Photos by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.29
Peden Stadium Richland Ave & S Green Dr Athens, OH 45701
Year Opened: 1929
The Crown Jewel of the Mid-American Conference
On campus, it is referred to as “The Crown Jewel of the Mid-American Conference.” Peden Stadium, home of the Ohio Bobcats, brings a vast history to the relatively young conference. Used to host the football team since 1929, Peden Stadium is named after legendary Ohio coach Don Peden. Whether or not the claims of greatness by those associated with Ohio are accurate remains in question, however, Ohio puts together a great product in a great conference in a truly historic stadium.
The Ohio program has been in operation since 1894 and is an original member of the MAC since its creation in 1946. Ohio claims eleven conference titles, including 8 from the Buckeye Athletic Conference in the thirties and MAC Championships in 1953, 1960, 1963, 1967, and 1968. The Bobcats also have a 2-7 record in Bowl games with victories in 2011 and 2012. Keep in mind that a select few teams from the MAC make it to a Bowl game at all.
Under the guidance of Coach Frank Solich, the Bobcats have been a consistent contender in the conference. A trip to Peden Stadium is a trip back in time as the stadium is the oldest in the conference and although there are some challenges and some areas in which improvements can be made, Peden Stadium offers a solid venue for a great afternoon of football.
Food & Beverage 3
Concession options at Peden Stadium are fairly limited, but there are a couple of options that may interest you.
There are a few permanent concession stands under the east and west grandstands that offer some basic options.
Hot dogs, kielbasa, bratwurst, popcorn, caramel corn, pizza, nachos, and peanuts are all available. At the Grille Stand, they have a couple of other interesting items including chicken sandwiches, gyros, cheeseburgers, and cheesesteaks. The other interesting choices are found at the Hungry Cat food truck where brisket and verde chicken are featured with either sandwiches, nachos, or platters.
Soft drinks are Pepsi products and can be found in either bottles or fountain variety. Gatorade, water, and frozen lemonade are also available. Alcohol is not sold in Peden Stadium.
Peden Stadium has a pretty good atmosphere but has some spots that could use some improvements. Ohio University has a beautiful campus with some classic architecture that features a lot of red brick and arches. Peden Stadium follows suit with its architecture.
Built-in 1929, Peden Stadium offers classic architecture with red brick all over the exterior with concrete arches throughout. Those arches often feature banners, which aids in the game day experience. The north side of the exterior also features the bronze Bobcat statue that fans all make a pilgrimage to and get that perfect photo with. Peden Stadium is also a historical site and the marker is right by the bronze Bobcat.
Inside the stadium, fans will be greeted with some pretty narrow concourses and an urge to get to the outer walkway of the stadium, which travels three-quarters of the stadium. The artificial turf field is oriented north and south with the main grandstands on the east and west.
Curved bleachers in the northeast and northwest corners of the stadium make it clear that an attempt to increase the capacity of the stadium has been made. The stadium flags are found at the north end of the stadium and the scoreboard with video board is found at the south end. The video board is significantly dated and in need of replacement.
The seating area is separated from the playing field by a horseshoe of red brick. On the northeast corner of this wall, fans will find the nine signs signifying the Bowl appearances by the Bobcats. These include the 1962 Sun Bowl, 1968 Tangerine Bowl, 2007 GMAC Bowl, 2009 Little Caesars Bowl, 2010 New Orleans Bowl, 2011 Potato Bowl, and 2012 Independence Bowl.
The 2011 and 2012 bowl appearances mark the only bowl victories for the Bobcats. On the opposite side of the field, Ohio curiously features three signs recognizing the 2006, 2009, and 2011 MAC East champions, years that the Bobcats did not win the Conference. The Bobcats should find a way to mark their five MAC Championships and six Buckeye Conference Championships.
Seating in Peden Stadium is not overly comfortable, which is pretty much par for college football. The vast majority of the stadium seating is aluminum benches without backs. If you need a back to your bench, then you will need to find a seat in one of the premium seating areas like the club seats. The west grandstand has the best view of the logo at the 50-yard line. The east grandstand is pretty much for the students and band and the northeast bleachers are for the family zone.
The game day experience at Peden Stadium is similar to many other college experiences. On a Bobcat score the cannon in the northwest corner of the stadium is fired and the cheerleaders do pushups in the end zone.
