SANTA MONICA BLVD — As tens of thousands of Wisconsin fans pour into town for the Rose Bowl, they’ll find a welcome sight once they touch ground.
Busby’s, a popular sports bar on Santa Monica Boulevard, has for years been ground zero for Southern California Wisconsin grads who long for the days of cheering on their Badgers in storied Camp Randall Stadium.
Bar managers go all out for the cardinal and white. They import beers from Wisconsin and go as far as to fly in cheese curds for their cheese-head patrons, General Manager Mike Hamilton said.
“They are one of our bigger groups, and they are solid,” Hamilton said. “They are rabid for football.”
The Los Angeles chapter of the Wisconsin Alumni Association is expecting up to 40,000 Badger faithful to make the trip to SoCal to attend the big game with many of them expected to stay in Santa Monica.
The city by the sea will host pep rallies for both Wisconsin and the University of Oregon fans in the parking lot north of the Santa Monica Pier over the weekend.
Wisconsin is up first on Saturday with Oregon getting the spotlight on Sunday. Both rallies begin at 3 p.m. and will be attended by both teams and their adoring fans.
While in town for the rallies and game, Hamilton hopes that his bar’s reputation for being welcoming to Badgers will again draw a crowd.
Wisconsin isn’t new to the city. The Badgers played in last year’s edition of the “granddaddy of them all,” losing to TCU.
True to form, Hamilton said that Busby’s was jumping, hosting a capacity crowd of over 300.
To accommodate the expected crush, Ye Olde King’s Head pub in Downtown will also be opening its doors to Rose Bowl fans. Operated by the same management group as Busby’s, the same deals and offerings will be served up for Badger consumption.
“This is a real exciting year for us,” said Robert Webb, the president of the local chapter of the Wisconsin Alumni Association. “[Santa Monica] is the fans’ favorite place to stay.”
Even the Santa Monica Police Department is gearing up for the onslaught of football fans. They have plans to deploy additional officers to handle the crowds and keep the peace.
Some estimate that up to 30,000 to 40,000 fans will descend on Santa Monica and its compliment of hotels for the game and rallies.
“They are getting quite a treat coming out here,” Webb said of his school’s fan base. “It’s a lot warmer here than back in Madison.”