Making sure fans and athletes are able to enjoy a gameday experience with minimal distractions is a part of Mike Smith’s job.
“If the restroom doesn’t work or the fans don’t know where their seat is, that can lead to a bad experience,” said Smith, the building coordinator at Ohio Stadium.
Smith, along with three full-time staff members, 15 to 25 students and contractors hired as needed, is in charge of taking care of the stadium.
Working on the ‘Shoe means Smith and his team are walking around the stadium a lot. But Smith said that’s part of the reason he likes the job.
“You’re not just sitting down at a computer and running numbers. There’s a lot of variety and challenges you run into,” he said.
Smith and the rest of the staff work together on those challenges, said Don Patko, associate athletics director of facilities operations..
“It’s a team effort between the team management that helps us with putting on the event and what we do,” he said. “You need good continuity, you’ve got to have good team effort. You need knowledge of the building to be able to maneuver in a crowded situation in order to be ready. And it starts after the last season preparing for the next season.”
Patko said there weren’t any major projects that happened this winter at the stadium, but in summer 2014, a major renovation project was completed.
That renovation included adding 2,600 seats to the south stands and a new tunnel for the Buckeyes and the opposing teams, which were added beneath the extra seats. New permanent lighting was also installed in the stadium.
The project cost $8.9 million, Patko said.
Patko said a project is planned in 2017-18 to recondition the concrete in C Deck. That project will cost about $4 million, Patko said.
Ohio Stadium’s budget comes from the Department of Athletics, and comes in at about $2.5 million a year, Patko added.
Most of the money comes from revenue from football tickets, said Mike Penner, senior associate athletics director for internal operations. He added that the rest comes from donors, tickets to other OSU sporting events, rentals of stadium event space, football bowl-game revenue and royalty income.
Some students have noticed the work that has gone into the stadium, especially in the past year. Zach Speckman, a fifth-year in history, said he was able to sit in the south stands during the last football season and liked the new additions.
“We sat in the section right on the rail. We were right there when the players came out,” Speckman said.
But some students said the energy that comes off of other fans in the stadium is what makes the experience memorable.
“I love how the stadium is set up, “ said Ronnie Varckette, a first-year in operations management. “I got to sit in Block ‘O’ his year and I really liked it. I like it when my peers are jumping around.”
Before Buckeye fans crowd into the stadium once again for the Spring Game on April 18, though, there are a couple final steps Smith, Patko and the rest of the team have to go through. Smith said this includes getting the seats ready, installing lights and setting up the goalposts.
As the team prepares for the game, Smith said there are two reasons the work is rewarding for him: the fan experience and the athlete experience.
“People travel from all over the state, all over the country, to come to the stadium. There are a lot of people who have a good experience here. I like providing that experience for fans,” he said. “I like providing or assisting the experience of student athletics as well. I like providing the venue and space, making it happen for people who play football and lacrosse.”