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Current Lease Would Keep Blue Jackets In Columbus
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The prime reason behind the city and countyâ€™s planned purchase of Nationwide Arena is to keep the Blue Jackets from leaving. The team says its current lease with the Arena is not sustainable. But WOSU reports a provision in the teamâ€™s current lease says the team canâ€™t go anywhere.
The Blue jackets say they are losing 12 million dollars a year because of the teamâ€™s lease with the arena, and that canâ€™t continue. That has officials like Mayor Michael Coleman worrying the Arena Districtâ€™s prime tenant will skate out of town.
“Remember City Center? Itâ€™s like saying â€˜Remember the Alamo?â€™â€
So to keep the team, the city and county would use casino tax money to buy the arena. The Blue Jackets would get free rent. In return, the team promises to stay in Columbus until 2039.
But the Jacketsâ€™ current lease with nationwide arena prohibits the team from leaving. A provision in the lease says the franchise cannot apply to transfer to another location or enter into a contract that would move the team to an arena other than Nationwide Arena. The provision would also apply to any new owner if the team was sold.
Attorney John Rosenberger brokered the deal for the city and the county. He said these kinds of provisions are common, but likely would not hold up in court.
â€œEven if it could be enforced and the result was to make the team insolvent it would put you into a bankruptcy court where words donâ€™t count like they used to. So I think the conclusion this is a lead pipe, cinch winner for Nationwide and the Blue Jackets, itâ€™s just not a good conclusion,” he said.
The Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority, would control the arena. Its head, Bill Jennison, agreed the stipulation would be difficult to enforce when a company is in financial trouble.
“You can get maybe one to two years of rent out of an entity thatâ€™s probably all youâ€™re going to get. You canâ€™t force somebody whoâ€™s losing money to stay over a long-term basis if they donâ€™t have the resources to do that,” he said.
So howâ€™s the proposed deal any different from the current lease? What would keep the Blue Jackets from leaving once the facilities authority takes over ownership? Rosenberger said a stronger agreement and liquidated damages. In simple terms, millions of dollars in fines.
â€œIt starts out causing the Blue Jackets to be liable to the CFA for $36 million and burns off over time and reduces. And because weâ€™ve agreed to the damages we have certainty, if you will, and we also have a disincentive for somebody to breach and leave,” Rosenberger said.
The $36 million penalty decreases over the term of the agreement. And thereâ€™s a chance a future team owner desperate to move the Jackets would write off the penalty as part of the cost of re-location.