Allow me to preface my brief ramble with this: there are few people who have spent more time at the Jerome Schottenstein Center than myself. Aside from the athletes and coaches themselves, you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who has spent more hours inside that concrete monster on the corner of Lane Ave and Olentangy River Road than I have.
When I was a freshman at Ohio State in the fall of 2015, still wide-eyed and wet behind the ears, I was looking for part-time work to fit between my class schedule. Something to cover weekend expenses and my cell phone bill, and not much more. I interviewed for a part-time job that fall, and ended up working there from 2015 until early 2020. I did everything from cleaning up after concerts to cleaning both basketball locker rooms to helping put down the ice before hockey season began. For the better part of five years, the Schott was part of my weekly schedule.
I was also deeply involved with the Buckeye Nuthouse student section for two years in school, helping set up the courtside section for the 700-900 students we’d welcome for each home game. There were days I would work at the Schottenstein Center in the morning, go to class, and then get back to that brick and mortar monstrosity on west campus by 5:00 to help set up for a 7:00 tipoff.
Cleaning up after athletes or hanging rally towels on seats is nothing to brag about, and that’s not what I’m trying to do here. The point is, if you want to talk to someone about the shortcomings of the Schott as a college basketball venue — I’m your man. I have now experienced the facility as an employee, student, and alum. I know the building inside and out, and have plenty of thoughts on its benefits and shortcomings as a home of college hoops.
And after running both the Buckeye NutHouse (@BuckeyeNutHouse) and LGHL (@Landgrant33) Twitter accounts at one point or another, I can see that most Ohio State fans have their thoughts on the Schott as well — mostly negative. Because Buckeye fans seem to have such harsh feelings towards the now-23-year-old building, I’m going to do my best to break them down into a more tangible list here.
While I can assure you that your thoughts are heard over and over by us, the university, and the student section, the Schott is not going anywhere anytime soon. We can get that out of the way right now. Ohio State basketball is not returning to St. John Arena on a regular basis, and they are not building a new basketball arena. So with that out of the way, why the hell do you all hate the Schott so much?
It’s too damn big
This is my personal —and I think most people’s — biggest gripe about the Schott. The building was not created strictly for basketball or hockey. It was built to host a myriad of events, from concerts to graduations to monster truck derbies. This generally goes against what you want from a college basketball venue — small, hot, a little bit uncomfortable, and very loud (more on the noise later).
It’s also quite possible you get a seat that just...sucks? If you’re on a budget like most folks are, odds are you’ll end up buying a seat somewhere in the 300-level, which isn’t great sometimes. There are a few seats wedged in the corner where you can’t see around the walls of the press box that descend down on the south side of the bowl. The top seats of the 300-level behind the baskets (the end zones, if you will) are so high up that you can’t really see the scoreboard.
Some venues “don’t have a bad seat in the house.” The Schott is not one of those venues. There are absolutely some bad seats in the house.
It gets too cold, especially on the lower level
Because basketball and ice hockey overlap and melting and re-freezing ice twice per week is completely impossible, Ohio State uses a polar floor to cover the ice when basketball is playing. Most people were already aware of this, but if not, you now know that there is almost always a full ice rink below the basketball court during games.
Immediately after hockey finishes their game and the zamboni goes over the rough ice, employees throw down giant two-inch thick pieces of gray flooring that fit like a puzzle over the ice rink. Once the ice is covered, the walls come down, the bleachers pop out, and the court is put together like a puzzle on top of the polar floor. And after about six hours of work, voila, you have yourself a basketball court.
Even with the polar floor covering the ice, the cold air from underneath the floor still sneaks out and can create a noticeable draft on the lower level. Personally, I want a basketball venue to be loud, warm, and uncomfortable for opposing teams. But at the Schott, you’re often forced to throw on a hoodie or jacket during the game because the ice under the court is doing what ice tends to do, which is be really really cold. Some games are better than others, but it’s definitely not what you want at a college basketball venue!
It doesn’t get loud enough
As a former member of the Nuthouse, I can assure you the students down front are doing their damn hardest to get the crowd riled up. The sound issue has a few wrinkles to it that we can’t really go into detail about, but for several reasons, the Schott is never going to be a loud, intimidating venue for opposing teams to play in.
For one, the place is a freaking cavern. It’s very hard to hear what people are yelling down on the 100-level when you’re up top, and vice-versa. If the students are trying to get people involved, only so many people can actually hear it, so it’s tough to get the entire building noisy.
Toughest places to play at full capacity in order:— D'Mitrik Trice (@DMitrikTrice0) May 11, 2021
Second, Ohio State basketball fans just aren’t the rowdiest bunch. That’s not the arena’s fault. People are concerned about standing up at their seats during pivotal stretches of the game because they could block someone’s view, but if everyone stood up, nobody would have an issue!
And third, the Big Ten conference and Ohio State’s athletic department are very specific with what the students can and cannot yell/cheer. I won’t divulge too much, but the student section is limited with how creative they can be at times in their efforts to rile up the home crowd and taunt the opposing team.
It’s not St. John Arena
The main reason people are bitter towards the Schott may not be the volume, temperature or size. Rather, people are just upset that it isn’t historic St. John Arena. A cavern in its own right, St. John Arena ushered in a golden era of Ohio State basketball in the 1950’s and played host to the program’s only national championship in 1960, all the way until the Schott opened in 1998. It checks nearly all the boxes you want in a college basketball venue: big but not too big, a little bit toasty, bleacher seating around the court, closer proximity to the action, and being an absolute echo chamber.
SJA is a beautiful building and a great gameday basketball venue. The Buckeyes have hosted a few home games against in-state opponents over the past four seasons (thank Chris Holtmann for that), and each time the environment is electric and the fans are amped up. However, the facility does not have the resources and practice facilities the Schott does for the student-athletes before and after games. The weight rooms, practice gyms, and locker rooms at the Schottenstein Center are second to none, and are just as important to the athletes as the main court is.
So, are fans nitpicky about the aspects of the Schott they dislike, or will they just continue to whine until Ohio State agrees to demolish the Schottenstein Center and move all basketball games back to St. John? I think it’s a bit of both, but I am 100% on board that it is one of the lower-quality venues in the Big Ten from a gameday perspective.