Sorry if this was already mentioned on this blog as I primarily read from MileHighHockey since the Avalanche are my team but those of you who know me from previous posts will know I am a huge Columbus Blue Jackets fan since Columbus is my hometown.
If you live in the Columbus area you may have noticed a large amount of construction going on around the Horseshoe - and if you haven't, then I am pleased to announce that Ohio State has put in motion, plans to FINALLY install permanent lighting to the outer rim of the stadium. Lights have already begun to go up along with the addition of 2,522 seats as well as some renovations to the tunnel where the players enter and exit the field. The renovations are further detailed in an article from OSU's Student-Run newspaper, The Lantern:
The new seating arrangements on the south side of the stadium will also help to create a new tunnel area for Ohio State players to run out onto the field...this tunnel will include a slew of added features that will help to make the Buckeyes Entrance a much more energized one.
Ohio Stadium's last major expansion took place in 2001, when the seating capacity jumped from 98,841 to 101,568. The current capacity is 102,329 and the addition of a further 2,522 seats will push the capacity to 104,851, making the Horseshoe the third-largest stadium in college football (trailing Penn State's Beaver Stadium at 106,572 and Michigan Stadium at 109,901) Attendance typically hovers around 105,000 for games, though this is because OSU Marching Band members, ushers and media are counted in the total as well. Previously, OSU brought in temporary lights hoisted into the air to provide lighting for their few night games as clearly seen in the lower left-hand corner below:
A closer look at the Southeast Tunnel where the players now enter the field and where the Jackets would presumably exit is shown below:
So what does this mean for the Jackets? - Simple; it means that there is now every reason for the Columbus Blue Jackets to host an Outdoor Game of Hockey at the Horseshoe featuring anywhere from 105 to 106,000 screaming fans (which would break the record set by Michigan at 105,491).
Not long after Michigan Stadium was announced as host to the 2013 NHL Winter Classic (which was ultimately pushed back to 2014 because of the lockout) did people begin pushing the idea for Columbus to have a game in between the stands of The Shoe. SB Nation's Derek Zona posted numerous reasons for why Columbus should host an Outdoor Game; reasons including Columbus' ideal weather climate for excellent ice conditions, the Horseshoes lore, history and beauty, and a potential to drive the expansion into Ohio even further.
And amid the discussion, Ohio State University officials also took note - and didn't rule it out:
"We really haven’t talked about it," said Ben Jay, OSU’s senior associate athletics director. "We would be willing to listen and evaluate any proposal that would come to us."
One of the challenges for Ohio State, he said, would be hosting a Winter Classic at the same time the football Buckeyes play in a bowl game.
"We would have to assess whether we could pull off something like that," he said.
But Ohio State might have a hard time walking away from a potentially big pay day for hosting a Winter Classic. The NHL will pay up to $3 million to use the 109,901-seat Big House for the 2013 game,
The payout from the NHL would be a much needed boost to the university as Ohio State's academic side as a whole has seen expenses exceed revenue by $80 million, widened by a $16 million deficit in the same period last year - via www.bizjournals.com
And while OSU consider's the possibility of a Winter Classic at Ohio Stadium, another Columbus organization already has The NHL Winter Classic "on everybody's radar,":
...the Winter Classic remains on everybody’s radar, said Sports Commission Executive Director Linda Logan.
"That’s the next natural step for us," she told me. "After hosting the All-Star Game, we’ll be positioned to host (the Winter Classic), too."
One possibility that has been tossed about is a doubleheader at the Shoe that would have Ohio State’s hockey team playing in one game and the Blue Jackets in another. The Buckeyes got some experience playing outdoors last month when they faced off against Michigan before a crowd of 25,864 at Progressive Field in Cleveland.
At the end of the day, not only is Columbus the perfect venue for the Winter Classic, but also one can safely assume that the All-Star game is an audition before the league to see if it can host it's biggest event outside of the Stanley Cup Playoffs themselves.The Jackets are also on the rise in the NHL after their playoff series against Pittsburgh proved a thriller with back and forth play marked by bizarre 3-1 leads evaporating into 4-3 losses in the first four games. Columbus's proximity to major hockey markets and well-capable adversaries such as Toronto, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Chicago, and St. Louis are also a driving argument and could help sell the 105,000 seats in the stadium.
And so after all this, the only question that remains for the NHL, The Blue Jackets Organization, and The Ohio State University is, "What more reason do you need?"