And this year, they're gonna need them.
Ohio State director of athletics Gene Smith told BSB yesterday – as part of a wide-ranging interview on the state of OSU athletics, which can be read in the upcoming print BSB – that the school has oversold its allotment to students one year after small pockets of empty seats could be seen throughout the stadium's student sections for most games.
That comes on the heels of high-profile issues at schools around the country – particularly rival Michigan – when it comes to selling student tickets. But at least for the time being, moving ducats – almost 30,000 of them to students alone – is not a problem Ohio State is having.
"We're fortunate," Smith said. "Obviously we've been watching it because it was happening at Michigan and actually has happened over the years across the country. … We blew way past our ticket allotment. I think we went 1,600 tickets over our allotment for students. (Ticketing director) Brett (Scarbrough) left the student ticket ordering open so more students could order.
"We're fortunate. Our public and donor sell was at about 98-point-something percent renewal. We're in good shape. However, you have to constantly continue to develop the fan experience."
All 29,614 students who requested seats will have their orders filled, Scarbrough said, and that serves as an increase from the 26,304 season tickets sold last year and the 25,798 in 2012.
With the addition of the new seats in the South Stands – pictured above – the southern section of the stadium will now hold close to 19,600 seats – and all will go to students and the band.
The new overhangs on the wings of the South Stands will also necessitate the creation of a new tunnel the team will use to take the field, and Ohio State plans to take advantage with a new special entrance for the team.
Smith won't divulge any specific details, but he hinted at other in-game atmosphere improvements, some involving the video boards in Ohio Stadium. He told ESPN that the boards will include exclusive pregame locker room video and pre-taped segments that will give fans in the stands a special view of the team.
"We're going to try some new things this fall on the video board that only people in the stadium will get a chance to see," Smith said. "You won't be seeing it at home on your couch. It'll be for people in the stadium. When you think about the new tunnel under those seats, we're going to do some things around it with the team coming out. It'll be different. It'll be really exciting during night games.
"We're constantly thinking about how we can continue to make the game fun and exciting beyond the game itself."
Smith sees how that has already taken place at Ohio State in the past few years. A year ago, the Big Ten lifted restrictions on the number and types of video replays that can be shown in league stadiums in order to give fans the views that people at home could already see.
At that time, the league said its schools should look into providing WiFi at games, something Ohio State is planning as well. Ohio Stadium already has mobile cell phone towers brought in to improve texting and calling abilities, but Smith said the stadium will have WiFi by the 2015 season, allowing people to increase their social media capabilities. Wisconsin installed WiFi at Camp Randall Stadium this offseason at the cost of $6.2 million, ESPN reported.
The OSU AD also points to benefits like the fireworks displays at last year's night games, the increased visibility of the Ohio State University Marching Band and the new concessions developed by Levy Restaurants as gameday improvements.
"We have creative people, and it's just that they are little things that we think are big things that people will say, ‘Wow, that's cool,' " Smith said. "It's like fireworks last year. I can't tell you how many people commented on the fact that we did that. We've been resisting doing that for years, but it was cool. I didn't have the vision. I had a hard time seeing it. These guys draw that stuff up, and I'm like, ‘How is that going to work?' but then when you see it, it's like, ‘OK, that's better than what I thought.' So those types of things, we have to continue to add to the experience.
"I say, ‘Look, here's eight ideas. Let's try all eight. If three of them are good, great. The rest we'll never do again.' "
Smith also said that amid recent complaints about ticket prices – this year's regular-price single-game ticket jumped to $85 apiece, with premium games vs. Virginia Tech and Michigan costing more than $100 – the school is also looking at freezing prices or introducing other pricing plans in future seasons.
"We're doing everything we can to hold our ticket prices for a while," Smith said. "We're looking at a variable ticket model for the future. We're starting that study this fall with our Athletic Council. We've stayed pretty true to our model with the exception of premium prices, now we need to look at the variable ticket model and how that will work, particularly since our scheduling really changes after 2016. We have to get ready for that and make sure we have the right pricing structure for the fan in place at that particular time."
This year's alumni single-game ticket orders were down slightly, following a trend from the past few years, Scarbrough said, but OSU achieved a 98-percent renewal rate with public season ticket holders and a 97-percent renewal rate with faculty and staff season ticket holders.