Blue Jackets Yet to Awaken Sleeping Giant Known as Columbus

The Arena District in Columbus is one of the jewels of downtown in which people gather from near and far to eat, drink and have a good time. There is no shortage of places to go.

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Then comes time to enjoy a Blue Jackets’ game. To be able to walk from your preferred choice of eatery right to the front door of Nationwide Arena is one of the best experiences in the NHL.

Fans Love the Arena District

Take it from the fans. We recently reached out on Twitter to fans and asked them excluding Nationwide Arena, what is your favorite part about the Arena District? Below is a sample of answers we received.

  • The patio at RBar.
  • Short North.
  • Boston’s Pizza.
  • Overall convenience, including sidewalks and benches.
  • Three stadiums close together including the Columbus Crew and Clippers.
  • North Market.
  • Outdoor events by the Blue Jackets including Opening Night.
  • Convenient parking.
  • Can walk to all important points.
  • Wario’s.
  • Many other restaurant options.

Anyone who has been to the Arena District knows just how much fun the area is. But today, I am here to tell you a sad truth not only about the Blue Jackets, but the Arena District also.

Columbus Blue Jackets
The Arena District remains one of the crown jewels of Columbus. (Natalie Lutz/Flickr)

There is a sleeping giant right now that continues to lay dormant. We are approaching 23 years and counting for this giant. The Blue Jackets have not been able to awaken the sleeping giant yet. For a few days in April 2019, the giant looked like it was going to wake up once and for all. But then soon after, it went back to sleep and hasn’t awoken since.

What is the sleeping giant? It’s the city of Columbus itself.

Columbus, the Sleeping Giant

Here’s the sad truth about the state of the Blue Jackets. There continues to be an untapped potential in Columbus for what the Blue Jackets can become.

I want you to imagine something for a moment. Think about what the Arena District would be like if the Blue Jackets had both a consistent winner and Stanley Cup contender. Could you imagine how unhinged Columbus would be?

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We got a very small taste of it in April 2019 when the Blue Jackets stunned the hockey world by defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning. For a few days, the excitement of what Columbus could become was being realized.

The Blue Jackets eventually lost to the Boston Bruins in the second round. They made an appearance in the Toronto bubble after that when Covid-19 had the world on shutdown. But since then, there’s been nothing in terms of playoff hockey at Nationwide Arena.

Instead, players left the Blue Jackets. They never got the chance to build off of that historic win. The giant went right back to sleep and has had no reason to wake up. There have been some lean years of late. Fans and team personnel alike are quite sick of it.

Look at Toronto

Did you see how Maple Leafs’ fans got together and celebrated their first-round win against the Lightning? The city was electric. That celebration was 19 years in the making. Now imagine if they go on and win the Stanley Cup.

Columbus has that kind of upside in the city with the Blue Jackets. However the team hasn’t been able to unlock its true potential.

Imagine being able to gather outside Nationwide Arena with thousands of fans watching a road playoff game? Or how about 20,000 fans inside the rink and tens of thousands more outside for a patio party? If the team ever got good enough, it would happen.

If the Blue Jackets were consistently good enough, the Arena District would reach a level not yet seen by anyone. It would be the go-to destination. Fans are enjoying themselves now with a team building towards the future. You can’t even imagine how electric the overall atmosphere would be. We’ve seen maybe 5% of its true potential in franchise history.

It’s Up to Management Now

If the Blue Jackets are ever going to awaken the sleeping giant known as Columbus, it’s on John Davidson, Jarmo Kekalainen and management to find a way to get it done. They have a long way to go to get there.

The Blue Jackets are without a head coach as of this writing. They are still looking for a goalie coach. They have a bevy of issues to address if they even hope to get back to the playoffs next season. There are reasons to be optimistic but until it all comes together, it’s fair to question where things are going in the short term.

But 23 years and counting to not fully unlock the potential of what Columbus and the Arena District can become is just disheartening to think about. The lasting ramifications of unlocking this potential would be felt for generations.

As is, fans have to decide if the Blue Jackets are worth their investment in time and money. When you finish in 31st place, you can see why some fans have turned away.

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The Blue Jackets have a chance to finally change the narrative. Think of the economic impact. Think of the stories that would come from those going to games and enjoying everything the Arena District has to offer. Think about how the Blue Jackets could impact the future of those that eventually want to get into hockey themselves. The amount of untapped potential remains enormous.

The best is yet to come for Columbus. But only if the Blue Jackets can finally awaken the sleeping giant right in their own back yard. It’s time.