Ohio State urging football fans to take precautions in heat
The Columbus Fire Division opened the hydrants outside Ohio Stadium to cool off fans at the 2011 game against Akron. Sara Konold, 6, of Upper Arlington, enjoyed it then.
With the temperature expected to reach 90 degrees on Saturday, officials are taking steps to help fans and players stay cool during Ohio State University’s football season opener against Buffalo.
Spectators in Ohio Stadium should wear hats; dress lightly; stay in the shade; and, of most importance, drink water throughout the midday home game, said Bob Armstrong, the director of OSU’s emergency management services.
“We encourage everyone to stay hydrated with water, lots of water,” he said.
Giant blue pails holding dozens of gallons of water will be set up inside the stadium, supplementing the venue’s fixed water fountains, Armstrong said.
Visitors can grab a cup and fill it up at any of the eight pails, called “water monsters,” that will be hooked up to the stadium’s waterlines.
The university is expecting the stadium, which officially seats 102,329, to be at or just under capacity, said Ohio State athletics spokesman Jerry Emig.
The players, decked out in layers of pads, don’t enjoy the same freedom of apparel as fans when it comes to dealing with the heat.
But Mickey Marotti, OSU’s assistant athletic director for football performance, said the team’s staff has been pushing water and other liquids at the players constantly ahead of Saturday’s game, in addition to having them practice in full gear to prepare for the heat.
“We’ve been preaching hydration,” he said. Players have been weighing themselves before practice and drinking enough liquids to get back to the same weight after practice. Players also will be able to get some relief from water-misting machines on the sidelines.
Because the season’s first games tend to be the hottest, extra medical workers will be at the stadium on Saturday, said Evan Derr, director of the first-aid-services team for the American Red Cross of Central and Southeast Ohio. The group will have seven stations in the stadium on game day.
During a sweltering season opener against the University of Akron two years ago, when temperatures were in the 90s, more than 300 people — about five times the average — were treated for heat-related illnesses, Armstrong said. Most of the time, people complain about nausea or dizziness.
To handle the influx, medical services set up cooling rooms in the stadium and brought more paramedics in, he said. The Columbus Division of Fire even opened up some of the fire hydrants outside the stadium so people could cool down.
Staying out of the sun in the open-air stadium can be difficult, Derr said, and spectators aren’t allowed to have umbrellas or anything else that might obstruct the view of others. So he recommends that fans go below the stands and hang out in the shade for a while if they feel the heat getting to them.
Spectators should use common sense to prepare for Saturday’s high temperatures, said Battalion Chief Patrick Ferguson, a Fire Division spokesman.
“It’s already hot in there with 100,000 of your best buddies, and it’s only going to get worse.”
Dispatch Reporter Tim May contributed to this story.