STADIUM DUDE’S NHL ARENA RANK: #12
- Location: Columbus, Ohio
- Opened 2000
- Capacity 18,144
- Games attended: 1
- Last visited: 2019
With due respect to the fine people of the Arch City, Columbus may be the ultimate generic American city. It’s a perfectly cromulent place, but nothing good or bad really stands out. In some ways, I wanted to rank their privately-funded arena 16th, putting it right in the middle of the rankings.
But Nationwide Arena is better than average; in some respects, significantly so. Other than a lack of meaningful hockey throughout the arena’s two decades, it does just about everything else right.
Built just west of downtown Columbus not too far from the Convention Center, the arena has been the catalyst for rebuilding a section of downtown dubbed the Arena District. The district contains about a dozen restaurants and bars and a live concert venue. Visitors have access to several hotel rooms within an easy walk of the arena even on those cold Ohio wintery nights.
Sightlines are excellent. Ohio craft beer flows freely. Videoboards are strong throughout the rink, not just the main scoreboard. The concourses are wide and occasionally open to the ice. The team’s practice facility is right in the arena itself on a second ice sheet. There are two displays detailing the birth of the franchise complete with memorabilia. And Cincinnati’s Skyline Chili has a stand, reminding you you’re in Ohio, while Tim Horton’s has a stand, reminding you you’re watching hockey.
They also have that cool 1850 cannon which could make you poop your pants when it goes off and you’re not expecting it. The Jackets blast the cannon when the home team takes the ice, scores a goal, or emerges victorious. Opponents consider it the most annoying feature in the NHL, mainly because it’s bloody loud. Fans can take photos and read a little about its history on nearby posters.
And as an added bonus, prices are relatively reasonable versus NHL standards for everything especially tickets and parking.
So why isn’t a Top 10 rink? Blame the on-ice product. The rink has seen very little meaningful hockey in its two-decade lifespan. The team missed the playoffs 11 of its first 12 seasons, and won only 2 home playoff games in the team’s first 17 seasons. As enthusiastic a fanbase as it was, years of futility and a lack of hockey history eventually take a toll. As such, the arena is often not at capacity, and fans can be a little quiet. Top 10 rinks sell out.
Overall though, this relatively unheralded facility is a sneaky-good place to catch a game.