23 November 2014

Despite voting NO in May 1997 – you as a citizen of Columbus, Ohio, just helped purchase and now subsidize the Nationwide Arena! The Columbus City Council decided to defer to Mayor Michael Coleman and purchase Nationwide Arena pledging future casino tax revenue funds – already promised to the taxpayers of Columbus as the way to make our city, and particularly the west side, a better place to live. The Council bought the arena from the Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company on October 3, 2011.

Oddly, the Columbus Dispatch reported that “the vote authorized the administration of Mayor Michael B. Coleman to pledge a growing share of the city’s casino tax revenue to help the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority purchase [of] Nationwide Arena for $42.5 million, and to pay millions more to operate the arena through 2039.”

So while the citizens of Columbus will be indirectly paying for the arena and subsidizing its operations, we will not own the arena. Still more startling, the original construction cost of the arena, completed in September 2000, was $175 million. The cost of building an arena today is $223 million. So why ours sold for only $42.5 is anybody’s guess.

When taxpayers overwhelmingly voted against public funding of the arena in 1997, many were concerned that it was a bad investment. The arena’s recent sale price underscores that assessment and the people’s wise vote. How the city helped purchase an arena for the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority, and then agreed to subsidize it with city revenue is unfathomable.

Why this issue did not come back to the people of Columbus for a vote is unconscionable and undemocratic.

The greatest irony is that people of Ohio voted to place the casino in the Arena District. The people who own the Columbus Blue Jackets, the arena’s hockey team, forced the casino to relocate to Columbus’ west side.

Now the money generated from the casino to fund the Nationwide Arena, in a district considered “too good” of a location for a casino.

The deal is little more than a welfare check to the wealthiest families in Columbus who own the Blue Jackets: the McConnells, Wolfes, Pizzutis and Cranes.