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Nationwide Arena Lags Behind in Renovation Spending

Columbus Blue Jackets

When it comes to renovation spending, Nationwide Arena is lagging behind similar venues, with officials trying to firm up funds for future upgrades. 

Home to the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets, Nationwide Arena originally opened in 2000. Officials estimate that the arena could last until 2040 if the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority can spend $4 million annually on upgrades, but coming up with a funding source has been a challenge.

Revenue from the local portion of the casino tax is allocated to the arena, but it has never lived up to what had been hoped. A current proposal is to institute a new ticket tax on events within the Columbus city limits, with a portion of that revenue and Franklin County sales-tax money being directed toward Nationwide Arena and other initiatives. That proposal continues to be discussed, but no firm decisions have been made. Meanwhile, similar arenas that opened around the same period are receiving more funds for upgrades.

While there are some future improvements on tap, officials with Columbus Arena Management and the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority acknowledge that Nationwide Arena is behind similar venues in terms of renovation spending. More from the Columbus Dispatch:

Of the 19 National Hockey League arenas built within five years of Nationwide, three are in the middle of or have completed renovations of more than $60 million, the threshold [Columbus Arena Management CEO Xen] Riggs said arena operators consider a major face-lift. Nine more have spent at least $10 million on a renovation project, according to Dispatch research.

When an industry group of arena operators polled members about how much they were spending annually on capital improvements, Riggs said Nationwide ranked last.

The arena’s capital-improvement plan calls for a new scoreboard in 2021 and a new roof in 2022 at a cost of $5 million each. But operators already have raided the rainy-day fund to pay for new chillers this summer, leaving little money for future improvements.

“Those are, I would say, incremental improvements. They’re small in comparison,” said Don Brown, executive director of the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority.

Funding will certainly have to be addressed if major Nationwide Arena renovations are to come to fruition, though similar projects around the NHL could lend inspiration. Some venues that predate Nationwide Arena by a few years–including Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center, which just began a multi-phase renovation–have sought to improve seating and concessions, while adding new social spaces.

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