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Founded in 2000, the Columbus Blue Jackets have taken their time to mature into a contender. As the lockout-shortened season of 2013 saw the team miss the playoffs by only one point, the 2013-14 season carries a renewed sense of hope along with a new set of circumstances as the team undergoes its first campaign in the NHL’s Eastern Conference.
The home of the Blue Jackets, Nationwide Arena, has undergone a number of changes to keep up with what will hopefully be the start of a new era of on-ice success.
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".
As is standard with most major league arenas, the concessions are pricey but in Nationwide's case, there are some quality options should you choose to eat or drink at the game. Along with the standard burger and fries and pizza, there's the Smokehouse barbecue stand outside section 114 which, in addition to brisket, pulled pork and other smoked meats, also offers "Bacon On A Stick." Perhaps the most unique offering is the Dancing Kevin sandwich (named after the resident shirtless dancing guy at Blue Jackets games), packed with ham, pulled pork, bacon, and mozzarella cheese sticks. The Tim Horton's (donuts & coffee) stand offers one of the best values if you just want a snack.
For "healthier" options, both concourse levels have a quick-service convenience store offering sandwiches, fruit, hummus, and other options alongside aspirin and other sundry items.
The beer selection has been improved with the addition of some craft beer stands including an Ohio beer stand selling $7 bottles from Elevator, Great Lakes, and more. Otherwise, there are the usual domestic beer options and a few premium cocktail stands. You can actually find cheaper beer in the Labatt Blue Zone pub, located on the main concourse near the arena's southeast corner and the practice rink.
The atmosphere can be hit-or-miss depending on the how the Jackets are doing. At the beginning of the 2013-2014 season when the team struggled, visiting fans from Pittsburgh and Toronto could make just as much noise as the locals. Luckily, after some key players returned from injury, the team went on a franchise-record eight game winning streak in January, pushing the Jackets into playoff contention and giving Nationwide Arena a boost to the energy level.
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.
If you're coming to a Jackets game in either the very beginning of their pre-season schedule or towards the end of the regular season in April, you may be able to catch a Columbus Clippers minor league baseball game at nearby Huntington Park (Stadium Journey ranked it as the 4th best stadium in minor league baseball), two blocks west of the arena. On the same block as Huntington Park there are a number live music venues like the LC Pavilion, which features larger national acts in both indoor and outdoor settings, and the A&R Music Bar/The Basement, two smaller clubs in the same building that feature live music and comedy.
There are a number of restaurants across the street from the arena along Nationwide Blvd. including Jimmy John's sandwiches, Boston's (sports bar/restaurant serving pizza, pasta, burgers) and Ted's Montana Grill (which features bison alongside beef burgers/steaks).
Between the arena's eastern edge and Front Street there are quick service chains like Chipotle and Steak Escape (grilled sub sandwiches), and restaurants like Buca di Beppo (343 N. Front) and Gordon Biersch Brewery (401 N. Front #120). Personally, my favorite stop over here is the R Bar (413 N. Front). It's the only place I've ever walked in and seen every tv tuned to hockey and its walls are covered in Blue Jackets memorabilia. The owners of the R Bar also own the English-style pub just a few doors down, the Three Legged Mare (401 N. Front #150).
Continue a block north of the R Bar, and Front Street turns into Park Street. Here you'll find some more bars and restaurants (a full list is here). No place really stands out except for maybe Park Street Cantina, a tequila bar that brings in different food trucks on Friday and Saturday nights, but the real place to go is the North Market (59 Spruce Street). It's a great place to sample and support independent businesses. Along with the butchers, cheesemongers and coffee roasters, you have stands serving fresh made Bavarian pretzels at Brezel, Belgian waffles at Taste of Belgium, and more stands serving Vietnamese pho, Indian cuisine, New York style pizza, barbecue, etc. But if there's one place you have to try here, it's Jeni's Ice Cream. You can find gourmet versions of more standard flavors like the Buckeye State (chocolate & peanut butter) or the Askinosie Dark Milk Chocolate (named for their cocoa bean supplier) but they also make really adventurous flavors like Goat Cheese & Red Cherries or the Yazoo Sue (ice cream made with a cherrywood-smoked porter beer with rosemary, brown sugar and cayenne flavored nuts mixed in). One thing to keep in mind is the market's hours, Tuesday-Friday, it's always open until 7pm (right before weekday game times) but on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, they close at 5pm.
Be sure to check the Arena District's site. There you can find a helpful map of the area as well as most of the hotels nearby. One hotel not listed is the Hilton Columbus Downtown (401 N. High Street), located across the street from the city's convention center and a couple blocks from the arena.
If you want to explore the nearby Short North neighborhood and arts district, I'd recommend Knead (505 N. High), a high-quality, locally-sourced take on a diner or the beloved grilled cheese-themed restaurant from Cleveland, Melt, which recently opened a location here at 840 N. High.
After the lockout-shortened 2012-2013 season saw Columbus fight their way to nearly clinch a playoff spot on the last day of the season (missed by one point), the expectations of the fan base rose for the 2013-14 season. Unfortunately, the team's slow start to the year was paralleled at the gate, with poor crowds showing up through the first few months. However after improved play through the new year, including a franchise record eight-game winning streak, those holdouts are being won over and nightly crowds are now around the 16,000-17,000 range.
