Come time for kickoff against No. 11 Oregon Saturday, fans will gather and cheer inside Ohio Stadium for the first time in nearly two years.
Ohio State athletics director Gene Smith said Tuesday that over 90,000 fans — with over 10,000 tickets still available — are expected to pack inside the stadium to watch the top-15 showdown between No. 3 Ohio State and the Ducks for the first time since Nov. 23, 2019.
In addition, Ohio State announced in August that Ohio Stadium will host a number of changes fans may not quite be used to, including the transition to all-mobile ticketing. Parking passes will also follow a digital-only offering, and concessions and merchandise transactions will become cashless.
Smith said the decision to go all-digital was a big conversation within the department, but the desire for progress was the driving force behind the switch.
“We have to move into the 21st century. Technology is here,” Smith said. “Everyone else in the country is doing it. Our ingress eventually will be faster for people once we get used to it. Going through the gates will be faster. Parking will be faster. All those things will be faster.”
Senior associate athletics director for ticketing and premium seating Brett Scarborough said Ohio State used a soft rollout of mobile ticketing over the last four years and offered mobile-only ticketing to students during the 2019 season.
Scarborough said moving to mobile-only tickets for all fans inside Ohio Stadium had been on the department’s radar, but the pandemic sped up implementation.
“Last year, it was necessary in order to limit the amount of touch points that we have with people,” Scarborough said. “The mobile ticket environment is way more secure for fans and protecting them from fraud. Throughout the years, we deal with a lot of fraud with paper tickets, so that was one of the contributing factors to why we wanted to move this direction.”
The all-mobile move means diehard fans and collectors will lose the opportunity to add their ticket stubs to their collections or simply for all fans to have a physical token to commemorate their visit.
Smith said he considers himself a “traditionalist” and it was difficult for him to consider physical tickets becoming a thing of the past.
“At some point, we have to move forward, and technology provides that opportunity for us to have easier ingress and have a safer environment,” Smith said. “It was hard for me as a traditionalist who wants their hard ticket and that tag hanging in my car to let go. But we have to let go. We have to move on.”
Scarborough said the university plans to announce an option for fans to obtain a commemorative ticket for purchase, so collectible stubs won’t become completely obsolete.
On the other hand, digital ticketing will allow for improved methods of tracking and logistical systems, which Smith said are critical for public safety.
Fans who don’t own a smartphone or require an accommodation will not be turned away. Scarborough said individuals may contact the ticket office to provide an alternative solution, and Smith emphasized the need for patience.
Smith said Ohio State has seen an attrition rate of around “nine to 10 percent” in terms of season-ticket totals ahead of opening its home slate of games. Ohio State was “down overall” in season tickets and Smith said typical totals reach the upper-80 thousands.
Still, Smith said he and the Buckeyes are excited to welcome fans and students back to renew the traditions that have decorated the history nestled within Ohio Stadium.
“To see our fans in the stands, to see Buckeye Nation at its best, to see our band, to see the flag being raised by ROTC, to see our team running out of the tunnel, I mean, I’m jacked about it,” Smith said. “It’s going to be fun.”