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Official Review by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The short life of the Ohio Machine has seen them make a move to find a new home field. Upon their inception into Major League Lacrosse in 2011, the Machine called Selby Field home. Located in Delaware, Ohio, north of Columbus, Selby Field is located on the campus of Division III Ohio Wesleyan University. The beginning of the 2016 season saw the Machine make a move south. The new home for the Machine is Panther Stadium, on the campus of Division II Ohio Dominican University. Ownership coveted an opportunity to move closer to downtown and Columbus proper. In playing in Selby Field, the Machine played in a stadium with a bit of character and history. With the move to Panther Stadium, the Machine has lost some of that character to a much newer stadium with a fairly non-descript construction. However, the 2009 stadium provides an adequate home for the MLL team, and allows fans to focus on the game on the field without a ton of distractions.
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".
Concession options at Panther Stadium are pretty average. At the southwest end of the stadium, right by the entry gate, there is a permanent concession structure. At that place you will find some pretty average concession options. Hot dogs ($3.75), popcorn ($2.75), burgers, brats, nachos, pretzels, chips peanuts and candy. Pizza is available from Donatos. Options are decent quality and prices. They won't blow you away, but you won't go hungry if you don't want to.
Soft drink are fairly limited. Bottled Coca-Cola products are available for $4.00. Coke, Diet Coke, Coke Zero and Sprite are available. Powerade and Dasani are also available. What is surprising is the beer selection, which is far larger than expected. Cans of Budweiser, Bud Light, Rolling Rock, Yuengling, Yuengling Light Lager, Michelob Ultra, Goose Island IPA and Shock Top are available for either $6.50 or $7.50.
The atmosphere at Panther Stadium is pretty decent, but not the over the top production that we have become accustomed to with most other sports.
Panther Stadium was built in 2009 for the NCAA Division II Ohio Dominican Panthers. The stadium is pretty simple and not overly aesthetically pleasing from the exterior. The campus of Ohio Dominican is nice and green and there are a number of trees around the fenced in stadium. The field is in a north-south configuration and there is a large steel bleacher grandstand on the west side. There is also a small bleacher on the opposite side of the field. The west grandstand also houses the press box at the top. The bleachers are not overly comfortable, but the center section of the west grandstand does offer some reserved seats if you are willing to pay extra for them.
The Ohio Dominican scoreboard is very simple as are the shot clocks and both need some love as some of the bulbs are burnt out. The field is artificial turf and made for football complete with football markings, which can be distracting for a lacrosse game. The acoustics in the stadium also leave something to be desired as the echo from the opposite side of the field is significant and distracting. All of that being said, Panther Stadium may be simple, but the grounds are well-maintained and the campus is nice. Considering some of the other facilities in the MLL, Panther Stadium is in the mix.
The game day production is simple. Fans are not overrun with annoying commercials and an overabundance of promotions. The in-game host runs two promotions including the dress like a player and pizza box relay. The Machine has a set of cheerleaders known as The Ohio Dance Machine that performs a couple of times during the game and throws out t-shirts at the beginning of the game and second half. Overall, it is a refreshing change to enjoy the game with a small smattering of promotions without being beaten to death with commercials and promotions. It helps promote a solid family atmosphere which is more relaxed and laid back than other over-hyped games.
Ohio Dominican University is located east of downtown Columbus in the neighborhood of Teakwood, just west of John Glenn International Airport. The university is small, with an enrollment of just over 3,000 students, and is in a fairly suburban area. If you are looking for a pre or postgame establishment for some food or drink, there are a couple of options for you. There are a few fast food chains along Airport Dr and Cassady Ave near the hotels, but nothing that would make you jump for joy. More original spots you may want to give a try include Lynnies Soul Food, RiverCity Grille or Philly Boys Market and Deli. Otherwise, you will want to head out of the neighborhood to find something else. Schmidt's Sausage Haus in the German Village is always a great choice.
In the immediate area there are not a ton of options for other things to do. There are a number of other sporting options in Columbus to keep you interested. Columbus is, of course, the home of The Ohio State University. The Buckeyes play football at Ohio Stadium and they play basketball and hockey at the Jerome Schottenstein Center. The NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets play downtown at Nationwide Arena and the Triple-A baseball Columbus Clippers play at Huntington Park. The COSI is a great science center to take the family to if you are looking for something else to do.
With a location so close to the airport, there are a number of hotels in the immediate area. Some places that you may consider staying include the Best Western Port Columbus, Columbus Airport Marriott and Country Inn and Suites.
Ohio Machine fans are pretty average in nature and do their part to contribute to the atmosphere at Panther Stadium.
One of the main reasons the Ohio Machine moved from Delaware to Ohio Dominican University was to be closer to downtown Columbus and presumably bring more fans into the stands. Unfortunately, this has not been the case. In the 2014 and 2015 seasons the Ohio Machine drew over 3,200 and 2,700 fans per game respectively at Selby Stadium. In the 2016 season, the Machine drew 1,900 fans per game. This is a drop to 7th place in the MLL for attendance. It will be interesting to see what happens in the 2017 season for another season at Panther Stadium.
The fans that are in the stands at Panther Stadium do their best to add to the atmosphere at Ohio Machine games. Fans in Columbus are intelligent and polite, often greeting their team's accomplishments early in the game with polite applause. As the game moves on and the team is involved in a close game, the volume for the fans get louder and louder. They help provide a great atmosphere for families and kids and are far more polite than you find at many major sports.
Getting in and around Panther Stadium is not too difficult. Panther Stadium is located immediately west of I-670. Getting off of the interstate and entering the university campus is not too difficult. For those flying in, the airport is conveniently a bit further east of the interstate.
For those who are interested in taking public transit, the number nine bus travels on Brentnell Ave, just west of the Ohio Dominican campus. Check out the Central Ohio Transit Authority website for maps, schedules and fares.
There is plenty of parking available on campus for the fans that are in attendance. Entry for parking is off of Sunbury Rd and the Machine do a good job of marking the entrances and parking is affordable at $5 per car.
The ticketing window and will-call are in the south end of the concessions building at the south end of the stadium. Will-call is set up in a temporary tent. Both lines move pretty quickly.
Panther Stadium is spacious and pretty easy to move around. The washrooms are on the back side of the concessions building. They are very small and hold only a couple of people at a time. Halftime is probably not the best time to make a trip to the washroom.
Taking in an Ohio Machine game is not a huge investment and perfect for bringing the family out for a fun evening of lacrosse action. General Admission tickets for the Machine are $18. If you require the chairbacks in the center of the stadium, then reserved tickets are going to run $35 apiece. Parking is very affordable at $5 and concession prices are decent. If you need a ton of extras as part of your sporting experience, then you will probably disappointed. However, the Ohio Machine puts on an entertaining show, with just enough of the extras to make you feel as if you have a positive return on your investment.
An extra point for fan appreciation night, which was celebrated on the date of this review. Fans were treated to a free raffle ticket for a number of different prizes and a few contests.
An extra point for a family friendly atmosphere.
An extra point for lacrosse players being "real" people. Most players in Major League Lacrosse have day jobs that they go to during the week.
Time will tell if the move to Ohio Dominican University will be a positive one for the Ohio Machine. To date there still seems to be some work to do. That being said, taking in an Ohio Machine game is a great way to spend time with the family with a limited investment, and maybe even learn a little field lacrosse for those who are not experts. The Cogs in the Machine look like they will run for some time in Central Ohio.
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