When Ohio State welcomes a large crowd back to Ohio Stadium for the first time in two years when the Buckeyes play host to Oregon on Saturday, fans can expect a much different experience from their last visit.
They will not be required to show proof of having received a COVID-19 vaccine, though.
Director of athletics Gene Smith told reporters at a press conference Tuesday such a requirement — which has been adopted by some schools, including Oregon — was discussed but ultimately not adopted.
“We talked about it a while ago, maybe a month ago,” Smith said. “We decided to walk away from that. We are leaving it up to our fans to be safe and be responsible. There is no one else in the Big Ten who is doing that. There is no one else in the state of Ohio doing that.”
There will be plenty of changes at the stadium as it kicks off its 100th year of hosting Buckeye football.
For starters, the expectation is it will be a largely touch-less experience.
Virtually all tickets will be digital and accessed via mobile devices, and the intention is for no cash to be accepted for concessions, programs or merchandise, either.
Fans will be able to use a credit or debit card or Apple Pay or Google Pay for concessions, programs and merchandise, and that is the encouraged manner of payment.
“So, we do recognize that some of our fans prefer cash,” said Chris North, director of operations for Ohio State’s concessions. “The ability of purchasing a gift card will be available. We have people readily. We’ll have a stash of them on them so we can deploy as necessary.
“Honestly if they go to a concession stand and they let them know that they only have cash as an option, we can take care of them right there.”
Parking will also be touchless with fans being able to access their pass via mobile device and scanning a QR code upon arriving at a their lot. To get to their lot, fans can expect to need to flash a color-coded pass on their phone to parking attendance to help them get to where they need to be.
“Essentially the mobile tickets on your phone will be different colors depending on what zone, i.e. which checkpoint that you want to get through,” director of ticketing Brett Scarbrough said. “So once you get to a checkpoint, you’ll flash that mobile ticket on your phone and depending on the color, they will let you through that checkpoint all the way to the lot.”
At the game, all fans will be required to pass through a metal detector, and all will scan their own ticket (on their phone) at one of 120 ticket pedestals.
Ohio State recommends using the new version of its official app to access tickets and parking passes, but it is not required.
Fans also will be able to access tickets through the Ticketmaster app, as they may already be familiar with doing.
The Ohio State app is available both to Apple and Google Play users at those respective online app stores, and it will allow fans to order concessions, map the venue and get free live game audio.
“Mobile ordering will be expanded to all of our permanent concession stands,” North said after noting a pilot programming existed in select sections in 2019. “You certainly have the ability of going up to the counter the same as you always have in the past, but the option of being able to mobile order will also be in every permanent concession stand.”
Tickets will be available for those without smart phones, but the specific way the school plans to handle that has not been announced.
Those who wanted to buy tickets to the game Saturday — or any other game this season — can still do so.
Scarbrough said about 10,000 single-game tickets were still available for the Oregon game, and no other game has sold out yet, either.
Citing CDC guidelines, the university will require all visitors to wear masks indoors on campus regardless of vaccination status.
That will carry over to all interior public spaces at Ohio Stadium during football games, including elevators, restrooms, first aid rooms, the Huntington Club and the press box.
Everyone at Skull Session — the marching band’s pregame warm-up performance at St. John Arena — will be required to wear masks, including football players and members of the band.
At the game, attendees will not be required to mask at entry gates, in the concourse, at concession stands or in their seats.
Everyone using public transportation also must wear masks, and those who are unvaccinated are required to wear masks outdoors when they cannot maintain social distance.
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