Ohio Stadium: Used For Much More Than Ohio State Football, But A Giant Piece of the 'Wow' Factor Urban Meyer Wants

By Eric Seger on March 30, 2016 at 8:35 am

Ohio Stadium is as historic a venue as there is in amateur athletics, but the place known as The Horseshoe is a key component of much more than just Buckeye football.

If you flip on the television when the Buckeyes host Michigan or even pump out the money needed to purchase a ticket to see a game live on a Saturday afternoon anytime from September to November, Ohio State is all about Urban Meyer's program. Throughout the rest of the week and year, however, Ohio Stadium houses everything from work Christmas parties, weddings and fundraisers.

"The funny thing is, football doesn’t do a lot over here at all. This is a game day facility," said Pete Olms, who has been director of special events at the stadium since 2001. "They come, they play, then win, they leave. They barely use it for camps."

That does not mean the football team doesn't use Ohio Stadium when it needs to. Recruiting runs the world in Meyer's program, and a quick tour of the Orlando Pace Recruit Room in the southeast corner bell tower makes it clear how essential the building is as a prop among top prospects. Ari Wasserman from cleveland.com also posted photos and a 360-degree video of what it's like to stand in the middle of the Recruit Room first, so you should check that out too.

"The Shoe is as fine as facility as there is, and I wasn't here when they made the renovation, but they obviously did a wonderful job," Meyer said Tuesday after he and his team completed their sixth practice of the spring.

That statement came hours before the university announced a $42 million dollar renovation project which includes the removal of 2,600 seats at Ohio Stadium and improvements to B and C-decks.

The football team spends the majority of its time at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center for workouts and practices. It's undergone facelifts in recent years too, like a new video screen on its indoor field, a mural in the hallway and new seats in the team room.

"When you come in, this should be a 'wow' place," Meyer said. "Every year you see we have a little coat of paint here and there to make it nice. The indoor with the TV now and those types of things, I like where we're at.

"We gotta keep pushing."

Ohio State and Director of Athletics Gene Smith will keep pushing as long as Meyer keeps adding checkmarks to the win column, which he's done at a ridiculous rate since taking over before the 2012 season. Meyer is 50-4 in Columbus, winning both the 2014 Big Ten and College Football Playoff National Championships.

Success brings new toys like the Pace Recruit Room at the stadium, named after the 1996 Outland Trophy winner who donated $50,000 for updates. Recruits get a firsthand look at the apparel they would wear as Buckeyes, see photos and lists of previous national award winners, Heisman Trophy recipients and the laundry list of seasons that ended in Big Ten and national championships. There are even pub tables on the sides that have plugs so patrons and recruits can recharge their smartphones.

After the 2014 national title, more changes came in the form of a wall painting of the team celebrating the championship and different numbers added to the wall to make it up to date.

"They put that in immediately," Olms said. "When they upgraded the graphics and things in here, it really woke you up a little bit."

"It’s a hospitality space for recruits," Olms said. "You got the hostesses, you’ve got the recruits ... "

"It’s a busy environment on game days, so it’s a good extra space to have."

The space resides one floor below the postgame media room. That press area sits next to the old recruiting room, which housed specific players on visits until the stadium was refurbished ahead of the 2001 season — around the time of former coach Jim Tressel's hire.

As soon as the school completed that $194 million project, the new Recruit Room was born. It seats 125, but Olms wishes it was twice as large.

"It's tight," Olms said.

Company dinners, wedding receptions and other events take place either in the Recruit Room or the suite areas across the field above the press box, amassing in number to as many as 300 a year — most of which have nothing to do with football. That includes the concert series the school hosted last summer and further intenda to do so again this year. A four-hour rental for a wedding costs $2,500, but any more time on a rental runs the price to $3,500 for the entire day.

Since Ohio State hired him in 2001, Olms said he's overseen roughly 3,500 events, not counting wedding photos or rehearsals. The bulk of those aren't football related. Olms added 40 of 52 weekends in 2015 were booked.

"Other than Friday Night Lights and game days, they’re not here much at all," Olms said. "Tressel used to come over 2-3 practices in the spring, 2-3 in the fall and that was it. Urban is over here even less.

"Anytime they are over here in August is when they come in at like 6 a.m., run, puke, and that’s about it. They’re out the door before I even roll in at 7:15, 7:30. That’s the extent of their practices in the stadium."

So if you drive by Ohio Stadium during the summer or at any other time of the year when it isn't football season, you could expect a lacrosse camp, wrestling workout, company fundraiser or anything in between to be under Olms and his student-laden staff's umbrella.

"Even ice hockey uses it. They use it to come over for recruiting," Olms said. "I have more interaction in this building with wrestling and lacrosse than I do football because of the fact we use the club for a full-time cafeteria for camps."

Such is life in the never-ending arms race of college athletics.

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