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Official Review by Brandon Gee, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Like a lot of the other sports at Ohio State University that aren’t football or basketball, Buckeye baseball is hidden in plain sight. Within the neighborhood of athletic facilities on the northwest corner of the Ohio State campus sits Nick Swisher Field at Bill Davis Stadium, a well-equipped ballpark most minor league teams would envy. Swisher’s name may sound familiar as the former Buckeye and current New York Yankee donated $500,000 for the installation of a new turf field. Currently in a bit of lull for the attention of Columbus sports fans, Ohio State baseball has been a consistent competitor in the Big Ten and puts out a great product for those paying attention.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
It's your basic, run-of-the-mill ballpark food. Hot dogs, popcorn, nachos, etc. Not terrible, but there's nothing you absolutely have to have. The good thing is everything is affordable. For example, they sell some combos, one of which is 2 hot dogs, a large popcorn and 2 small drinks for $11. No alcohol is served in the public areas.
There's one large concession stand with many points of sale, if big crowds deem them necessary. The stand is augmented with some carts selling Dippin' Dots and Hawaiian Ice, which are set against the grass berm by the main entrance.
I liked the approach to Bill Davis Stadium. For one, there's an actual building here, as opposed to a good amount of college parks in the area having the field and seating bowl below grade (built into the ground) as a cost-saving measure. It's a tall, cement and brick structure, in keeping with the immediate area's architectural theme. The steep underside of the stands tower over you and really give an "event" feel to the building. It puts the park on the level and scale of many Single-A minor league ballparks.
Inside the park, the concourse is open and is edged by grass fields, giving patrons plenty of room and a pleasant environment to hang out during the game. As for seating, spanning the area between the far edges of each dugout, the first five rows are box seats. The rest of the seating of the stadium structure are chairback benches. There's a roof that extends over much of the bench seating areas, protecting patrons from the elements and helping to keep the noise level high.
An odd quirk to the turf playing surface is the infield is not dirt, but rather, a red brick-colored turf surface. I would imagine this has some effect on gameplay but perhaps gives a bit of a home-field advantage.
As we've mentioned in the reviews for Ohio State basketball and hockey, the area is surrounded on all sides by restaurants and bars. You can surely find someplace to suit your tastes, both for food/beverage and atmosphere. To the north on Olentangy River Road, there are some divey, sports bars. About a mile south on Olentangy River Road, there's the Lennox Town Center, a strip mall with a movie theater, bookstore, and chain restaurants like Johnny Rockets, and Champs. If you drive towards the campus on Lane Avenue, you'll hit a variety of restaurants and bars (it's about a mile to hit the intersection of Lane and High Street, High being the north-south commercial stretch for the campus, with a good variety of independent & chain quick-service restaurants).
In years past, Ohio State baseball used to be able to consistently draw well over the listed capacity of the stadium. In fairness to the team, I should mention it had been cold and raining before this visit, so that definitely affected the crowd on this specific occasion. Unfortunately, throughout the rest of the season, crowds have been lucky to pass 1000. The fans who do show up are clad in scarlet & gray and are enthusiastic but when the park is a quarter full I'm not sure it matters much.
Bill Davis Stadium is part of the sports complex on the northwest corner of the Ohio State campus. It includes The Schottenstein Center (both basketball teams, men's hockey) on the south end & Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium (Track & Field, Lacrosse, Soccer) on the north, amongst other sporting facilities. You can easily access the complex from SR-315, either taking the Ackermann Road exit, which puts you at the north end of the complex, or the Lane Avenue exit at the south end. Fred Taylor Drive is about a block from the highway exits and serves as the access road for the OSU sports complex. If you're coming to the stadium from Olentangy River Road, which borders the east side of the complex, you can turn directly onto Borror Drive, but only from the south bound lane.
Parking is plentiful with three large lots around the stadium and FREE, always a plus. I'd imagine this would only be an issue if there happen to be concurrent events going on at The Schottenstein Center, Jesse Owens, or Buckeye Field (home of OSU Softball), since they all share these lots.
Reserved Box Seats are $11 for adults, $8 for seniors, and $6 for students/children. General Admission Bleacher Seats are $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, $3 for students/children, and children 6 and under are admitted free.
When combined with the decent food costs, you have a good value. The problem here arises when you look at the price point for the minor league team in town, the Columbus Clippers, whose prices are in the same range but offer a newer, flashier baseball experience in downtown Columbus' Arena District with Huntington Park, though you will definitely have to pay to park downtown. The food options (plus alcohol options) at the Clippers are much more varied, as well.
This really explains how OSU lost the casual fan's interest, perhaps lowering prices would help draw more families looking for an alternative to the downtown experience.
An extra point for the attention to detail for the home of a "non-marquee" sport. Another for the fact that OSU baseball regularly plays the other schools within the state. Since Columbus is centrally-located, it gives a good opportunity for opposing fanbases to travel and support their teams. Another point for the views from the OSU Athletic campus, from the stands you can see all the stadium structures and sports OSU offers.
Columbus has no shortage of great baseball as the baseball Buckeyes share fans' attention with the AAA minors (International League) Columbus Clippers and the fantastic Huntington Park, which was rated #9 in Stadium Journey's recent ranking of the top AAA stadiums. It's no coincidence that attendance at OSU has dropped a bit since Huntington opened. It also doesn't help that the Clippers are back-to-back champions of AAA baseball, even while the Buckeyes have been competitive in the Big Ten.
It seems fitting that Bill Davis sits in the shadow of the monolithic Woody Hayes Athletic Center, the football training building. Football does, and probably always will, dominate the Ohio State sports scene, but if fans bother to give this place a chance again they'd get a decent baseball experience.
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