The place can be incredibly loud when things are going right, but is a tomb when the team struggles.
The arena sits just north of downtown and can be accessed easily by highways on all sides. If it's anywhere near weekday 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.
There's a large parking garage directly west of the arena (near Nationwide Blvd & John McConnell Blvd) for $15. Other garages in the arena district will run you $10 and are only a short walk (the garages at 300 Neil Avenue or Nationwide & Front Street are both a 5 minute walk from the arena). The Arena District site provides this up-to-date map of various lots in the area. The Arena district does offer a prepay parking option which will guarantee you spot in a specific garage, which is nice but perhaps a bit unnecessary unless the area happens to overloaded with events. It also adds a couple dollars in fees to the garages' rate.
If you arrive in the district after business hours, you may be able to snag an on-street meter (look on eastbound Nationwide Blvd or Marconi Blvd.). If you need to cover any time before enforced hours are over, you can pay with coins or credit/debit cards.
Ticket prices (including the dreaded TicketMaster fees) for most Blue Jackets games run from $74.50-$223.50 in the lower bowl and $37-$64.50 in the upper deck. But as is the trend in live sports, teams are going to "dynamic pricing" for bigger opponents. In this case, games against teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins will see prices jump an additional $15 for lowers and $10 upper so be aware.
The team does offer some great value-added ticket promotions like the Family Value Pack, which gets you an upper deck ticket, food and drink, plus a skate pass at the Ice Haus rink next door, or the Tim Hortons Pack which is a game ticket, $10 concession voucher, a Blue Jackets hat, a travel mug plus free coffee and a 10-pack of Timbits (donut holes). Both of these start at $38.15/person (including service fees).
The best deals, however, are geared to those still in school or with flexible schedules. There's the 'CBJ Rush' program that offers those with a high school or college ID $25 lower bowl seats or $15 uppers. The catch is they only go on sale at the arena box office one hour before the game and are subject to availability depending on demand for that specific game. There are also Huntington Green Seats, these are 250 seats, located at the top rows of Section 201 & 219, that are only $10.These go on sale two hours before game time but are available at every game.
The Cannon. The post-goal blasts have made the cannon an iconic piece of the Blue Jackets experience.
The OhioHealth Ice Haus. 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 public skating, figure skating and youth hockey.
The videoboard. Added before the 2012-2013 season in anticipation for the All-Star Game that never was (due to the lockout), the massive four-sided HD 'media center' is a huge upgrade over the last iteration. Additionally, the arena's sound system and all tv's in the concourse were replaced.
The arena and its relation to the Arena District. Project planners from many teams around the country, most recently the Edmonton Oilers and Detroit Red Wings, have come to Columbus to examine what they've done with the arena and the how they've integrated it within the Arena District. The AD has served to reconnect downtown Columbus with the neighborhoods to the north and is slowly becoming less of an entertainment development and more of a neighborhood itself. Surface parking lots continue to disappear as office buildings and parking garages clad in the districts' signature red brick take their place while condos and apartment buildings continue to grow along the district's northern edge, close to the Victorian Village neighborhood, full of restored Victorian homes and Goodale Park, a 32-acre public park and also the Short North area, full of great restaurants, art galleries, and shopping.
You may also consider seeing one of the many Ohio State athletic events going on during the Blue Jackets' season. Depending on the time of year of your visit you could see Ohio State football at the Horseshoe, Buckeye basketball hockey at Value City Arena, or OSU baseball at Bill Davis Stadium. Golf fans may want to visit the Jack Nicklaus Museum.
I'd expect further polishing of the game experience with Columbus finally getting to host the NHL All-Star Game in 2015. Arena staff, particularly the ushers I've encountered, have always been friendly and helpful and should continue to be a great asset for the arena. As for the physical state of the 13 year-old facility, it's nice to see the arena's leadership being proactive in keeping the fan experience fresh and attempting to offer the highest level of service they can. In addition to the videoboard upgrade, most lower bowl seats were replaced this past summer with the rest of the arena to be upgraded in two future phases. As-is, Nationwide Arena is still a great hockey venue in a vibrant part of the city. With the Blue Jackets improving, Nationwide should continue to provide a great game experience.
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.
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.
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.
This is one of the premier venues in the NHL, still shiny new with friendly staff and a passionate fan base. Unfortunately, the season opener that marked Columbus' move to the Eastern Conference was not one that set a good example. The couple behind me spent much of their time berating the referees, screeching, while their three children wondered what the big deal was. Other fans acted childish on screen, flipping the bird and mimicking a sexual act. Well done boys. Other than that, this is a good place to watch a game and a great neighborhood, both before and after the game.
The venue is real nice and nestled in a great place however the crowd for the event I went was pretty dismal. I'm surprised this team has lasted this long in a small market.
161 N High St
Columbus, OH 43215
277 W Nationwide Blvd
Columbus, OH 43215
73 E Gay St
Columbus, OH 43215
248 S 4th St
Columbus, OH 43215
401 N Front St
Columbus, OH 43215
491 N Park St
Columbus, OH 43215
840 N High St
Columbus, OH 43215
391 Neil Ave
Columbus, OH 43215
401 N High St
Columbus, OH 43215