Hey, how are things going for Nationwide Arena, home of the Columbus Blue Jackets, since Franklin County bailed out its private builders almost five years ago? Let’s see:
A modest uptick in casino-tax revenue will allow Nationwide Arena to go forward with one major maintenance project — replacing part of the heating and cooling system — but officials continue to search for ways to fund a goal of $2 million in updates and repairs each year…
The arena, which was taken over by the facilities authority in 2012, made a net operating profit of just under $250,000 in the first half of its fiscal year, from July through December; event revenue was $10.8 million.
Beyond an annual $2.1 contribution from the facilities authority, virtually all of the arena’s revenue comes from rental income.
So, same as last time we checked in: The arena is turning a small operating profit, but only because the county is shoveling tax dollars at it every year. So while it’s good news that casino taxes have rebounded from their dip a couple of years ago that left the county in danger of defaulting on its bonds, all this means is that the county hasn’t yet run out of money to shovel, at least not until something else at the arena breaks and needs repairs.
This is a reminder of two things: One, most new arenas don’t bring in enough money to come close to paying off their construction debt, if the reports out of Kansas City hadn’t already convinced you of this. And two, it’s a really bad idea to take over responsibility to repairing an arena that your local sports team built, while letting the sports team keep all the revenues that are needed to make the actual repairs.
In fact, if you’re a local elected official reading this, maybe you should print out that last paragraph and glue it to your computer monitor. It won’t guarantee you of being saved from Columbus’s fate, but it’ll at least give you a better shot.