Ohio State football: Spring game expected to break even

By The Columbus Dispatch  • 
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Ohio State is optimistic that it will break even, and have a little fun, during its unprecedented road show on Saturday.

With Ohio Stadium undergoing a refurbishing of part of the seating area, the Ohio State football team will hold its spring game out of town for the first time, traveling to Cincinnati. More than 30,000 fans are expected in 65,535-seat Paul Brown Stadium.

The Buckeyes played the spring game in 22,555-seat Columbus Crew Stadium in 2000 and 2001 when Ohio Stadium was being renovated, but they opted to take this one not only on the road but also down the highway.

“This justifies taking it to Cincinnati for a couple of reasons because, one, we still had the potential to get up to 60,000, where we wouldn’t have had that potential at Crew Stadium,” said Mike Penner, OSU’s assistant athletic director for event management.

“And we’re also going to a part of the state where there’s 40,000 Ohio State alumni, and where our team hasn’t played since 2002” — a win over Cincinnati in Paul Brown Stadium.

The estimated cost of the spring game, whether at home or on the road, is $250,000 to $300,000, Penner said. It’s why the school started charging for admission years ago.

“To stage it in Cincinnati — everything is estimated costs right now (until all the bills come in), but we’re looking at closer to $300,000,” Penner said.

About 29,000 tickets had been sold by early yesterday afternoon. Adult prices are $18 and $12.

“We knew if we got to 25,000 to 30,000 in tickets sold, we were going to cover our costs,” Penner said. “Again, it’s all based on estimates, but we feel good about where we are at this point. The weather forecast calls for 53 degrees and partly-cloudy conditions, so I’m not sure how much walk-up we’ll get. But if we get about 5,000, that would be good.”

Any walk-up crowd would be seen as a bonus; most of the proceeds will go to the LiFE Sports program, a comprehensive youth-development initiative at Ohio State.

The cost of using the stadium “is estimated to be between $150,000 and $200,000 right now,” Penner said. “And there is a 25-cent surcharge per ticket,” which goes to the Cincinnati Bengals and Hamilton County.

Concession sales will include beer, which is not available at OSU home games, but OSU will not receive any of the proceeds from concessions.

The players and coaches — who will travel by bus — will stop at Bengals coach Marvin Lewis’ home for a pep talk, tour the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame & Museum, and eat dinner at the Montgomery Inn restaurant.

“It’s actually been fun putting this together, because the people in Cincinnati have been very enthusiastic about it,” Penner said.

If there was angst involved, he said, it was knowing they were taking the Buckeyes to a different part of the state and “wondering how many people would go to the game. … We thought if we got between 30,000 and 40,000, that was going to be a good day, and I think we’ll be there.”

Restaurants and bars near the stadium are looking for a good day, too.

“We do know that the Ohio State fans travel very, very well,” said Eric Dudley, a manager at The Yard House in The Banks development nearby. “We expect to be very busy. Honestly, we’re looking at it being something like Reds opening day.”

The bonus, said Bob Layton, owner of the Inn Between Tavern, is that it will be a football crowd. “Generally, the football fans spend a lot of more money than baseball fans,” Layton said. “One reason is because baseball’s got so many games. But football, what, the Bengals have eight home games a year, so that’s eight times the fans are going to go out.

“So we’re geared up for this Ohio State game. We’re geared up as much as we’d be for a Bengals game.”

tmay@dispatch.com

@Tim_Maysports

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