OSU hoping to have full capacity in Horseshoe this season

Bill Rabinowitz
Buckeye Xtra
A full Ohio Stadium is looking like more of a possibility for the 2021 Ohio State football season.

After almost 20,000 fans attended Ohio State’s spring game at Ohio Stadium last month, coach Ryan Day expressed optimism it was a sign of things to come.

“I’m just hoping that thing’s full when we come back against Oregon here,” Day said, referring to the Buckeyes’ home opener Sept. 11.

It’s looking more and more like he will get his wish. Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said Thursday that “we’re hopefully going to have an opportunity to be at 100% capacity” at the Horseshoe in 2021.

Smith said OSU will work with City of Columbus public health commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts in deciding the safe capacity for the stadium, which holds 104,944.

“We just have to wait and see, but our goal is to get to that point, so hopefully it happens,” Smith said.

Smith made the comment shortly before the Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced that people who are fully vaccinated no longer need to wear masks except in certain crowded settings.

On Wednesday, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced that mask mandates and most remaining health orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic would be lifted June 2.

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Brett Scarbrough, OSU’s senior associate athletic director for ticketing and premium seating, shared Smith’s hope that the stadium capacity can return to normal. But nothing has been decided.

“We have not even launched our renewals yet,” Scarbrough said.

Normally, that would happen for season-ticket holders in March, but it was delayed by the uncertainty caused by the pandemic.

“I'm optimistic that we'll probably be launching on June 1 with more formalized answers as to what it looks like,” he said. “But we know we're getting to the point where we're running out of time to get our processes done.”

The pandemic has hastened Ohio State’s conversion to digital tickets, which provides some cushion in terms of the season-ticket renewal deadline. Spring game tickets were digital, as were ones given to players’ families for the men’s NCAA basketball tournament and for OSU’s recent commencement ceremonies.

“It’s comforting to not have our first foray into that be 100,000-seat football games,” Scarbrough said.

If printed tickets were still used, he said, the deadline for ticket order completion would be in July because the company printing the tickets enough time to do that and get them delivered through the mail.

“That deadline doesn't exist anymore because we have the ability to deliver tickets instantly in the digital environment,” he said.

Scarbrough estimated a June 30 deadline to finalize renewals. With only families allowed to attend games last year, season-ticket holders were permitted to roll over their 2020 to this year. He said about 50% chose that option, 45% chose a refund, and 5% converted the payment to a charitable donation.

The 50% represents just under 9,000 accounts, Scarbrough said. Most of those clients order between two and six tickets.

Scarbrough said he is optimistic that Ohio State will ultimately reach the usual 90% renewal rate, assuming the stadium will be permitted to have full capacity.

“I’m confident we’re not going to have any issues,” he said. “People will be very excited to get back to (normal) life.”