Ohio Stadium has been home to, yes, Ohio State football but also to so much more
Ohio State football is celebrating a century at the Horseshoe this year. In recognition of that, The Columbus Dispatch will be sharing special Ohio Stadium content throughout this week.
Ohio Stadium isn’t just the home of Ohio State football.
The Horseshoe has seen plenty of history inside its historic walls that have nothing to do with touchdowns, extra points or rivalry showdowns against That Team Up North. It’s been the site of famous concerts, memorable milestones and, occasionally, a little extra water. On the 100th anniversary of the stadium, here’s a look at some of the top non-football events to take place at The House That Harley Built.
The Flood — Spring, 1927
It’s a well-known fact that the stadium was built on a floodplain. During construction, a bend in the Olentangy River was straightened and natural drainage options were rerouted while land east of the river was graded and paved. During spring break in 1927, the south towers and stack were flooded, but the field was spared, according to university archives.
Flooding in the area would remain an occasional issue, and the late-90s renovation to the stadium also included installing a slurry wall going as deep as 60 feet below ground along with an irrigation system to prevent the newly lowered field from taking on water despite sitting below the water table.
Ohio State first celebrates commencement at Ohio Stadium — June 1, 1928
The majority of Ohio State’s commencement speeches had been given at University Hall Chapel until William Oxley Thompson addressed the 1928 class at the football stadium. The fifth president of the university and eventually the namesake of the campus library, Thompson gave a speech titled “Higher Education – A Gift or a Purpose?” It ran 23 pages long and concluded, “Go forth and take up your stewardship, strong in the will to return to humanity, with good interest, all that humanity and nature have given you.”
Ohio Stadium has been the primary spring commencement site ever since. It was held elsewhere from 1943-45 during World War II, as well as in 1963. It was canceled due to weather in 1997 and returned in 1998. But following that, renovations forced it to the Oval until 2002, when President George W. Bush delivered the commencement address.
Jesse Owens races at Ohio Stadium — 1934-36
The greatest athlete to ever compete for Ohio State was, quite possibly, not a football player.
Jesse Owens raced around the track at Ohio Stadium for three years. The Horseshoe wasn’t the scene of Owens’ biggest achievements, however.
He won four NCAA titles in Berkeley, California, in 1935 and duplicated that feat in 1936 at Stagg Field in Chicago. The "Buckeye Bullet" went to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin and brought home four gold medals.
But the most famous day in Owens’ career, which remains one of the greatest individual accomplishments in American sports history, occurred at the Big Ten Championships in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Owens set world records in the 100-yard dash, the 220-yard dash, the 220 low hurdles and the long jump, and he did so all within the span of 45 minutes.
The play's the thing — 1950
Ohio Stadium served as the stage for one of America's first university-community summer theatres. Taking place outside of gate ten, the productions were originally directed by Roy Bowen, part of the more than 150 plays he directed for The Ohio State University over a career spanning more than 60 years.
Inaugural Jesse Owens Classic — Spring 1985
The Ohio State track was removed from Ohio Stadium in 1999 with a new facility, Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium, eventually replacing it. The school also hosts an annual event named after the OSU legend. And it was first held at the Horseshoe in 1985, when 38 Olympians participated in the Jesse Owens Classic.
Ohio State track and field:Ohio State has produced more world class sprinters than just Jesse Owens | Rob Oller
It's one of Owens' enduring legacies and a fitting salute to his status as one of the country’s first Black icons in sports
Pink Floyd plays Ohio Stadium — May 28, 1988
There have since been bigger concerts – roughly 90,000 took in the 2015 installment of Buckeye Country Superfest featuring Kenny Chesney and Rascal Flatts, among others – but they might not have happened if not for a group of British stars proving that the Horseshoe could rock. Pink Floyd was the first band to stage a concert at Ohio Stadium, and a crowd of nearly 64,000 paid $20 for reserved tickets that were first offered to Ohio State students, faculty and alumni. T-shirts went for $18, and those who bought one had a tangible memento from what, to that point, was the largest concert in Columbus history.
Columbus Crew first home match — April 13, 1996
Before Crew Stadium became Major League Soccer's first soccer-specific stadium, and Columbus evolved into the spiritual home of the U.S. national teams, the Crew played their first three seasons at Ohio Stadium.
The Crew’s top draft pick and eventual U.S. men’s national team staple Brian McBride scored two goals and electrified the 25,266 in attendance for the Crew’s 4-0 victory against D.C. United. The inaugural home match for the first club of MLS showed what was possible for soccer in the city and America, writ large.
Columbus mourns — Sept. 15, 2001
Four days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, more than 10,000 residents and students gathered at the stadium for a one-hour service to show their patriotic spirit and support relief efforts of the American Red Cross. For a $10 donation, attendees received an American flag at concession stands, which had been turned into donation sites, while a list of speakers including Ohio governor Bob Taft and Columbus mayor Michael B. Coleman expressed their hopes for peace.
The event culminated with a single trumpeter playing taps.
Paris Saint-Germain vs. Real Madrid — July 27, 2016
Ohio Stadium hosted an International Champions Cup game between Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid — two of the best and most recognized soccer teams around the globe. The match was ostensibly a glorified preseason exhibition for both teams, but Ohio Stadium was filled to the brim with soccer fans who traveled hundreds of miles for a rare glimpse at some of the best players in the world.
There were 86,641 fans on hand to watch PSG beat Ream Madrid 3-1. It remains a record for a soccer match in Ohio.
Ohio State men’s lacrosse beats No. 2 Maryland — April 22, 2017
The Buckeyes took down perennial men’s lacrosse powerhouse Maryland at Ohio Stadium in a dramatic 11-10 overtime victory, and the 2017 win remains one of the most important in program history.
It helped Ohio State advance to the national championship later that season, where it then lost to the Terrapins, 9-6.