The Buckeyes, Blue Jackets, Clippers and Crew lead the local sports lineup.
Columbus is far from just a football town. Sure, the Buckeyes have won back-to-back bowls against highly ranked teams the past two years. But the capital city also is home to a champion Triple-A baseball team, a solid Major League Soccer team that recently won its first MLS Cup and an NHL team vying to make it back to the playoffs. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The city also tempts sports junkies with a wealth of other athletic offerings. Fans of most any sport, from horse racing and golf to motor sports and marathons, likely can find an outlet here.
The gridiron Buckeyes are far and away the most popular team in town, and are always a dominant figure in the Big Ten conference. This season saw the Scarlet and Gray bowl-bound once again—this time to New Orleans to face the Arkansas Razorbacks in the Sugar Bowl, where the Buckeyes engineered a narrow 31-26 victory.
More than 105,000 fans wedge themselves into the Shoe on Saturday game days and hundreds of thousands more tune in on TV or radio. Those who can get OSU football tickets for the $70 list price are lucky, resourceful or well connected; home games almost always sell out by kickoff. Occasionally, the university has tickets available for early-season games—those played before students return to campus. Otherwise, you probably can find a ticket at Ohio Stadium if you arrive with cash in hand. Scalpers’ prices vary, depending on the opponent and the kind of season the Buckeyes are having.
Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams at Ohio State are closely followed and regularly earn spots in the NCAA Tournament. Columbus native Jared Sullinger, a recent graduate of Northland High School, is widely considered one of the most electrifying players in the country. The 2010-’11 women’s team—led by the dynamic duo of Jantel Lavender and Samantha Prahalis—won the Big Ten championship for the third consecutive year.
Men’s and women’s home games begin in November and end in February or early March at the 19,500-seat Value City Arena in the Schottenstein Center, at the corner of Lane Avenue and Olentangy River Road. Available seats range from $10 to $30, and it’s not uncommon for games to sell out. The women’s team draws good crowds, but tickets are always available for $11. Children and seniors get in at a reduced rate. Most men’s games—and several women’s contests—are televised on the Big Ten Network or ESPN. Select men’s games, including tournament games, are broadcast on CBS.
Other OSU sports
In addition to football and basketball, Ohio State offers 33 other sports and more than 200 annual events, several of which are televised on the Big Ten Network. Many of those “other” Buckeyes teams have found as much success as the more widely followed squads. In recent years, Ohio State has reached regional or national championship tournaments in men’s soccer, baseball, golf, wrestling, men’s ice hockey, men’s gymnastics, men’s swimming, synchronized swimming, women’s volleyball and men’s and women’s fencing.
The area around the northwest corner of Lane Avenue and Olentangy River Road has become a sprawling OSU athletic complex, anchored by the Schottenstein Center and the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. Nearby stands venerable St. John Arena, now home to the OSU gymnastics, wrestling and volleyball teams. For ticket information about any OSU sporting event, call 292-2624.
Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets have sputtered a bit since the 2008-’09 season, when they made the playoffs for the first time. Despite this, key young players—including Matt Calvert and Grant Clitsome—continue to emerge as rising stars on the roster alongside the squad’s anchor, Rick Nash.
The Blue Jackets play 41 regular-season home games from early October through April. Playoffs, if the Blue Jackets qualify, could extend into June. Seat license and season ticket holders get many of the best of the 18,136 seats available for hockey at Nationwide Arena. But it’s usually possible to get single-game tickets, even up close, for most matches, especially in advance of game day. Ticket prices range from $20 to $200 per game, face value. It’s common to find folks selling single-game tickets outside the arena in the hours leading up to game time, and many times they can be had for less than face value in the minutes right after face-off. The Blue Jackets also release a minimum of 250 seats for $10 each beginning two hours before the game. Most games are televised regionally on Fox Sports Ohio and some are aired nationally. For more information on the Blue Jackets, call 246-4625.
Nationwide Arena also hosts a variety of professional figure-skating shows, motocross and other events throughout the year. For more information on any event at Nationwide, call 246-2000.
A charter member of Major League Soccer, the Columbus Crew has been one of the league’s most successful franchises, winning its first MLS Cup in 2008 by defeating the New York Red Bulls and scoring its second consecutive Supporters’ Shield Trophy (for most wins in the regular season) in 2009.
The season runs from late March through October, with playoffs, if they qualify, running through November. U.S. Open Cup matches are scheduled as the tournament progresses. Most of the 17 regular-season home contests in 2011 are on Saturdays. Single day-of-game tickets start at $27 ($24 in advance) and parking is $10. Ticket packages are available. For more information, call 447-2739. All games are televised either nationally or regionally on ONN.
Crew Stadium, the first soccer-specific stadium built in the U.S., has converted Columbus into a soccer mecca, attracting numerous special events that draw national and international attention. Such events have included women’s World Cup games, men’s World Cup qualifiers and international “friendlies.” A stage allows the stadium to host outdoor concerts, including the Rock on the Range music festival in May.
Columbus has been home to professional baseball in one form or another almost continuously since 1875. But the city’s minor-league team, the Columbus Clippers, recently underwent some major changes.
In 2008, the Clippers signed a contract with the Cleveland Indians, becoming the Tribe’s top minor-league affiliate. In spring 2009, the team made an even bigger leap when it moved into shiny new digs at Huntington Park. The new $50 million, 10,000-seat stadium, located across from Nationwide Arena in the downtown Arena District, offers a fan-friendly atmosphere, with rooftop bleachers and views from every angle, including the concession stands.
