Ohio Stadium, the arena embracing a city

The development of the city of Columbus fueled by the stadium, now considered a symbol of Ohio.

It has just turned one hundred years old and is preparing for new seasons of success, always generating increasing interest and attracting unprecedented funds and investments. We are talking about the Ohio Stadium, a unique structure in its kind, a source of pride for a city, Columbus, one of the fastest-growing in terms of population and economy in the last two years in the United States. The city, the capital of Ohio, is rapidly approaching a million inhabitants, and its stadium can accommodate over 102,000 people, one in ten.

The Ohio Stadium, well-known as the stadium of records, is much more than an architectural complex of concrete, grass, lights, and seats. It is the place where this growing community in the American Midwest gathers and identifies itself to attend the games of the Buckeyes, the athletes of the Ohio State University college football team. Since the first game played and won by the home team on October 7, 1922, the Buckeyes have won 8 national titles, ranking high in the record books with a total of 953 victories from the day of inauguration until 2022.

Centennial stadiums

Columbus’ stadium is not the only centennial one. It is part of a group of sports facilities built just after World War I, such as Neyland Stadium in Tennessee, Kyle Field in Texas, and Michigan Stadium inaugurated in 1927, slightly larger than the Ohio Stadium, with 107,601 declared seats against 102,780. However, in November 2016, in a game against Michigan, the number of spectators at Ohio Stadium reached 110,045.

What makes this structure special is the design adopted by the designer Howard Dwight Smith, which earned him a place in the prestigious “National Registry of Historic Places” in 1974. The Ohio Stadium is shaped like a horseshoe, hence its name “Horseshoe” or more affectionately, “The Shoe.” The Buckeyes team takes its name from the term attributed to Ohio residents since the mid-1800s, following the victorious presidential campaign of William Henry Harrison, who adopted the wood and fruits of the buckeye tree, specific brown nuts or chestnuts with a whitish circular spot, reminiscent of a deer’s eyes (buck eye), as a symbol of tenacity.

Inclusion among historic buildings, at some point, represented a hindrance when, in the early 2000s, there was an attempt to add a grandstand where the horseshoe opening serves as the entrance and exit from the sports colossus. Costing $1.3 million in the 1920s, the infrastructure was renovated in 2001 with an expenditure of approximately $200 million, preserving the two levels of stands and the horseshoe-shaped layout, the first experimented with in the United States and inspired by the ancient Circus Maximus in Rome.

A river of investments for Columbus

The records of the Ohio Stadium and the fortunes of its university campus place Columbus at the center of a river of private sector investments. Large companies, many of which originate from Silicon Valley, are targeting the area as a new technological hub. Leading names such as Intel, Amgen, and Amazon have started the construction of facilities and logistics centers. One Columbus, the agency responsible for organizing the economic development of the 11 counties that make up the metropolitan area, presents enticing numbers for companies operating in the surrounding regions in the construction sector, such as Lane (Webuild Group), for the development of new basic infrastructure, such as roads, airports, and water systems. The university system alone, according to One Columbus, offers a potential of 150,000 students, with a cost of living 10% lower than the national average and zero corporate income taxes.

The main attraction remains the Ohio Stadium and the business revolving around the American college football system, consisting of 130 teams. It is a highly competitive sport, with less income for players who, unlike the NFL (National Football League) with 32 teams, are student athletes and not professionals, but with rich sponsorships and an equally impressive television and media coverage.

The playing field of the Ohio Stadium was secured in 2022 by the company Safelite AutoGlass, based in Columbus and active in the windshield repair sector for vehicles, with annual revenues of $2.3 billion. The Safelite logo is painted on the grass at the 25-yard line on both sides. The name of the stadium has not changed. At least for now.