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Nationwide Arena

Private Affair

February 1st, 2001
Steve Wright, UrbanLand

A privately funded sports arena anchors a new mixed-use development in downtown Columbus, Ohio.

At first glance, Columbus, Ohio, a sprawling, Midwestern capital city, seemed like one of the least likely candidates for a privately funded downtown sports arena surrounded by dozens of acres of dense urban development. The city always had been a college football town, so major league sports never seemed to have much of a chance of coming to Columbus, and hopes for a civic arena were dashed five times starting in 1978 when residents voted against the taxes required for funding it.

Downtown Columbus has its share of skyscrapers and cultural centers, but it also has its share of space-taking parking lots. High Street, the main north-south road through the downtown, abounds with surface lots and vacant storefronts. And since central Ohio has grown horizontally, not vertically, Columbus’s downtown has tended to empty out after 6 p.m.—even though it is the location of nearly 100,000 jobs. But now, as the 21st century dawns, a young and growing Columbus has a privately funded arena, a National Hockey League (NHL) team, and a mixed-use development district that could well be the envy of other metropolitan areas.


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