Public purchase of Nationwide Arena keeps Blue Jackets in Columbus until 2039

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The Columbus Dispatch is reporting that the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority closed on its purchase of Nationwide Arena yesterday in a transaction that’s expected to save the Blue Jackets $9.5 million a season and, more importantly, keep it from relocating until at least 2039.

That’s the plan anyway. (More on that later.)

The $42.5 million purchase of the downtown arena from Nationwide Realty Investors will be financed with county and city casino revenue (proving once again that gambling can solve everything).

It’s a good deal for the money-losing club, which was able to finagle a rent-free lease by doing what every savvy pro sports franchise does when times get tough – threatening to move.

Writes the Post: “City and county officials have said that their decision to buy the arena wasn’t about hockey; it was about protecting the Arena District that sprang up around Nationwide Arena after it opened in 2000. What was an empty landscape dominated by a closed, decaying prison is now home to apartments, condominiums, restaurants and offices. Nearly 10,000 people work there.”

Now, it’s worth noting that there’s a way for the Jackets to skip town before 2039 — they just have pay $39 million in damages. And while $39 million isn’t peanuts, if Columbus keeps hemorrhaging money, it might become a price worth paying to move to a more profitable market.

But let’s not worry about that now. Today is a good day for Columbus hockey fans, and those have been few and far between this season.

To celebrate the big news, the Jackets have signed goaltender Steve Mason to a 10-year, $50-million extension.