It’s all here. The beautiful arena that’s easy to get to and a great place to watch a game. The neighborhood that went from ghost town to a welcoming place to gather before and after the game. A city with a loyal base of sports fans ready and willing to support their entry into the NHL. Just one thing has been missing to really set this market off, and unfortunately, the team on the ice is kind of an important component. To their credit, the fans are still there, still cheering, still waiting.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
If you want to eat arena food and drink, you're going to pay extra for it. It's just standard practice. If you do choose to eat at Nationwide you will most likely get a decent meal. There's a wide variety of options from pulled pork barbecue to Papa John's pizza, steak sandwiches in addition to your standard arena fare. A sandwich and fries will cost you north of $10. All the non-traditional fare follows suit. There are UDF (local chain) ice cream and Tim Horton's stands that are decently priced if you just want a snack.
There's a good selection of beer, although not every stand has every option so you may have to walk if you don't want domestic. Speaking of which, 16oz Bud/Bud Light will cost you $8. Yeah, it's expensive, but that's just what it'll cost you in an arena. On the lower concourse, there was a Columbus Brewing Company stand, if you want something local and more interesting.
So you may not encounter a sellout crowd, depending on the night, but you will get a vocal crowd. Despite the struggles, fans continue to cheer the team on. In a way, it's brought the fans closer together. Nationwide is still a young arena and the game watching experience was designed with meticulous detail. The wide concourses keep people moving and areas in the lower bowl let you see the action as you walk to your destination. I owe a mention to the Arch City Army a supporters group stationed up in an endzone of the upper bowl, they stand, yell and cheer the whole game, win or lose.
The Arena District is what every city looking to rejuvenate a rundown area is looking to accomplish. What was once the home of an abandoned state penitentiary is now an area filled with activity throughout the days and evenings. The new streets and structures are clad in beautiful red brick. Most of the surface parking lots for commuters have been filled in with high density development, hiding the parking away in garages. The area has become a nice mix of offices and condos mixed with plenty of entertainment and dining options.
Huntington Park, the minor league baseball park for the AAA Clippers, and the LC Pavilion music complex are a block away from the arena. The Arena District serves as a bridge between the high-rise businesses of downtown Columbus to the south and the eclectic, artsy neighborhood, the Short North, filled with local restaurants, galleries and shops. If you're coming in from out of town, there are a number of hotels within walking distance, in part due to the Convention Center being nearby.
For pre and post game places to check out, at least stop by the R Bar, a dedicated hockey bar mere steps away from Nationwide Arena's front door. This may be foreign to people in bigger hockey markets, but it is a rare occurrence to walk into a sports bar and have every television turned to hockey, and it warms my heart. Also, cheap drink prices help the cause.
The Three Legged Mare is a new addition and serves a wide variety of scotches and whiskeys as well as quality Irish food and is dedicated to soccer, even opening early on weekends to serve breakfast for those wanting to catch the matches in Europe. There are plenty of bars to fit your crowd and a good variety of both chain and non-chain restaurants within walking distance who are well-tuned to get you out in time for faceoff.
If you don't mind driving a bit outside of the District, a personal favorite place to eat is Tip Top Kitchen & Cocktails. It's downtown near the State Capitol and serves amazing comfort food, and has a great beer list. Also, there's an emphasis on buying local and serving products made by Columbus and Ohio breweries and distilleries.
A great late night spot is Dirty Frank's Hot Dog Palace, also downtown. They serve, you guessed it, hot dogs. Unfortunately, the space is pretty small so you might have to stake the place out to get a table.
It's unfortunate I can't give a better rating because of potential. I believe that the moment this team is competitive on the ice, these fans will go ballistic. In a good way. I've witnessed crowds like this, I SWEAR it happened. Blue Jackets fans are loyal, and intense. They cheer for the skilled star players, but have always had a soft spot for the hard working grinders, being the pragmatic midwesterners that they are.
Right now, morale is at an all-time low, but people continue to show up. They may boo a bad performance and they may leave angry, but they keep showing up. In a market the size of Columbus, it's rare to keep fan interest at the level it is with the prolonged lack of on-ice success. Look back at the numbers the Blackhawks and Penguins drew in their dark days, they're nowhere near what Columbus still draws. The fact that the team has struggled as much as it has and still manages to draw the numbers they do is a testament to the strong bond the fans have to this team, as well as the hard work put in by the Blue Jackets organization to retain and keep those relationships going. Really though, they need to start winning, so they don't turn into hockey's version of Cubs fans.