Unfortunately for the cheerleaders, the game that was reviewed saw the Bobcats score 54. The team is led onto the field by the Bobcat mascot Rufus (who rides a motorcycle around the field), and then the traditional flags spelling out Ohio and the unique flag of Ohio (except done in Ohio Bobcat colors) follow. The Ohio University Marching 110 is the band and they are fantastic.
Athens, Ohio is pretty much a college town. Peden Stadium is located at the south end of the Ohio campus. There are a couple of interesting places to grab something to eat before or after the game, however, you are going to have to head off campus.
If you head just north of campus, on the north side of W Union St, you will find Jackie O’s Pub and Brewery between S Court and S Congress. There are several other spots if you continue north on Court. You may also want to consider the Red Brick Sports Pub on N Court St.
Athens is located due east of Cincinnati and southeast of Columbus. Being a college town, there are not a ton of other options for things to do while in Athens. That being said, Ohio has a pretty solid basketball program with a strong fan base. Ohio plays basketball at the Convocation Center. There are also a whole host of Bobcat athletic teams, hosted by the university.
If you are planning on staying in Athens, there are a couple of options for accommodations that you may be interested in. The Ohio University Inn and Conference Center is conveniently located on campus. Otherwise, you may want to try the Baymont Inn and Suites or Holiday Inn Express, both conveniently located off Highway 33, northeast of campus.
The Ohio Bobcats have a decent following. The program has been pretty strong under coach Frank Solich. As a result, they have been rewarded with a pretty solid attendance. In 2014 the Bobcats averaged over 20,500 fans per game. In 2015 the Bobcats averaged over 21,300 at the time of writing, they were averaging over 22,000 fans per game.
Although these may not be numbers that are over the top compared to some of the bloated numbers that other college football programs will draw, the fact remains that the Bobcats draw close to the capacity of Peden Stadium. Compared to other programs in the MAC, the Bobcats are typically at the top of the conference with regard to average attendance.
The fans in the stands are polite, intelligent, and supportive of the Bobcats. One of the curious aspects of the game that was being reviewed was how the students participated. The student section named the O-Zone, located in the east grandstand, was full. After the band played at halftime, the students disappeared for the second half and made the stadium almost half-empty. The game played was also close throughout and not a blowout at all.
The age of Peden Stadium gets in the way of patron comfort and access. Peden Stadium is located at the south end of the Ohio University Campus, pretty much in the center of Athens, just north of the Hocking River. The campus is located very close to Highway 50 and Highway 33, so getting into town will not be too difficult.
Traveling through campus to find parking might be a bit more of a challenge. As with most programs, season ticket holders have most of the best parking spots pre-reserved. There are several other locations on campus to park, however, it may be a bit of a maze-like drive to find one.
There are several bus stops that are near Peden Stadium and go through campus. Probably the closest stop is on Richland Ave, just west of the stadium. Check out the Athens Transit website for maps, schedules, and fares.
The north tower is where you would want to head for the ticket windows, including will-call. There are several former ticket windows around the stadium that are very small but not used. Do not get frustrated with these non-functioning windows.
Getting around Peden Stadium is where it can get challenging. Under the grandstands, the concourses are very small and cramped. If possible, it is easiest to travel around the stadium on the outer walkway. The washrooms in Peden Stadium are definitely in need of some sort of upgrade as they are ancient.
Return on Investment 4
Ohio football is a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Tickets will typically run between $20 and $40. As with most programs, tickets for conference rivals are more expensive. Concession prices are decent and parking can be found for around $10. The return for the fans is good also with MACtion being some of the most underrated football in the entire country. On the day of this review, the Bobcats would go into triple overtime. A better return for the dollar would be gained with some improvements to the stadium.
An extra mark for the North Tower, which offers some modern points necessary for competing in NCAA football.
An extra mark for Ohio’s keeping of their classic, original stadium and incorporating new parts to it.
Whether or not Peden Stadium is “the crown jewel of the Mid-America Conference” is going to be up to the fan to figure out. The facts are that Ohio has a historic stadium that offers a lot to the football experience. Peden Stadium could also benefit from some stadium upgrades to improve the experience for fans. The Ohio University Marching 110 also adds to the game day experience in a way that may not be found with other schools in the conference. At the end of the day, a trip to Athens to figure out if their claims are true is worth it.