• Marc Viquez

Nationwide Arena – Columbus Blue Jackets


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.43

Nationwide Arena 200 W Nationwide Blvd Columbus, OH 43215

Columbus Blue Jackets Website

Nationwide Arena Website


Year Opened: 2000

Capacity: 18,103


 

Built for Hockey in Columbus

The Nationwide Arena opened for business on September 9, 2000; it was the city’s first truly modern sports arena and is considered by many fans and visitors as one of the finest venues to watch a National Hockey League game. The home of the Columbus Blue Jackets brought the league back to the state of Ohio for the first time since 1978 and the 18,500-seat venue has been the catalyst for rebuilding a section of downtown known as The Arena District.


The district contains a multitude of restaurants and bars, a movie theater, a concert theater, and a minor league ballpark. The cost of construction of the facility was $175 million and is also home to various other sporting and concert events that come through the Ohio capital. However, its primary tenant since opening has been the Blue Jackets. In other words, this building was built for hockey first.



Food & Beverage 5

Nationwide Arena offers 41 areas for food and beverage on both the main and upper concourses. The options are plentiful and include Cincinnati-style chili, smoked meats, pizza, cheesesteaks, poutine, and various craft beers. Hopefully, this review will be able to highlight a few of the delicacies.

The Smokehouse is located on the Bud Light Terrace of the main concourse, but just follow the scent of the large strips of thick-cut bacon slowly cooking on an open griddle for all to witness. The aroma is delightful and affordable at $5.50 a stick. If you favor pulled pork or brisket, they offer combos with chips and mac and cheese. Located nearby in the same area is the West Side Grille which serves up specialty burgers that include brisket and pimento cheese on Texas toast. The Northside Grill (main concourse 105/222) serves a Buffalo chicken box consisting of fries, Buffalo chicken sausage, and blue cheese crumbles or poutine.

If you are looking for a beer, the arena features large drafts for $9 and cans for $10.50 of domestic specialties (Budweiser and Yuengling). The Arch City Ale stand pours drafts at either $9 or $13 of Ohio craft brews from Jackie O’s, Land Grant, and Zauber. If you are not a beer fan, wine is served for $8, and mixed drinks cost between $9 and $10. Pepsi products and Tim Horton’s coffee are served at the arena.

Atmosphere 4

The atmosphere begins at one of the many bars outside the arena where Blue Jackets fans gather for food and drink, soon they make the short walk over to the arena. Once inside, they are delighted to have wide open concourses that provide open views of the ice from the standing-room-only sections.


One of the open sections is where the 1850 cannon resides, it goes off when the Jackets take the ice, score a goal, or after a victory. It is in an area that is roped off, but fans can take photos and read a little about its history on nearby posters. When it goes off, the area smells of gunpowder. There is quite a bit of history on the concourses for the young club that is nearing 20 seasons in the league.

Two displays detail the birth of the franchise, complete with jerseys and other paraphernalia. There is also a third display filled with caps highlighting the 18 hat tricks that took place in team history. The team mascot Stinger is seen from time to time in the arena in multiple places and so is the Blue Jackets Ice Crew who are a group of young ladies who are seen on the ice and also in the stands throughout the night.

Neighborhood 5

The Nationwide Arena is the centerpiece of The Arena District that offers mix-used plan development of residential and retail space. There are more than 22 different eateries and bars located within a few steps from the building that are hopping before and after the game. The R Bar is the official hockey watering hole that sits across a small pedestrian bridge offering 16 beers on tap and 32 bottles and cans.


Gordon Biersch Brewery and Restaurant and Three-Legged Mare are also in this area providing outdoor seating and plenty of people-watching. If you are with the kids, Boston’s Pizza (hugely popular in Canada) and Ted’s Montana Grill are two nearby choices. Also, be sure to check out the $4 local pints at BD’s Mongolian Grill before the game during happy hour. About a block away is the home of the Columbus Clippers Huntington Park which is one of the best minor league ballparks in the country.


The indoor and outdoor concert venue Express! Live and A&R Music Bar are located next to the ballpark which provides an ideal later-night atmosphere. The Arena District also houses three hotels: The Lofts, Hyatt Regency, and Crowne Plaza. Almost everything one needs is located in this district of Columbus, making it one of the best areas for entertainment within walking distance in the NHL.


Fans 4

Columbus enjoys a winner and when its team is battling for a playoff spot, fans are going to come out in droves. The team is currently selling out its arena at an 88% accuracy and will sell out when rivals Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Chicago are in town and on weekend dates. The fans in attendance don Blue Jackets gear, a few more talk about hockey over a few drinks at one of the nearby bars to the arena, and others cheer in unison every time the team scores or makes a big hit on the ice. If the team continues its winning ways, don’t be surprised to see the place at capacity for a few more games.


Access 4

Downtown Columbus is easy to get around and all the interstates and major streets provide signs for the arena. There are plenty of garages around the arena to park and some street parking if you are lucky. Once inside the venue, there are two main concourses offering clear signage to direct patrons to their seats, bathrooms, and concession areas. Smoking sections are at the main concourse in section 122 or the attached parking lot outside G3 on the upper concourse.

Return on Investment 5

The Blue Jackets have three rivals: Chicago, Detroit, and Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is perhaps the main rival being only three hours away and ticket prices can range anywhere between $25 to $173. However, these prices will go up if any of these three teams are in town. However, there are a few ways to purchase an affordable ticket to a game. The ticket prices are much less than many other NHL venues across North America and row A-M feature access to the Lexus Lounge and all-inclusive food and beverage. When you include parking that ranges from $5-$15, it is a pretty affordable night of watching hockey.


Extras 4

One star for the hand-crafted 12-pounder 1857 Napoleon Cannon that gets fired when the Jackets take the ice, score a goal, and win the game. The blast is followed by the songs “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)” by AC/DC and “The Whip” by The Band Locksley. Another star for the retro diner-themed concession stands that are found throughout the main concourse.


The Northside Grill, Westside Grill, and Arena Barbecue all have flashing neon colors to attract customers to their locations. A third star for the number of bars, restaurants, and entertainment options within walking distance of the arena. The Arena District provides a one-stop location before and after the game. And finally, an extra for the sight lines at the arena that also includes the SRO location, one of the better views in hockey.


Final Thoughts

Nationwide Arena is one of the better places to watch an NHL game when you factor in ticket prices, location, sight lines, and menu options. If you are looking at enjoying hockey in a beautiful building, check out a Blue Jackets game sometime in the future.

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Follow all of Marc’s stadium journeys on Twitter @ballparkhunter and his YouTube channel. Email at marc@stadiumjourney.com


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