Summer is a slow time for hockey news, and we are probably all sick of debating the Artemi Panarin situation (there’s still no update on his situation, though he and his agent did meet with Jarmo Kekalainen for 45 minutes earlier this week in France).
Instead, let’s have a hypothetical discussion - if you were given control of the Columbus Blue Jackets, how would you improve fan engagement?
Nationwide Arena, at one time, was considered one of the best fan experiences in the NHL, from the arena to the food to the entertainment (on ice product around 2009 notwithstanding). However, seeing the production and level of fan engagement that teams like the San Jose Sharks, Nashville Predators, and Vegas Golden Knights have, one cannot help but feel that the arena experience in Nationwide has gotten stale.
That’s where we come in. Let’s fix the fan experience with the Columbus Blue Jackets and give it the boost in visibility and engagement it needs.
(The free space, cheaper beer prices, is assumed.)
Fan Watch Parties Outside the Arena for Playoff Games
I honestly don’t know how these aren’t a thing yet, to be totally honest. The Blue Jackets have two large plazas outside the arena and have shown an ability this past season to have beer trucks and food trucks right outside the arena for fans. It stands to reason that the team can have these for the fans while the Jackets are away during the playoffs.
We’ve all seen the scenes of other fan bases crowded outside their respective arenas during playoff games, cheering on their team, I feel like Columbus would enjoy that. There is a large contingent of fans that populate the bars in the surrounding Arena District during the games - if the Blue Jackets man an effort to engage with the fans outside the arena, certainly fans would show up to support the club. Cheering among fellow Jackets fans as the team wins on the road in the playoffs is one of the most special feelings I’ve experienced as a fan. Imagine a scene like we saw during the World Cup, with fans celebrating together in the city.
Engagement with Local Celebrity Figures
This one might be a little harder, given that there is only one other pro team in town and the owner of that team is [REDACTED]. But wouldn’t it be awesome if we could have Federico Higuain simulate lighting a fuse on the cannon for a big Pittsburgh game? Urban Meyer and Gregg Berhalter wave Ohio flags as the team skates onto the ice for their first home game of the playoffs? It seems like a slam dunk.
The Columbus Blue Jackets have always had an arms-length-at-best relationship with Ohio State, especially given the lack of willingness to cooperate for an outdoor game as well as the competition for eyeballs in the fall. However, both are a part of the city’s identity, as are (for now and soon to be for always) (#SaveTheCrew) the Columbus Crew. These groups embracing one another’s presence in a more communal way can only lead to a strengthening of partnerships and growth among fan bases.
Embrace the Identity of the City
Columbus is built on a blue collar identity (beautiful skyline notwithstanding), and it would be nice to see the team embrace that somehow. Teams like Nashville and Vegas have gone all in with their pregame productions - it would be nice to see Columbus embrace that identity in a way that the team can showcase in pregame ceremonies beyond just firing the same cannon, going through the same tired motions the team has done for the better part of a decade.
Columbus is a growing city with a lot to offer the world - the Blue Jackets should highlight that at every opportunity.
How would you improve fan relations and the arena experience? Let us know in the comments?