May 28, 2009
Interesting story out of Ohio today, as the Columbus Blue Jackets are attempting to sell Nationwide Arena to Franklin County because they're having to dip into their hockey budget to fund the building. From Columbus Biz Journals:
Nationwide Arena is owned by a partnership of Nationwide Insurance and Dispatch Printing Co., with the insurer holding a 90 percent stake. The Blue Jackets lease the nine-year-old arena and operate it, but revenue from events isn't covering operating costs, said Blue Jackets President Mike Priest. That's forcing the club to take money from hockey operations to make up the difference, he said.
The formula worked in the early years of the franchise, when the team's player payroll was lower and game attendance was higher, Priest said, but it has contributed to financial losses the Blue Jackets have suffered in recent years. "We have a building financial issue," Priest said. "That leads to a team financial issue. If we can fix the building problem, we can fix the team problem."
Here's the issue: The team is pushing for a "sin tax" to be added to the state budget this summer in order to fund the sale. We're talking a tax on beer, wine and cigarettes; or as they're more commonly known, "stuff sports fans like."
Aaron Portzline of Puck-rakers (a Columbus Dispatch blog, dancing perilously close to conflict of interest) reports the dangers in pushing for the sin tax:
The president of Anheuser-Busch flew to Columbus today to meet with Gov. Ted Strickland and state legislators.
This will obviously be a hot-button issue with many voters. For years, central Ohioans voted against a tax that would allow for a publicly funded arena. Now, barely 10 years after the shovel hit the dirt, a tax is being put on the people ... without a vote.
Yikes. The Jacketsblog voices what we're sure are fans torn on this issue: "I'm completely opposed to a state tax on things that are already over-taxed, but it would be nice to see something that guarantees the Blue Jackets' stability in Columbus."
This isn't the right economy to request this tax, and the Blue Jackets certainly don't have the gravitas to request it from non-hockey fans across the state. This is years of mismanagement and missed opportunities coming home to roost for the BeeJays; which, unfortunately, is what helped put the Phoenix Coyotes where they are currently. Columbus is a burgeoning and impressive hockey town with solid fans. Hopefully it remains that way. (Thanks to Lee and Adam for the tips on this.)