The Arena Issue
A little more than one month after the completion of the greatest season in Columbus Blue Jacket history, the team announced that it had lost over $80 million since the 02-03 season. The apparent cause of the losses is the deal that the Blue Jackets Organization has with Nationwide and the arena.
Since the arena is owned privately by Nationwide, rather than a piece of public property, the Jackets have more costs to account for and do not receive some of the same revenue flow as do other teams. As part of the deal to let the team use the arena, Nationwide kept the naming rights without paying for them, receives all parking revenue, and retained a few suits.
Also, the Jackets are required to pay the following to Nationwide: rent, fee for practice facility, fees to maintain facilities, a ticket surcharge to Columbus Schools, as well as a few other secondary fees. These are all extra costs that most teams are not required to pay, and for the Jackets, have led to great losses.
The team, as well as Nationwide, has done a few things to address the problem and some solutions have been proposed. The team has asked the county to consider purchasing the building and suggested that a sin tax be instituted to cover the costs of the arena.
Nationwide has offered to sell the building and relinquish naming rights at significant loss. “We need to do whatever we can to keep this franchise in our city,” said Natiowide CEO Dimon McFerson. “Think of all the jobs that have been created. Think of the economic development. Think of how the face of Downtown has been changed.”
If the sin tax were implemented, Franklin County consumers would pay an extra 2.3 cents per beer, 4.5 cents per pack of cigarettes, 6.5 cents on each bottle of wine, and 60 cents on 5th of liquor. Beer and cigarette companies immediately began to lobby hard against the deal, and not enough support was seen from county commissioners. Therefore, as of last week, the proposal was seemingly dead.
As of now, it appears that if the team is going to fix this problem, it is going to need the support of the public, and the county. It does not appear they can continue the private deal they currently have with Nationwide.
From 1998 to 2008, John Glenn Affairs did an economic study of the Arena District that showed just how important the district is to Columbus and its economy. According to the study, there were 172 businesses, 7000 employees, 6 housing complexes, and 800 residents in the district as of 2006. The study also recorded $850 million in visitor spending over that span of ten years.
According to the Columbus Dispatch, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has addressed the problem by saying “As long as (the lease) can be fixed — and I think it can get fixed — people should not be concerned,” he said. “I was there during the playoffs. I’ve seen the growth of the Arena District. Nationwide Arena and this club have become an integral and essential part of this community.”
“If we would somehow lose the Blue Jackets, we’d be a lesser city” said former Columbus Mayor Greg Lashutka. The former mayor is not the only one concerned about the situation, County Commissioner John O’Grady had this to say about the problem, “I don’t want to be a county commissioner when that thing closes.”
The team has stated it has not been contacted by Canadian Billionaire Jim Balsillie. Balsillie has attempted to purchase the Penguins, Predators, and Coyotes all within the past three years with plans on moving a team to Southern Ontario. According to Puck-rakers, an attorney that represents Balsillie has stated that he has never had any interest in purchasing the Jackets. “They’re not portable. They’re not moving. The market’s too good.” Said the attorney.
You don’t have to be a hockey fan to see the impact the team has had on this city. “For a place obsesses with college football, Columbus owes much of its revival to pro hockey” wrote Jason Cowen in his May 2008 article, Columbus, Ohio’s happening side. “When Nationwide Arena opened in 2000 people not only came to see the Blue Jackets but they began to spend more and more time and money in the once gritty Short North Area” continued Cowen.
The teams needs public support to resolve this issue, and is urging the public to contact their commissioners about the dilemma asking them to take action and make sure the problem get resolved.
If you would like to contact a Franklin County Commissioner regarding the issue, their contacts are listed below.
Board President Paula Brooks
Commissioner Brooks Contact Information:
Aide to Commissioner Brooks
Commissioner Marilyn Brown
Commissioner Brown’s Contact Info:
Aide to Commissioner Brown
Commissioner John O’Grady
Commissioner O’Grady’s Contact Information:
Aide to Commissioner O’Grady