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  • Writer's pictureSean MacDonald

Ohio Stadium - Ohio State Buckeyes

Photos by Conrad Klank, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.57

Ohio Stadium 411 Woody Hayes Dr Columbus, OH 43210

Year Opened: 1922

Capacity: 102,329

Band Together

The Ohio State Buckeyes were the winner of the first College Football Playoff, taking the 2014 title as the fourth seed and bringing the program and the B1G back to the forefront of the sport, after several years of southern domination. This is only fitting, because Ohio Stadium, home of the Buckeyes, is one of the best sporting destinations in the land and the team on the field often matches the overall game day experience.

Opened in 1922, “The Horseshoe” has hosted generations of Buckeye fans and continues to evolve and expand to keep the beloved venue modern. Ohio Stadium has a capacity just under 105,000, and led all of college football in average attendance in 2014.

Food & Beverage 4

Brutus’ Best, named after the Buckeye mascot, is ubiquitous but best avoided as their offerings are limited to standard stadium fare. Hot dogs are $4; an all-beef Brutus Dog is $5, while a bratwurst is $5.50. Nachos, popcorn, pretzels, and candy round out the lineup here. Instead, try to find something at one of the unique concessions or portable stands around the lower concourse. Examples include O’Wich’s Smashed Sandwiches (Cajun, Buffalo Chicken, Three-Cheese) for $8.50 and Donato’s Pizza with cheese or pepperoni pies running $7.50 while an Italian sub is $8.50.

Roosters at the Shoe in the south end crows about their boneless wings at $8.50 along with a Roosters Nest (curly fries topped with those very same wings, sauce, nacho cheese, bacon bits, and green onion) for $12.

The Short North Bagel Deli has five varieties of bagel sandwiches with the Good Ole Goodale (turkey, cream cheese, colby, avocado, lettuce and honey mustard) the most tempting option and relatively inexpensive at $7.

Yellow Boy’s Polish Boys are $8 while those who have a lighter appetite can try Tradition’s Grilled Cheese Sandwiches for $6. Panera Bread is another national chain here, with sliders for $7 or a bacon turkey bravo for $9. Those with a sweet tooth can enjoy a cinnamon roll for $3.50 among other desserts. This list is by no means complete, so get there early and look around before choosing.

Alcohol is not served, but bottles of Coke products are $4, while fountain beverages are $5.50 for a souvenir cup and an extra buck for the large souvenir.

Atmosphere 5

From the moment you reach the edge of campus, the anticipation builds. Tailgate tents are set up for about a square mile in all directions. Night games, a relative rarity at Ohio Stadium, give fans a chance to start partying from well before noon. As you walk through the sea of red, you know you are in for a treat. Located along Woody Hayes Drive, Ohio Stadium doesn’t look that big from far away, at least when compared to some of these new behemoths like AT&T Stadium in Dallas. It was built in 1922 with an original capacity of 66,210, so its footprint is considerably smaller, but it still sits 104,944, and when you add some standing only tickets, attendance exceeds 108,000 for marquee matchups.

Enter via the main entrance beneath the rotunda at the north end of the stadium, genuflecting beneath the stained glass windows that were installed as part of a renovation in 2001. The concourses are quite barren, with little decoration, but once you enter the seating bowl, you will be stunned. The venue is nicknamed the Horseshoe, as you will notice standing at the top of the north stands. A large scoreboard sits above the south end, while a smaller one adorns the north side. Note the 2014 championship year along the railing at the north end of the stadium.

There is much chanting going on before the game, with the four stands chanting O-H-I-O alternately, starting with the south stand. A number of other chants are heard throughout the game. Everybody has lots of fun, except the poor visiting fans. Chanting continues throughout the game and is a huge part of the fantastic atmosphere here.

The OSU Marching Band (often referred to as The Best Damn Band in the Land) marches out of the north ramp (known as the “ramp entrance”) around 20 minutes before kickoff and immediately puts on one of the most entertaining shows you’ll see. The pregame show is similar each week, with the highlight being the creation of the Script Ohio and the dotting of the i. Make sure to be in your seats at least 30 minutes prior to kickoff to see this. Of course, Hang On Sloopy is also played (study the words before you go).

The band also performs at halftime with a different theme each week. Extremely impressive, though in some cases you need to look at the big screen to see exactly what their formation represents if you are not sitting high on the east side.

From start to finish, it is a wild ride at Ohio Stadium and one that can be enjoyed throughout the entire day.

