I grew up less than 15 minutes away from Ohio Stadium, yet before this Fall, I had only been to ONE Ohio State football game. As a kid, my dad took me to plenty of Spring games. Those are always in April around my birthday, but an actual game? Nope.
It wasn’t until I was an adult and working for a major political campaign that I was offered a ticket to a real Ohio State football game. It was October 29, 2011. The season after the infamous tattoo-parlor scandal that toppled Jim Tressel, who had coached the football team for 10 years including 2002 when the team won its first national title in 34 years. I remain a Jim Tressel fan, moreso after meeting him on a random day at Nationwide Children’s Hospital when he was there with his team to visit sick children. I believe he was treated unfairly in the whole “tattoo-gate” thing and I will die on this hill, but I digress…
On that night in 2011, I was one of 105,000 screaming fans in attendance. The Buckeyes faced Wisconsin – the only team to defeat them the season prior. It was a night game broadcast on ESPN. Ohio State won 33 to 29, but I actually ended up listening to Braxton Miller complete an epic 40-yard game winning touchdown pass on the radio, because they were losing with a little more than a minute left and I was freezing…so I had left just before they won! (Life lesson: the game is never over until it’s over!)
Since then, I’ve been wanting to go back to a game. And this season, I’ve been to two.
When my husband and I told people we were taking #TheGreatAlexander to a football game, we were met with everything from astonished stares to general curiosity.
What I always end up explaining is that Joe and I were married for more than five years before we had a kid, plus neither of our parents live in town, so we are basically #TeamTakeTheToddlerEverywhere. Joe’s sister, who lives in town, did offer to watch Alexander for us, but we wanted to take him to the game! Plus, the first game we went to, it was the two-year anniversary of when we brought Alexander home from the OSU Wexner Medical Center Hospital.
Here’s six things you should know if you’re taking your toddler to the game.
- GET THERE EARLY
Honestly this is the biggest mistake we made at not one, but BOTH of the games we went to: underestimating the time it takes to get in the freaking stadium. Think of how long you think it will take you to drive to campus area, get off at the exit, find a parking spot, and walk to the stadium…then triple the time. No. Quadruple it. Seriously.
The first game, we planned to get to the ‘shoe around 11:15. We didn’t calculate having to park two MILES away from the stadium. Have a parking game plan. And bring cash. And that brings us to the next point:
2. FACTOR IN TIME FOR THE LAP TICKET LINE
I bought Joe and my tickets from a friend, so we had ours ahead of time on our phones and ready to be scanned. But for Alexander, we need what OSU calls a “lap ticket”. If you thought your kid two and under was getting in the game for free, think again. Yes, they fly across the country free. Yes, they can get into Disney World free. Yes they can basically get into anywhere free at this age. BUT, Big Ten Conference’s policy is basically, if you have a pulse, you are paying to get into the game.
The official policy states:
Fans wishing to bring small children (under the age of 2) to any of these events may purchase a lap ticket at a discounted rate for their infant. This ticket will allow the infant to enter the venue but that child must sit on their parent/guardian’s lap. If a seat must be occupied by the child and/or a carrier, then a regular ticket must be purchased. Only children UNDER age 2 are eligible for the lap ticket discount.
Ugh. Fair enough. The lap ticket is only $10. But it’s this last part that will sink your entire ship if you don’t plan ahead: Lap tickets are only available on game/event day and can be purchased at the ticket office at the venue in which the event is being held.
Keep in mind, you have to stand in line with everyone buying tickets in order to get a lap ticket. The first game, we stood in line for 45 excruciating minutes and missed nearly the entire first quarter. The second game, this line was slightly faster and I had my husband drop me off before looking for a parking space, so I could stand in line. But the parking took longer than the first time, so we missed nearly the entire first quarter. AGAIN.
4. DIAPER BAG
The stadium has a very strict bag policy, but this doesn’t apply to diaper bags. So go ahead and bring it and stock it FULL of snacks. It’s a long game. They will check and tag your bag where you get your lap ticket and you’ll enter that way also.
5. FOOD OPTIONS
As far as real food, there is Donatos personal sized pizza (I recommend), enormous Bavarian pretzels (that are rock-hard and yucky that I don’t recommend), Panera Bread sandwiches, and plenty of other food options. They accept credit cards!
6. FIRST GAME CERTIFICATE
When I posted the picture of Alexander with his first-game certificate, several people asked where we got it. They provide them at the information desk right at the front of the ‘shoe. I was standing in line to ask where you buy the lap tickets (Gate 5, by the way), when the nice employee asked if we wanted a certificate for Alexander. She wrote his name and the game on the certificate and handed it to us. Perfect for a photo-op. It was also Joe’s first game, so we should have had her write his name on there too but oh well!
I totally think going to an Ohio State game with your kid is worth it. Even though we were ridiculously late both games, it was really fun. The first game, he was completely enamored with the sounds, the crowds, and the screen. The second game was during nap time and he fell asleep in Joe’s lap. He hasn’t fallen asleep in our laps in over a year!
I do plan to go to another game next season and maybe next time I will follow my own advice and get there early enough to see the pre-game festivities!