Last season, the Clippers won the coveted Govornors’ Cup in a match against the Durham Bulls, then topped the Tacoma Rainiers 12-6 to take the Triple-A National Championship.
The 2011 season features 72 home games running April 6 through Sept. 5. Playoffs, should the Clippers qualify, could last until late September. Most home games start at 7:05 pm, though there are a few afternoon dates on the schedule. General admission is $6 for adults, $3 for seniors over 60 and children under 12; box seats are $15 (or $12 in advance); reserved seats are $10 for adults, $7 for seniors and children. For more information or to order tickets, call 462-5250 or visit clippersbaseball.com.
As the hometown of Jack Nicklaus, Columbus boasts some of the finest golf courses in the country. The city hosts one of the top annual events on the PGA Tour each year and occasionally attracts the LPGA Tour as well.
The Memorial Tournament has been held at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin every year since 1976. Muirfield’s par-72 course was designed by Nicklaus, who not only won the Memorial twice, but still hosts the event each year. The Muirfield course is spectator-friendly, with grassy banks and rises. Some of the best seats are at the private homes that line a number of the course’s fairways; the trick is getting an invitation. All four rounds are televised on the Golf Channel and CBS.
The 2011 event is May 30 through June 5, with practice rounds and other events going on earlier in the week. Tournament badges are available to the general public beginning in January, and sometimes they last until the weeks before. They cost $155, though tickets for the practice rounds, which are more readily available, are $30 for a daily pass and are good for all three non-tournament days. Call 889-6700 for more information.
One of the 20 largest marathons in the country, the Columbus Marathon attracts many of the best runners in the world, thousands of whom have qualified to run the prestigious Boston Marathon because of their performance here. The course is a veritable tour of Columbus, winding through the Short North, the Ohio State campus, Upper Arlington, German Village, Victorian Village and Bexley, then finishing back downtown at the Ohio Statehouse. Corporations and neighborhood groups sponsor festivals, entertainment and water tables along the route, and thousands line the race route when the weather is good. The 2011 event will be Oct. 16. For more information, call 421-7866.
Scioto Downs, located at 6000 S. High St., about six miles south of downtown Columbus, has been Central Ohio’s spot for harness racing since 1959. The 2011 season offers races Friday through Sunday from mid May through mid September. Scioto Downs also offers simulcasting of harness and thoroughbred races from other tracks seven nights a week May 8 through Oct. 8. In-season general admission is $3. Parking is free. For more information, call 491-2515.
The crown jewel of harness racing, the Little Brown Jug, takes place every year as the highlight of the Delaware County Fair. Most of the best 3-year-old pacers in the nation compete annually for a purse of more than $600,000 in the second leg of pacing’s Triple Crown. This year’s 66th running will be Sept. 22 at the Delaware County Fairgrounds, about 30 miles north of Columbus in Delaware.
Box seat and grandstand tickets are hard to find; most sell out at the beginning of the year. Field seats and bleacher seats usually are gone by the beginning of summer. But there’s always plenty of standing room around the half-mile track, and total attendance on Jug Day can be upwards of 50,000. Grandstand seats cost $30 Sunday through Tuesday and $50 on Wednesday and Thursday. Tickets typically are readily available for the four days of preliminary racing. It’s a rare Jug week that doesn’t see at least a couple of world records on the preliminary race cards. For more information, call the Delaware County Fair office at (800) 335-3247.
Central Ohio’s thoroughbred race track, Beulah Park, is in Grove City, about 10 miles southwest of Columbus. In early 2011, the park’s new owner, Penn National Gaming Inc., was considering a plan to move it to Dayton. Until a decision is made, however, Beulah continues to run two racing seasons, January through early May and September through December. Depending on the season, live racing is held four or five days a week with post times in the early afternoon. Live racing is supplemented by simulcast races from 12 to 15 harness and thoroughbred tracks, shown from noon to midnight seven days a week.
General admission is $2 on live racing days and free on Sundays, Thursdays and days when only simulcasts are offered. Seniors and children 12 to 17 are $1 and kids under 12 are admitted free. General parking is $1; preferred parking is $2. All seating areas are enclosed and heated. For more information, call 871-9600.
The All American Quarter Horse Congress, which has taken place at the Ohio Expo Center (also known as the state fairgrounds) since 1967, is the world’s largest single-breed horse show. This year’s 45th annual event, taking place Oct. 7 through 30, is Ohio’s largest annual convention and the third largest convention in the U.S., with 650,000 attendees infusing more than $110 million into the Columbus economy. Tickets for the event are $25 per carload per day. Whole-show passes also are available, and certain events have additional admission prices.
The Expo Center is home to a host of other horse shows during the year. Call 644-3247 or log on to ohioexpocenter.com for more information.
The Tour de Grandview, celebrating 20 years in Central Ohio, has been rated one of the top five events of its kind in the country. Male and female professional cyclists from around the world will race through the Columbus suburb of Grandview Heights on June 26, 2011. Admission is free, and events include a street party, live entertainment and children’s activities. For more information, call 529-4268.
Pelotonia is an amateur bike tour launched in 2009 that raises money for cancer research. Cyclists can opt to ride varying distances between Columbus and Athens and back. The 2011 event is Aug. 19 through 21. For information, call 221-6100.
About 20 miles east of Columbus, in Hebron, is National Trail Raceway, which hosts national drag-racing competitions. Highlights on the 2011 schedule include National Association of Diesel Motorsports Nationals June 4; the 24th Annual Night of Thunder July 16, and the 7th Annual Jegs Northern Sportsnationals Sept. 22 through 25. For more information, call (740) 928-5706.