The arena sits just north of downtown and can be accessed easily by highways on all sides. If it is anywhere near evening rush hour, you'll save yourself a headache by staying off of I-70E (that cuts south of downtown) or I-71(the major North-South freeway). Try to take 315 to the Neil Avenue exit or another alternative. Really, the traffic's not all that bad since the arena is so close to the city center. Once you get close to the parking garages, you're going to pay at least $10, the only upside here is there are plenty of garages so you shouldn't have to fight to get a spot and then it's just a short walk to the street level. You just may luck out and catch some on-street parking but the meters can run into the evening so do this at your own risk (though I've never gotten a ticket for an expired parking meter, yet).
Major league sports mean major league prices and the Blue Jackets are no different. The food is expensive but is actually pretty decent. Beer prices are in line with other pro teams in the area, thankfully the Arena offers more than just the standard domestic beers, including some local microbrews. If you're looking to save some money on tickets, the team goes to great lengths to offer different value-added ticket packages that can save you money on food, merchandise, or ice skating and other activities. With the on-ice product being as it is, you can find some steals on secondary ticket sites like ScoreBig.
The Arena District is worth an extra point as a great example for other cities that want to see positive examples of arena/stadium driven revitalization.
The Cannon is good for another extra point. Other than the short playoff run, the best thing Ken Hitchcock did for the organization is to add the cannon, it's an icon the fans immediately rallied around.
The sightlines in the seats in the upper bowl sit closer to the ice than most arenas. I've attended games with friends from out of town who are surprised how comfortable and how close to the action the cheap seats are when compared to some other NHL arenas.
The OhioHealth Ice Haus is worth one final bonus point. The Jackets are still one of the few NHL teams to have an attached practice rink and it also serves as a community resource for youth skating and hockey.
Nationwide Arena is an amazing place to see a game. If you're a visiting fan from out of town, you'll find a great, relaxed experience outside of the rink and friendly fans and a comfortable atmosphere inside the arena.
Hopefully, the team will turn it around and these fans will get to show the rest of the hockey world how strong a hockey market Columbus can be.
When the Columbus Blue Jackets opened in Nationwide Arena on October 7, 2000, I don't think many people in central Ohio could anticipate the impact the expansion hockey team would have on the area.
After all, Columbus is a football town. Always has been, and always will be. Even the recent 1999 Final 4 run from the Ohio State basketball team only fleetingly captured the attention of the locals.
But the citizens of Columbus have embraced the Blue Jackets as the "little brother" to Ohio State football, despite seeing very little in return - the Jackets have made the playoffs just one time in their 10 year existence, and don't seem to show signs of significant improvement for the future.
I recently came three hours to Columbus from Youngstown Ohio Just so that I could attend WWE Raw. My experience was horrible. As I was watching the show one of the performers used pyrotechnics And out of nowhere The Pyro Came over top of the curtain and hit me on the top of the head. As soon as that happen I ran and told an usher who then Directed me to his supervisor. I Told the supervisor what had just happened to me about the Pyro hitting me on the He then asked me where I was sitting not once did he ask me if I was okay nor if I need EMS. He took my ticket and told me he would be back five minutes later he Comes back and tells me that I would have to go back to the box office in the box office would not give me the same seats in the same area or I could sit in the handicap section. I Didn't want anything from the arena nor Wwe just to let them know that they shouldn't seat there fans in section 116 anymore because it was so close to the pyro. So the next day I called the arena to inform them what happened the previous night and ask why I was Offered medical attention. I speak to there Event service coordinator I tell him everything that happen to me and he says I talked to my Supervisor and he said I didn't want to sit there anymore because it was to loud. I am Outraged I didn't want anything from this place but just to let them know what happened to be and how people shouldn't sit in that arena because of the fire rush. Instead I was insulted pretty much made out to be a liar. Not one person I spoke to on that staff was Concerned about what happened to me. I will never attend another event in the city of Columbus Ohio again after such treatment by the staff at the Nationwide Arena.
I went to this arena on back-to-back evenings for both Arena Football and NHL games. Both nights were well spent. The Arena District is beautiful. I like the brick throughout and the open layout with bars and restaurants being that close to Nationwide Arena. This is what a multi-sports venue should be; the crown jewel of an entertainment district.
533 Park Street
Columbus, OH 43215
161 N High St
Columbus, OH 43215
277 W Nationwide Blvd
Columbus, OH 43215
401 N Front St
Columbus, OH 43215
73 E Gay St
Columbus, OH 43215
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