Ohio State's 2003 season opener with Washington Saturday night at Ohio Stadium has the potential of being a memorable one.
But officials at Ohio State are hoping it is also a safe and enjoyable one as well.
Earlier this week, those officials announced changes in the traffic and parking patterns for OSU home games. Plus, they also announced that OSU and Columbus police will be working to crack down on alcohol use at pregame tailgate parties.
Here is a look at how OSU plans to address tailgaters, followed by a look at the parking situation and also the show planned by the OSU marching and alumni bands on Saturday.
Postgame riots rocked the campus area last year after the team's win over Michigan. It's unclear whether pregame tailgate parties actually had a hand in the alcohol-fueled mayhem that occurred many hours later.
But OSU Police Chief Ron Mihalec said his officers, as well as those from the Columbus Police Department, will be present in the lots before the game, looking for flagrant offenders.
"Tailgating is not illegal at Ohio State University," Mihalec said. "We will be focusing on behavior surrounding issues pertaining to alcoholic consumption. This comes from the athletic department."
Mihalec cited problems along the Lane Avenue corridor, where several businesses have set up massive pregame and postgame parties in recent years.
"We will designate specific target zones," Mihalec said. "We will be looking at the surface lots on the north side of St. John Arena, down to the Jesse Owens Rec Center. We will also be looking at the Tuttle Park and Northwest parking ramps. Those are the areas where we have experienced the most trouble.
Mihalec said his officers will looking for an array of violations.
"We will be looking for open container violations, possession of alcohol under age 21, disorderly conduct by reason of intoxication, indecent exposure and furnishing alcoholic beverages to someone under the age of 21," he said.
Mihalec tempered the message by admitting it will not be a "zero tolerance" policy. His officers will be looking primarily for flagrant offenders.
"Our position is to start out for the first three games with warnings for non-flagrant type violations," he said. "After game three, everybody should have the routine down. We will begin issuing citations or, if applicable, arresting offenders."
But those who flaunt the law run the risk of a citation, summons or arrest, he said.
"I'm sure you've seen some examples in the past," he said. "There was one guy who drove in with a fire truck with taps out the side. That is an obvious, flagrant violation. We will act on those right away. If somebody has an open bar and we see it, we will act on that."
Mihalec said Columbus police will patrol north of Lane Avenue. They will likely be writing citations, he said.
"They will not be issuing any warnings," he said. "They plan to be out in force."
Mihalec said those parked in OSU lots found to be in violation of state laws regarding alcohol could lose future parking privileges.
"That threat actually carries greater importance than an appearance at court," he said.
Mihalec said he hopes OSU fans are understanding when his officers approach.
"We are trying to get everybody to confirm," he said. "Is it our mission to watch everybody? No. It is our mission to settle things down."
Traffic, Parking Changes
There will also be changes in the traffic pattern and parking arrangement on game day.
Beth Kelley, OSU's associate director of transportation and parking services, said the school is dealing with the loss of about 900 parking spaces due to ongoing construction projects.
"We have lost spaces in the area of Kunz Hall, Campbell Hall and Larkins Hall due to construction in those areas," Kelley said. "Plus, we have the Lane Avenue widening project. We have lost 300 spaces on the south side of Lane Avenue. That has been our disability area. As a result, we will be more stricter with that.
"The Franklin County Sheriff's Office will assist OSU police. We will check disability placards to make sure the person is in the vehicle. You wouldn't believe all of the stories we heard last year.
"We have also lost spaces off Cannon Drive because of the construction of the ramp from Route 315."
Kelley said those who are holding OSU game day parking permits should be in those spots at least one hour before game time this year.
"After one hour before the game, we can no longer guarantee you a spot," she said.
Of course, Lane Avenue is closed over the Olentangy River as that bridge project continues. Plus, Woody Hayes Drive is down to one lane in each direction over Olentangy River Road. Olentangy River Road is also down to one lane at that same location.
Other points of emphasis on parking:
* RV and camper parking is available only in the Buckeye lots at the Schottenstein Center and also in the ABB parking lots at 650 Ackerman Road.
"We know the (ABB lot) is far from convenient, but we have picked up 1,000 paved spots there," Kelley said.
* OSU will operate a shuttle from West Campus to the bridge at Drake Union. Parking costs in those lots off Kenny and Carmack roads are $10.
* COTA will offer shuttle service from the parking lot at the state fairgrounds. It runs fans to the intersection of Neil and 17th. Buses start 2-1/2 hours before the game and continue until two hours after the game.
The best advice, Kelley said, is plan to arrive early and stay late.
"People just need to be patient and follow officers' instructions," she said.
The Band Show
Last year's OSU marching band will return for the season opener before this year's new band takes over next week. Plus, the alumni band -- roughly 600 strong -- will join the fun for this game.
Both bands will appear at the Skull Session at St. John Arena, which will begin at 6 p.m.
The pregame show will include the traditional ramp entrance and tunnel for the team. Washington will have a pep band in attendance as well.
The Quad Script Ohio, incorporating the alumni band, will be performed at halftme. The halftime show will feature Big Band brass with "Sing, Sing, Sing" and a fanfare with "Georgia On My Mind" featured.