Ohio Stadium is currently undergoing a $13.7 million renovation that will include permanent lighting, a South end zone expansion and new field turf. Don't expect the new-and-improved version to look much different, though.
Ohio State is adding 2,600 seats to the South stands, associate director of athletics facilities Don Patko said but those additions won't jeopardize the famous horseshoe design. The sides on the South end will still be 12-15 feet apart from the original structure, allowing OSU to keep the original horseshoe shape intact.
"We are not going to have the stadium enclosed on the South end with the renovations," Patko said. "It is a difficult process. We do work very hard with different committees and the Ohio Historical Society. We are on the National Register of Historic Places. One of the things we don't want to do ever is close the Horseshoe."
While new seats will be arriving in the South end, the East end is currently devoid of bleachers while Ohio State implements concrete waterproofing designed to preserve the stadium.
One of the more noticeable changes that will be coming to Ohio Stadium is the installation of permanent lighting structures. The Buckeyes are slated to play three night games in Columbus this season, hosting Virginia Tech on Sept. 6 at 8 p.m., Cincinnati on Sept. 27 at 6 p.m. and Illinois on Nov. 1 at 8 p.m.
OSU is no stranger to night games, having hosted two in 2013, but the contest against the Hokies will be the first game played under the new high-performance sports lighting, which will also help the lighting for television broadcasts.
"You'll see lighting in the northeastern quadrant of the stadium," Patko said. "You'll also see lighting towers coming off the southeastern side of the stadium and then you'll see it on the west side of the stadium that'll pretty much give a tight crown over the press box area."
The impact of the new seats will actually affect the way the Buckeyes take the field. The seats will hang over the tunnels that both teams use to enter the field. The renovations will now put the tunnel OSU uses to enter the field over the entire southeast entrance ramp.
Once the Buckeyes take the field, they'll be greeted with a brighter playing surface than they left after the 2014 spring game. While the playing surface wouldn't have needed to be changed for another couple of years, Ohio State chose to lump in the Ohio Stadium turf with necessary practice field resurfacing projects in order to save money.
The new surface features the exact same designs as the previous one, with red end zones and white lettering with the famous Block O logo at midfield. The new artificial grass is noticeably brighter, an attribute that will wear off over time just like the last batch of turf.
"Over time, your field loses a little bit of color based on the UV rays, but everything looks nice and shiny, brand new," Patko said. "We didn't really change any of the markings on our field. You'll still see the end zones in red and you'll still see "Ohio State" and "Buckeyes" on the other end and the O in the middle."
Ohio State hopes to have the renovations to the stadium complete by Aug. 14, well ahead of the home debut, which will come against Virginia Tech nearly a month later. If that date can't be reached, it's still expected that everything will be finished before the Hokies come to town.
"As we talk about with deadlines, everything is important," Patko said. The field has to be ready, the concrete on the East side has to be ready, and the seats have to be placed back. We have to have the new seating in the South stands done, the new lighting done as well as the tunnel. As with any project, we have up until the first game, and we're excited."