Guide to Tailgating at the Ohio Stadium

I’ve never been a big football fan, except when it comes to the Ohio State Buckeyes. My Dad was a huge Buckeye fan. His way of tailgating was to watch the game at home and either before or after the game our tailgating party was in the back yard grilling hamburgers and hot dogs on a open fire, Soda for the kids and Blatz beer for our parents. If he could have gone to a game I’m sure he would have loved the way the Buckeyes do tailgating parties.

They’ve made tailgating an art, Instead of cooking out in parking lots and heading straight to the stands like most tailgaters, Buckeye fans spend pre-game time taking in the sights in and around Ohio Stadium. The stadium’s north rotunda is a favorite spot, along with Buckeye Grove in the south corner, which has one buckeye tree planted for every Ohio State All-American.

Game day in Columbus starts early and ends late. Gates open four hours before game time. The neat thing is that people who come to Ohio Stadium are so enthralled and enthusiastic about Ohio State football. They just see it as a big privilege.

Outdoor grills and portable generators have been banned from parking garages under new tailgating rules. The grills, considered a possible fire hazard, will still be allowed in surface lots. That hasn’t ruined the spirit of the Buckeyes though or tailgating parties. Grilling is done where it’s permitted and some bring already prepared food.

Campus parking lots tend to fill early on game days. Fans should plan to arrive at least 1 �½ to 2 hours prior to kickoff. The OSU Marching Band Skull Session starts two hours before kickoff of every home football game. Held at St. John Arena, the Skull Session is a popular concert/pep rally, with over 10,000 fans in attendance. The event is free, but seating is on a first-come, first-served basis.

Public parking is available in any “day-of-game” lot at a charge of $10 per vehicle no charge with a current OSU permit). These parking lots include: parts of the Polo Field lot, Ag campus lots, Fawcett Center, Woody Hayes Facility, Blankenship Hall, the Buckeye lots at the Schottenstein Center, and West Campus lots. Free bus service from West Campus begins five hours prior to kickoff and continues until one hour after the game. Campus garages available for day-of-game parking include the Ohio Union garage, Arps Hall garage, South Cannon garage, 9th Avenue garage, 11th Avenue garage and 12th Avenue garage.

Tailgating at OSU home games has become an event in and of itself, with as many as 30,000 more people partying during the game in the parking lots and at controlled events on Lane Avenue such as Hineygate and the Varsity Club street party. The Green and White Club holds a tailgate party before every home football game in the open field across from Peden Stadium.

Tailgate parties are casual and a lot of fun, and are especially easy to plan and throw. They can be as simple as sandwiches and chips, or extremely ornate and time consuming. Some people spend days preparing for a tailgate party. Food popular among tailgaters is grilled or smoked meats are bratwurst or Italian sausages, pork chops, steaks, ribs, short ribs, ham, chicken, seafood, game, and of course, hamburger and hot dogs.

Grilled and smoked dishes are very common at tailgate parties, but perhaps the most popular dish is Chili. It is easy to make ahead of time – or even on site – and is hot and filling which can be important when tailgating in Ohio with its colder weather. Other popular hot dishes are jambalaya, soups, casseroles, pizza, chicken wings, nachos, fajitas, grilled vegetables, stews, lasagna, baked ziti, macaroni and cheese, and almost anything else that cooks quickly or is easily portable.

Sandwiches are also extremely popular. While cold sandwiches will always work, football season can be pretty chilly and hot sandwiches may be more tempting. Some favorites are meatball subs, brisket, pulled beef or pork, Philly cheese steak sandwiches, or other local favorites.

Side dishes range from cold pasta, potato, and vegetable salads to hot potato and vegetables dishes, savory breads, soups, and especially baked beans. Canned soda or juice, bottled water, and even cocktails are favorites on the cold side. A big pot of cider, coffee, and/or cocoa is also great, and hot beverages also work really well in thermoses.

To me, a football game is just a good excuse for a party – preferably a tailgate party, so even if you hate football you still might want to consider hosting a tailgate party some day and why not make it at an Ohio State Buckeye game held in the magnificent Ohio Stadium in Columbus Ohio.

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