Highlights Of, and Reaction To, the Proposed Arena Deal

Nationwide Arena - Ownership of it may be changing hands, but the off-shoot would be CBJ hockey in Columbus for 28 more years.

The Blue Jackets would be in Columbus for another 28 years. That's the thing you need to understand, first and foremost. The rest is just handshakes and lots of money changing hands here, there, and everywhere. A lot of paper in a lot of banks and a lot of bytes on a lot of computers. Don't worry about that.

The Jackets would be staying in Columbus, and the deal would save the club $9.5 million a year, according to the terms of the proposal released today at 3 PM. The deal would center around Nationwide agreeing to invest $52 million into the ownership of the team--receiving a 30% ownership stake in return--and Franklin County and Columbus would use $42.5 million of casino tax revenue to purchase Nationwide Arena from Nationwide Realty Investors.

The arena would remain Nationwide Arena for at least 10 years under the agreement, as Nationwide would get those naming rights as part of their investment into the franchise.

Now, for the nitty-gritty. Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority would own the arena, and would re-negotiate the lease with the Blue Jackets. This is where the team would see its savings. The team would also see an influx of cash from the Nationwide investment (the $52 million), as they're selling 30% of the team's interest to Nationwide. The number cited by those releasing the proposed deal claim it would mean the Jackets--who have claimed losses of $10-$12 million a year under their current lease--would save $9.5 million, which would eliminate almost all of their losses. They can make up the rest by (hopefully) higher attendance, if the team can have success on the ice.

The purchase of the arena will require a vote of approval by the Columbus City Council and Franklin County commissioners, but it will NOT require a public vote. And, this is where a lot of citizens will be rubbed the wrong way. After all, some will say, didn't we vote against this in 1997??

Well, yes and no. Yes, the local governments are now buying the arena. But, no, you're not being asked to pay more taxes. The local governments will be using a share (25% in year one, increasing 1% each year to a cap of 32%, according to the plan) of the casino money--not ALL of it--to finance this purchase. And, at the end of the day, the local governments get to keep the tax money from ALL of the businesses that rely on the Blue Jackets for survival, and they get to keep ALL of the revenues generated from ALL of the events hosted at Nationwide. 

And, if I may get even more tangental, once the Hilton hotel being built a block away is complete, the city can host that many more events: NHL All Star games, later-round NCAA tournament games, conventions. Think about it. Think about the money the city and county stand to make from it.

And, there's always the specter of "adding another significant tenant," which is something mayor Mike Coleman has always wanted. I'm not going to say an NBA team (mainly because with the Cavs so close it doesn't make sense), but it certainly can't be ignored. If you can offer another "tenant" an attractive lease, there is incentive to move there. Not sayin', just sayin'.

Finally, the terms of the lease stipulate payments through 2039, which means the Jackets stay put until then. Isn't that what we, as fans, want more than anything?

So, I would say this: at the end of the day, if this deal goes through there's not much downside for Columbus. On one hand, yes there's less of the expected casino tax revenue to be used for other things/projects, but in the long, long run the city is better off: they keep one of their biggest revenue-generators. Think the Arena District is functional without the Jackets? Think again:

The Blue Jackets and the Nationwide Arena represent a substantial economic force in central Ohio. Across the 10 years of initiation, founding, and operation of the Blue Jackets and the Nationwide Arena, more than $850 million of spending in central Ohio is directly attributable to the Blue Jackets, Columbus Destroyers, and Nationwide Arena.

 The city earns revenue from the arena itself. Jackets fans know their team will be here for almost 30 more years.

Seriously, what's not to like?

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