‘An unusual problem’: Stadium seats sold out, student section overflowed at Ohio State game


Brian Lee/Daily Senior Staffer

The student section in Ryan Field was at full capacity on Saturday. Some students who arrived late to Northwestern’s game with Ohio State were redirected to other parts of the stadium.

Bob Hayes, Reporter

Ryan Field staff faced unprecedented issues before and during Saturday’s Homecoming football matchup against Ohio State, including a severe thunderstorm and overcrowding in the student section.

Students began lining up to enter the general admission student section more than four hours before the game’s 7 p.m. kickoff, even waiting through an afternoon downpour to watch the Wildcats take the field.

“I was completely soaked through, and though the next two hours weren’t exactly fun, waiting was absolutely worth it,” said Weinberg freshman Joseph Raff, who joined the line at 3 p.m. “The atmosphere right by the field is amazing.”

Many students’ tailgating experiences at the new, Wildside-run area Fitzerland were cut short by the storm, which forced thousands of students to evacuate. They took shelter in nearby Welsh-Ryan Arena, which was hosting a public scrimmage for the men’s basketball team, and Trienens Hall.

“The severity of the weather dictated a number of changes to our normal routine,” athletic department spokesman Paul Kennedy told The Daily in an email. “The fact that Welsh-Ryan Arena was already in use for the basketball exhibition created some challenges, but staff navigated those hurdles effectively.”

Once the rain finally subsided by 5:30 p.m. and fans began entering the stadium, the challenges continued. The excitement surrounding the big game attracted a sold-out crowd of 47,330, including what Kennedy said was “the most students we have welcomed to Ryan Field for a football game that we have on record.”

The student section reached capacity more than a half-hour before the game, causing students to be relocated to different sections of the stadium

McCormick senior Nicholas Reimold, who arrived at the game at about 6:20 p.m., said he spent nearly an hour finding a place to watch the action.

“We were in the section directly to the right of the student section because there were no more seats in the student section,” he said. “Once we were asked to move somewhere else, we were forced to watch the game from the landing because there was nowhere else to go.”

In addition to the large influx of students, Kennedy said other concerns further complicated the staff’s jobs.

“We took steps because of overcrowding to relocate a large number of students to Walker Terrace,” he wrote in the email. “In part because the section holds fewer people standing than sitting (because people spread out), and because many young alums entered the grandstand through other entrances but made their way down into the student section to enjoy the atmosphere.”

Although many students late to enter were relocated, even students who had waited for hours and were able to sit encountered some issues.

“Near the end of halftime, I got up to use the bathroom and right as I was about to walk out of the seating area, one of the staff told me that if I left I wouldn’t be allowed back in my seat,” said Raff, who was sitting in the third row. “I decided it wasn’t worth it and just went back to my seat, but I saw that there was a huge line of people just waiting by the entrance hoping to be let in.”

Despite efforts to handle the obstacles, many students were frustrated by the overcrowding. Medill senior Priyanka Tilve said she had to constantly move around throughout the game.

“I think it’s an unusual problem because we don’t normally have this many people coming to the games, but it’s really unfortunate that the one time everyone wanted to be really spirited, we couldn’t actually enjoy it,” Tilve said. “It was frustrating because it took away from being able to watch the actual game.”

Even with the overcrowding and inclement weather, fans at Ryan Field cheered on the Cats to the final whistle.

“We’re always looking for ways to improve, and will be meeting this week to determine ways we can adjust moving forward,” Kennedy wrote.  “Having more Northwestern students at Ryan Field than the student section holds is a good problem to have, and one that we look forward to solving consistently in the future.”

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