The city of Columbus is expecting about $12 million to skate into town two years after missing out on the chance.
Columbus was supposed to host the NHL All-Star Game in 2013, but a lockout that halted play for three months forced the game to be canceled. This year, the city is getting its chance to host the game.
Columbus is set to host the game this weekend, with events taking place downtown from Friday through Sunday. Bruce Wimbish, spokesman for the Greater Columbus Sports Commission, said the event will generate a substantial amount of visitor spending and exposure for the city.
“We have projected about $12 million in direct visitor spending,” Wimbish said.
This projected figure is generated using a formula, and it is similar to the amount Raleigh, N.C. — which is comparable to Columbus in size — earned when it hosted the game in 2011. Spending by spectators in hotels, flights, at restaurants and other local businesses go into the projected number. Tax revenue from total spending is also accounted for, Wimbish said.
R Bar Arena, a bar located near Nationwide Arena, is expecting massive crowds this weekend because of the game.
“We are planning for five times the normal amount of customers from a Blue Jackets home game,” said Natalie Darr, a co-owner of the business. “We expect a lot of business to come from the foot traffic of people passing through the downtown area on Saturday and Sunday.”
R Bar Arena normally opens at 11 a.m. on the weekends but its doors will open at 9 a.m. this weekend. Darr said there will be more staff scheduled and security will be brought in to help monitor the crowds. They are also removing some of the furniture inside the restaurant to help accommodate more customers.
Wimbish said 400 media members are expected in town for the weekend. As a result, nearly $50 million in media exposure is anticipated.
“Say you’re watching the broadcast of the game and before a commercial, they show a view of the city. This is advertising for the city that normally would have to be paid for,” Wimbish said.
The GCSC predicted 140,000 hockey fans will file into the city to partake in the weekend’s festivities, with at least 10,000 being from out of town.
Connor Nowakowski, a first-year in industrial and systems engineering, said having the game in Columbus will be a great chance to showcase the city and, ideally, use the game as a catalyst for Columbus hockey.
“This game is huge for the city and even for the Blue Jackets as well,” Nowakowski, who has tickets to the game, said. “The team keeps getting better each year, and hopefully by having the game here, Columbus could establish itself as a hockey center in the Midwest.”
Nowakowski said with everything going on downtown, students who might not normally make the short trip down High Street will head into the city to experience it.
“With everything that is planned to take place, it is going to have a festival-like atmosphere,” Nowakowski said. “I think there will be students that take advantage of such a big event happening nearby.”
The Arena District has been transformed into a “hockey heaven,” Wimbush said. Attractions, such as a temporary outdoor ice-skating rink at McFerson Commons and a snow slide on Nationwide Avenue, could keep fans entertained during the weekend.
The marquee events begin Friday, with the drafting of the All-Star teams at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Saturday’s main event is the Skills Competition at Nationwide Arena. As for the game itself, the puck is scheduled to drop Sunday at 5:00 p.m.