New Competition For Columbus Sports Dollars?

Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman would love to see NBA Basketball in Nationwide Arena. This sentiment doesn't seem widespread.

Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman sent a letter to NBA Commissioner David Stern last week announcing it's intentions to try and attract an NBA team. The team would play in Nationwide Arena, home of the Columbus Blue Jackets. The arena is now owned by the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority through a loan and purchase deal including new casino tax revenues. Coleman has extra incentive to attract more revenue producing tenants for the building.

There are lots of reasons that any move to get an NBA team in Columbus won't happen. It will take public funding to attract a team, something that is hard to do in the current political climate. The team would share the Arena with the Blue Jackets, it's not impossible to share a building, but it would add a wrinkle. The biggest is two hours north, Ohio already has an NBA team in Cleveland.

It does however call into question just how much the greater Columbus metro area can support. Ohio State football remains the top event in the city. The Jackets, admittedly dreadful, have suffered through eroding attendance since their inaugural season in 2000-01. The Crew have also had their considerable struggles with attendance. Once one of the league leaders, they set a franchise worst attendance record last year with an average of 12,185 fans per game.

The Crew have already launched a big effort to regain their standing in the community with the Dare to Be Massive campaign and has seen a small bump in attendance to 13,043 through four home games, a 7% increase so far. The effort was pushed with great fanfare by Mayor Coleman last September, but the mayor is already transitioning to bringing the NBA to Columbus.

This recent move only renews questions on how much more is the city committed to doing and how deep are the pockets of the Central Ohio business community to invest in sports. The Crew's revival heavily depends on the answers to those two questions. Columbus faces long odds in getting a team, but the question still remains, where does the Crew ultimately fit in the Central Ohio sporting landscape.

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