With Ohio’s high school state championship meet almost upon us, slated for February 24-27th, the issue of tickets for the main event at C.T. Branin Natatorium in Canton is again in the spotlight.
In the past, spectators would purchase tickets in advance either on-site or through their respective school, followed by hours waiting in line in the cold at the natatorium to receive a number dictating when the ticket buyer could be admitted to an unassigned seat.
This led to enormously long lines, some in the ballpark of 200 people, and disgruntled swim fans. Reflecting on the past process, State Tournament Manager, Sam Seiple, said, “It just got out of control outside. The tents, people drinking all night … we needed to eliminate that.”
But this year, a new system is hoping to make the process less of a hassle. Although the same number of tickets will be available for each session (approximately 2,000), tickets will only be sold in packets for both the prelims and finals within each division.
However, coaches – and only coaches – are able to buy tickets in advance, specifically at 6pm on February 21st via an online portal. Each participating team will be allotted a specific number of tickets, whose figure is based on the number of state qualifiers on the respective team. The coach doesn’t have to buy the maximum allowable tickets, but only one order per team is allowed to be placed.
Of note, the earlier the purchase is made by the coach, the lower an assigned number to the purchase order will be. The number then dictates the ticket-holder’s place in line prior to the doors opening at the state meet. Fans are not permitted to be in line to be admitted to the natatorium until an hour before the doors open.
“But really, there will be no reason to line up early,” Seiple said. “The number on the ticket determines when you can get in. There will be security on the grounds 24 hours, and they will be making sure that people are allowed to get their proper place in line.”
“The important thing for the coaches to realize this year is that they will need to get the tickets in the hands of their people before the session,” Seiple said. “In the past, a lot of coaches would leave tickets at the will-call window. They shouldn’t do that this year, because the ticket holder needs to have the ticket to get their place in line.”
The tournament runs February 24-27th with prelims scheduled at 9am each day, with finals taking place at different times each day.