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  • Greg Venuto

Nationwide Arena – Columbus Blue Jackets

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.14

Nationwide Arena 200 W Nationwide Blvd Columbus, OH 43215

Year Opened: 2000

Capacity: 18,103


Fire! After 22 Years Nationwide Arena Still Hits The Mark

While the Columbus Blue Jackets have fallen on hard times, Nationwide Arena is still a solid showcase for NHL action. Nationwide Arena was built on a piece of property that was the site of the historic Ohio State Penitentiary. The venue is named for the arena's original majority owner, Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, whose world headquarters are located across the street The facility, in the heart of the Arena District, is surrounded by packed bars and restaurants on game days. The District includes an indoor/outdoor concert hall, two theaters, and Huntington Park the home of the AAA Columbus Clippers.

This will be the 3rd consecutive year the Jackets fail to qualify for the playoffs, but the number of fans flocking to Nationwide remains steady. There are major hotels just outside the district as Drury Inn and Suites, Hilton, Marriott, and Hyatt all have properties within walking distance. The arena is also situated only a half mile north of the Ohio Statehouse as Columbus is the capital of Ohio and the second largest city in the midwest (population of just over 1 million) behind Chicago.

Just two-tenths of a mile away, is the North Market, an eclectic mix of more than 30 independently owned small businesses offering a wide variety of fresh produce, meat, poultry, seafood, flowers, and specialty food items. The only drawback to the market is that it closes at 5 pm on Sunday and Monday, but is open until 7 pm the rest of the week.

Nationwide has two general entry points. The main one is behind Battelle Plaza. The back entrance, below ice level, is next to a Tim Horton’s. Once through security fans need to take an escalator or stairs to the main level. In addition to the escalators, there are elevators at Sections 106, 111, and 118 and also stairwells.

Food & Beverage 4

There is a wide array of food and beverage choices. In addition to hamburgers, hot dogs, nachos, and Jet’s Pizza ($7.99 for cheese), there is Mexican, cheesesteaks, and Ohio’s own Skyline Chilli. Some Skyline stands are combined with Perry’s ice cream. The cost is $3.49 for 10 Tim Bits, $4.99 for a custard cup, and $4.99 for a regular soda or water. Pepsi products are the beverage of choice. A large domestic can of beer is $12.99, $11.49 for a draft, and $12.99 for wine, and mixed drinks start at $11.99 and run to $21.99 for a premium double.

A great bonus is the numerous portable food and drink stands and a fairly wide lower concourse with high ceilings.

There is also the Westside Grille highlighted by Schmidt’s (established 1886) which features Knockwurst, Bratwurst, Spicy Sausage, and Frank platters with sauerkraut and german potato salad.

The other big attraction is the Smokehouse on the Bud Light Terrace of the main concourse. The options include brisket and pulled pork and platters can be purchased.

Atmosphere 4

The atmosphere starts with the Cannon, which arrived in 2007, and the four-person Cannon Crew. A must-see for all fans is to visit the cannon in Section 111 and if desired have the Cannon Crew take your picture next to the shiny cannon. The 1857 Napoleon replica and the Blue Jackets' name, are tied to the city and state's contributions to the Union Army during the Civil War. The cannon is fired when the Blue Jackets hit the ice to start the game when they score and at the end of the game if they win. Yes, it is loud. After Columbus scores, the sound system will blare “For Those About To Rock” from AC/DC and the cannon blast follows.

The lower bowl features two open concourses where fans can see unobstructed to the ice. One is right where the cannon is situated with a television broadcast crew seated just one section away. The other fan-friendly aspect is the interactive areas which include Bubble hockey games and an Ohio Hall of Hockey to showcase the excellence of Ohio high school hockey.

The arena mixes recorded and organ music and the decibel level is not overpowering. The PA announcer is a carnival barker but that has become commonplace at many NHL venues. On this visit, the crowd was not very vocal and seemed to be more engaged in the T-shirt toss and a Lottery ticket giveaway.

The mascot Stinger gets the crowd going by banging his drum and prompting the fans to chant CBJ! or Let’s Go Jackets!

Neighborhood 5

The Arena District is the perfect spot with so much to do right outside the doors of Nationwide. Bars, restaurants, an indoor market, plenty of hotels, three parks, and the Greater Columbus Convention Center are all less than a mile away and most are less than half a mile. The R Bar is probably the most popular spot pre and post-game located just a quick walk from Nationwide and stays open until 2:30 am.

The Columbus Crew of the MLS are located six-tenths of a mile away. The other attractions are an array of breweries, the Columbus Museum of Art, and the Statehouse about 1 mile from the venue.

Fans 3

The Jackets averaged 16,237 and dipped below 90% capacity last year. ​​The team has struggled the past few years and is short on marque players. Average attendance is 16,187 at the midway point this year.

The crowd is definitely less enthusiastic than other NHL venues but the team has had trouble generating offense. The sightlines are fabulous and leg room in the lower bowl was adequate. The on-ice product and inflation should be the only things keeping people away.

Access 4

Getting into and out of downtown is relatively easy and the area is walkable. The Arena is right near two highways, traffic is typically light and there are plenty of parking garages close by. There are over 15,000 parking spaces within a 10-minute walk of Nationwide Arena in surface lots and parking garages. Parking can be pre-paid for all games thru Park Mobile ( Seven COTA (Central Ohio Transportation Authority) bus routes stop near Nationwide.​​ There are no commuter trains or Amtrak serving downtown.

Return on Investment 5

Ticket prices are more reasonable than most NHL teams. The team offers a promotion with food for $31 in the upper level behind the goal and $71 on the sides including a soft drink and a choice of hamburger, hot dog, or chicken tenders. The arena, which is cashless like most professional venues in 2023, did rank 4th best in 2022 for fan costs calculated annually by Team Marketing Report. The cost metrics are based on the average cost of four non-premium tickets, two beers, two sodas, four hot dogs, and two souvenir hats and totaled $348.06 for the Blue Jackets.

Extras 4

The Cannon is the No. 1 extra.

The arena is 2.1 miles from The Ohio State University so a visit to Nationwide is not out of the question if visiting OSU.

The 50/50 raffle is hyped early and often. The Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation has teamed up with organizations throughout the Central Ohio community to assist with their fundraising initiatives.

The arena also houses The OhioHealth Ice Haus the practice home of the Jackets. The rink is also used by many youth and high school programs across the region. The New Jersey Devils, Buffalo Sabers and Detroit Red Wings are the only other NHL teams to have practice rinks in the same building as their arena.

Final Thoughts

Nationwide Arena is clearly a beautiful and fan-friendly arena to watch an NHL game. Despite being over 20 years old, it seems new and up-to-date. It is definitely worth a visit if in town and the benefits are reasonable prices and plenty to do just outside its doors.

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