on Sunday. Hockey heaven!

Buster W.

Tue, Dec 14, 2010 : 4:01 p.m.

@resnonverba, I believe the rededication game vs. UConn owns the record attendance (113,090) --- all attendance figures are available on That game included larger numbers of non-ticketholders (football alumni, media, etc.). I went to all home football games and the hockey game last Saturday, too. The attendance figures appear to determined by what they want it to be --- similar to how Diles used to estimate EMU's attendance so they could remain Div-I.


Tue, Dec 14, 2010 : 3:43 p.m.

I can't figure out why, at UM football games, the announcer quotes an attendance number when he states those at the game are part of the largest crowd watching a football game anywhere in America that day. About being part of the largest crowd is probably correct but the number quoted, always over 100k, seems quite inflated. Except for perhaps the MSU game, based on the open seats in my area (sec 21), doubt the stadium was ever more than 90% full this past season. Mr. Arnold, do you have access to actual game attendance numbers? Would be interesting.

Jacob Bodnar

Tue, Dec 14, 2010 : 3:36 p.m.

We should also note that this number is tickets scanned, and that's it. There were clearly more than 85,000 fans in the stands. I was at the game, it was a late arriving crowd (I was there about 90 minutes before puck drop). I'd guess gates were overwhelmed as puck drop approached and decided to start tearing tickets instead of scanning them, meaning the number scanned would be less than actually there. Also, I'm not sure how they handled student tickets, not sure if they got a physical ticket and it was scanned or not, that would also change the numbers.


Tue, Dec 14, 2010 : 3:24 p.m.

Guiness only counts the people that come through the gate. Michigan and every other stadium counts everyone. Ticket takers down to the press, players, and the cook making pizza.

Buster W.

Tue, Dec 14, 2010 : 3:06 p.m.

Don't believe the 113,411 for a minute. No way the attendance last Saturday was higher than all football games last season.