For the Metro Division Travel Guide series, I gathered input from fellow FanSided staff writers and fans who have frequented the featured arena. We will take a look at each member of the Metropolitan Division and cover three basic areas: why you should make the trip, the best food and drink options before and after the game, and the best (and affordable) seating options in the arena. With all divisional play now occurring within the Eastern Time Zone, travel has never been easier for Blue Jackets fans!
For this special bonus stop in the series, we won’t be going anywhere! Instead, I will give Nationwide Arena the travel guide treatment.
The Blue Jackets have called Nationwide Arena home since they entered the NHL in 2000. The arena, along with Huntington Park (home of the Columbus Clippers AAA baseball team), the Lifestyles Communities Pavilion concert venue, and the Arena Grand Theatre make up Columbus’ Arena District. Attached to Nationwide Arena is the OhioHealth IceHaus, which serves as the Blue Jackets practice facility and a public ice arena/youth hockey venue. The Blue Jackets were the first team in the NHL to have their practice facility attached to their arena and they are now one of two teams to do this; the Devils being the other.
Why It is Worth the Trip:
Not only is Nationwide Arena among the newer arenas in the NHL, it is often found near the top of NHL arena rankings. When considering today’s hockey crowd, a good in-arena experience is not enough; fans want to make the most of their trip and enjoy the area surrounding the arena. Columbus’ Arena District should be the blue print for every city that wants to make the most of their sports venues. Outside of Nationwide Arena, fans can enjoy beautiful views of downtown Columbus, as well as several bars and restaurants. Much like the arena, the area surrounding the arena is modern, but also classy with cobblestone walkways and wonderful architecture.
Once inside Nationwide Arena, fans are treated to one of the best and more modern arena experiences available in the NHL. With a new era in Jackets hockey beginning, Nationwide should be full and rocking on most nights, which will make it one of the loudest arenas in the league. But fan noise won’t be the only thing splitting your ear drums, the Jackets also have a working replica Civil War cannon that is fired when the team takes the ice, scores a goal, and wins. The cannon is LOUD, as many jumping visiting team TV analysts have discovered in the middle of their introductions. In the past, the Blue Jackets have suffered attendance issues, but when the arena is filled, the Jackets crowd is among the best in the NHL.
Best Pre/Post Game Hangout:
Columbus is a large city with many great places to eat and drink, so I will stick to the restaurants in the Arena District. My personal favorite to eat at before a game is Buca Di Beppo, however since the family-style portion sizes are humongous, it may be better to go to with a large group. Another fan favorite before games is BD’s Mongolian Grill. Both restaurants are within seconds of the arena and are usually filled with Jackets fans before games. Other restaurants in the Arena District include: Big Bang Dueling Piano Bar, Boston’s Gourmet Pizza, Gordon Biersch Brewery, Max & Erma’s, and Rodizio Grill.
No list of Arena District Restaurants and bars is complete without mentioning the hockey themed R Bar, the official bar of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Before Jackets games you will literally be shoulder-to-shoulder with other Jackets fans, as it is the most popular pre-game hangout. During the warmer months, there is a patio area where fans can also hang out. I have not been to the bar since its recent remodeling, but from the photos I have seen they have added new flat screen TVs. The food is great and the atmosphere before a game is electric. They usually have game day beer specials and the signature Jackets drink, a Stinger Bomb, is popular with fans.
Where you should sit:
I think each of these travel guides has included a note that there is not a bad seat in the house, and this holds true for Nationwide Arena. I personally prefer a seat where I can see the Cannon (located in Section 111) as it only adds to the arena experience. Another notable location is the Huntington Green Seats. These go on sale 2 hours before each game and are located in the top rows of the upper level. They only cost $10 and the birds-eye view of the game is amazing. I know many think the closer to the ice you are the better, but in the closer seats you lose the perspective of the flow of the game that a higher seat allows. In addition to the Green Seats, students can purchase CBJ Student Rush Tickets with their school ID an hour before each game. You can get great seats in the upper bowl for $15 and lower bowl tickets for $25.
Columbus often gets overlooked as a hockey city, but the area around Nationwide Arena is something every NHL fan should experience. It is an exciting, affordable fan experience, with several entertainment options close by. With a better Blue Jackets teams taking the ice, and new rivals close by, there hasn’t been a better time to plan a visit to Nationwide Arena.