Neighborhood 5

The campus of The Ohio State University is just a couple of miles north of downtown Columbus and quite attractive in its own right. Just north of the stadium is Lane Avenue which has a few bars, including the Varsity Club and the Thirsty Scholar. A few minutes east at the corner of Lane and High Street is a Buffalo Wild Wings, the Library Bar, and the Little Bar, all doing great business before a game. There are also a number of eateries catering to students here, such as the Chop Shop, a hamburger joint next to the BWW. Further north you can find Hendoc’s Pub (2375 North High St), a relaxed bar with decent beer specials, and Hounddog’s Pizza (2657 North High St) which serves excellent food and is a great late night option as it’s open 24 hours a day.

If you return to downtown, you have another wide range of options around Nationwide Arena as well as the Short North district. Safe to say you will not have any difficulty discovering a spot to eat or drink either before or after the game.

Fans 5

The game I attended was dubbed “Black Saturday in the Shoe” and Ohio State wore black uniforms for the first time in their history. Fans were asked to wear black and many responded as the majority of the crowd sported some sort of black attire, a very impressive look. Beyond this, fans are well behaved and friendly to visiting supporters (except those from Michigan). Given how much tailgating is taking place outside,you may expect a rowdier crowd similar to what you get at NFL games, but that is not the case. At the recent game I attended, there was one obnoxious gentleman nearby but he was quieted down by the ushers and those around him who just wanted to watch the game.

Some fans smuggle in flasks, but the lack of alcohol sales does tend to keep things under control. Fans participate in the chants throughout the game and love their team and the overall experience. I left very impressed with the Buckeye fan base.

Access 4

There are several game day lots (scarlet lots on this map) surrounding the stadium, each of which costs $15. The lots west of SR 315 are quite empty four hours before game time and do provide shuttle service, though afterwards, there is traffic on the surface streets for several blocks. Traffic moves well in general, both in the immediate vicinity of the stadium and further afield. If you don’t mind walking a mile or so, you might be able to find free street parking without meters (which are in effect until 10 pm even on Saturday). Columbus transit also provides shuttle service to the game, though with parking at the Expo Center at $5 and the shuttle ride at $5.50, I’m not sure it is worth it.

Make sure to get into the stadium early because there is a lot going on and it takes time to tour. With the small footprint, concourses can get crowded, especially on the upper levels, while the entrances get very busy in the last half-hour before kickoff as the tailgating population emerges from their tents around the same time. If you wait too long, you will miss the band’s must-see, pregame performance.

Capacity increased after some end zone seats were added for 2015, but there isn’t really a bad seat in the place. It takes about 30 minutes to tour around, checking food options and trying to get pictures from different angles. Ushers guard every entryway but are friendly and will let you through to take a photo or two.

Washrooms can get crowded, especially at halftime, so plan accordingly.

After the game, the stairways going down will be quite busy, so take your time as some of them are rather narrow. Once you are clear of the stadium, foot traffic moves well and there are dozens of police officers assisting drivers in exiting the area quickly.

Return on Investment 5

Tickets vary in price depending on the opponent. For the 2015 season, prices ranged from $65 for weak non-conference opponents, $79 for less popular conference foes, $125 for Penn State, and $150 for Michigan State. For these high-demand games, tickets are very difficult to get through public sale, and you will need to get on the official site as soon as they go on sale as they sell out within minutes. The secondary market is no cheaper as this team draws well over 100,000 for every game. There are three seating decks, A, B, and C, with even-numbered sections on the west and odd- numbered sections on the east. Even from high up, you get a good view, though binoculars are helpful.

Despite the price, the experience is unparalleled in all of sports. With only six or seven home games per year, you have very few opportunities to get here and even at $150, it is worth it if you are a stadium journeyer.

Extras 4

For those who want to see more of the band, there is a “Skull Session” at nearby St. John’s Arena where the band practices, with doors opening four hours before the game. The rotunda is the unique area that marks the main entrance to the stadium on the north side. There are several plaques here commemorating the football program and the stadium itself, as well as three stained glass windows showing football scenes that were added in 2001. If you don’t think Ohio State Football is a religion, you will after seeing these.

Just in front of the rotunda is a sculpture that honors Jesse Owens, who attended Ohio State and won a record eight individual championships before going on to world fame at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

I enjoyed the reaction of the fans to the Michigan muffed punt that cost them the game against Michigan State. This low-light was played several times on the scoreboard before the game, leading to a lot of cheering from the assembled.

Final Thoughts

Ohio Stadium is doubtless one of the top experiences for a sports traveler. College football home games are truly events and if you haven’t been to one of the football stadiums in the Big Ten, consider Ohio State as the perfect place to start.

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