Stadium Review: Ohio Stadium (The Horseshoe)

The view inside Ohio Stadium from the upper deck.

Ohio State University's football facility, Ohio Stadium, affectionately referred to as "The Horseshoe" by most folks outside of Ann Arbor might be the worst home environment in college football.

Per capita, it's the quietest stadium in the country as far as I'm concerned.

Perhaps this deserves a disclaimer - in my two experiences at Ohio Stadium, they've played Minnesota in both cases. My beloved Golden Gophers are neither a rival of Ohio State's nor were the Gophers a ranked opponent for the #1 Ohio State Buckeyes.

Before the Game - Tailgating

A group of tailgaters at Ohio State
I don't remember taking this photograph. In a related note, Four Loko is apparently legal in Ohio.
Tailgating lots were seemingly plentiful and within reasonable walking distance to the stadium (8-10 blocks). Pricing for parking was amazing. We paid $15 for a spot in a surface parking lot that was 4-5 blocks from the stadium. That's impressively cheap and I would have expected to pay $25 or so given close proximity to the stadium.

The walk around this area near campus was largely a good one. From seeing pieces of history, like the university's track named after Jesse Owens to the greenway/walkways that were in great shape with luscious landscaping, it was a nice fall day and the campus contributed to the overall beauty of the day.

My first trip to Columbus back in 2012, I left impressed with the Ohio State fanbase when it came to their respect and knowledge of their own football program. This trip was no different and while I've had awful experiences at Big Ten campuses in the past that included what could be classified as outright physical assault - the Ohio State fanbase was great in that regard. Fans let it be known in no uncertain terms you were going to lose but nobody was so belligerent or stupid that it got to the point where physical violence was ever a thought. That's how it should be.

One note, apparently on-campus tailgating can be a bit tricky when it comes to alcohol. You can't have alcohol visible - which isn't unusual but in many Big Ten cities, the police look the other way when it comes to open containers. Most at Ohio State were pretty vigilant about ensuring all alcohol be in red Dixie cups.

Walking into the stadium was a bit less impressive than the demeanor of the fans outside. They'd recently made some substantial improvements to the outside facade of the stadium but it still looks a bit cobbled together. There are however, some very impressive areas.

The rotunda was designed to look Roman in nature and I'd say it definitely looks the part. Lit up at night with stained glass, it was a beautiful area facing outside the stadium and a nice touch.

You'll want eye candy because getting into the stadium is likely going to take a while. We stood shoulder-to-shoulder with other fans for about 25 minutes as we waited to have our tickets scanned and get in. There are certainly worse places to be but I would have expected this system to be more efficient. It's not the first time they've hosted a football game, after all.

You can likely see the pedestrian bridge in the left corner of the map above. That was the bottleneck.
After the game, our return to the parking lot was a long journey that took forever to go about 3 blocks. There are just a few pedestrian bridges that cross the Oletangy River, which leads to bottlenecks at the walkways and a long wait. Especially in our case, we had a huge crowd to contend with. It turned out our parking spot was in a lot that was also the gathering point for people who took commuter buses into campus from parking areas farther out.

Inside the Stadium

We didn't have great seats and were perched on the upper-deck. My first trip we were about 10 rows up from the field in the end zone. I can attest the atmosphere is equally unimpressive from both areas of the stadium.

The Ohio State fans strike me as spoiled and entitled when it comes to their football team. I suppose 30-straight wins will do that to a fanbase. Further, there was a corporate-feel to the crowd that was accentuated with empty mid-field seats in the third quarter of what was a two possession football game.

On big plays there is applause but this isn't a ravenous environment that will make an opposing team's true-freshman quarterback need to change his pants series-after-series. Again, I have to stress that Minnesota isn't a rival of Ohio State's - but it shouldn't matter. With a stadium capacity of just under 105,000, the fans at Ohio State may as we have been at The Masters compared to what I've seen and heard a similar sized in-house fanbase at the University of Tennessee do.

Food & Concession Prices

In terms of concessions, I didn't see anything unusual that caught my eye and prices were in-line with what you'd expect to pay. $6 for nachos, $3-4 hotdogs, etc.


We had restrooms that were close-by to our section and the lines were reasonable for the most part throughout the stadium. I waited to use one of the facilities but it was a reasonable 2-3 minutes to get in and get out. Not bad. Cleanliness was on par with most other older campus stadiums, which of course isn't saying much.

Also, portable toilets were plentiful outside the stadium for tailgaters. We had good access throughout the afternoon --- which isn't always the case if you've tailgated much.

Wrap Up

Photo Credit:
In the end, Ohio State won 28-14 in a game that was relatively close. Minnesota made the 40% of the stadium that stuck around to the end sweat a bit when they pulled within a touchdown with just a few minutes remaining.

All-in-all, it's worth seeing this place and the history on campus is certainly impressive. It's clear Ohio State University has put a ton of money into their athletic department it appears to be paying off - at least in terms of on-field performance. However, if you're of the mindset that college sports shouldn't be seen as a revenue line and a primary priority of public universities, visiting this place might have you questioning society's values a bit.