SBD/Issue 211/Franchises

Blue Jackets President Supports Use Of Casino Taxes To Help Team

Blue Jackets President Mike Priest indicated that the casino taxes that will flow to Columbus and Franklin County (OH) “would be the best fix for the hockey team's financial woes,” according to Encarnacion Pyle of the COLUMBUS DISPATCH. The Blue Jackets are “losing an estimated $12 million a year in operations.” An ’09 report “blamed the team’s arena deal -- the Blue Jackets pay $5 million annual rent and lose $4 million to run Nationwide Arena -- as the biggest factor in the poor finances.” Local leaders “have considered a number of possibilities, from using casino dollars to raising taxes on rental cars, hotel stays and alcoholic beverages.” Priest said that using casino taxes is the “most attractive idea so far because the city and county would not have to seek voter approval to use the tax money.” Priest: “It is the most viable solution, and it wouldn’t require any other money being used.” Pyle reported four casinos have been approved to be built in Ohio, but city and county officials said that it is “too early to say whether casino taxes will be the solution for the Blue Jackets.” The Blue Jackets have also “floated a plan for Franklin County to eventually buy the arena,” and the team’s owners “hope to have a solution in place by the end of the upcoming hockey season” (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 7/17). In Columbus, Jeff Bell notes “no purchase price has been disclosed,” but a study prepared for the Columbus Chamber of Commerce last year said that Nationwide was “willing to sell the arena to the county for $55 million in 2009.” That is nearly $100M “less than Nationwide said it paid to build the arena” in ’00. But the company “sees a thriving arena as vital to protecting its huge investment in the surrounding neighborhood” (BUSINESS FIRST OF COLUMBUS, 7/16 issue).

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