Coleman Mixed On Requests For Public Help For Blue Jackets

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Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman says he still supports helping the Blue Jackets stay in Nationwide Arena, but he continues criticism of requests from the West-side casino developer.

Executives with the Columbus Blue Jackets have repeatedly said their $5 million in annual rent for Nationwide Arena is too high, and the team isn’t financially sustainable under the current deal. That’s given way to talk of the team possibly leaving town.

Speaking on All Sides with Ann Fisher on 89.7 FM Thursday morning, Coleman did not give a timeline for a deal that could include public ownership or subsidies for the arena. But he did say the Blue Jackets leaving Columbus would be catastrophic. “Nationwide Arena, the best arena in the country, will not be able to sustain itself, and it will be the beginning of a collapse we have to get in front of,” Coleman says. “How do we do that? I do not know yet.”

Also seeking help from the city is the developer of the planned West-side casino. Negotiations with Penn National Gaming have been public and often contentious, with the Mayor saying the company now asking for incentives goes back on their promise to annex into the city.

“The fact is that they made a commitment to me and the citizens of our city to annex to the city of Columbus unconditionally,” Coleman says. “Now all of a sudden there’s a price tag to it.”

The company claims it deserves some tax breaks since its bringing economic development to a downtrodden area. As a bargaining chip, the city recently took over water and sewer services for the site, the ONLY site in Columbus where the company is allowed to build a casino.