"Gotta see it live!"
(The Columbus Blue Jackets' slogan at the end of the Rick Nash era was one of near desperation).
Which makes some sense, being that the future of the club seemed to be heading towards another rebuild after...a previous decade of (re)building.
Since then, the team has taken winning more seriously than they ever have, as a lot of about the Blue Jackets' staff and roster has changed in the past five years with the arrivals of John Davidson and Jarmo Kekalainen.
What hasn't seemed to change much? Most things off the ice, from the structure of the arena to the food sold to the songs played between whistles.
Which, out of context, shouldn't matter too much. But when you look at the fact that the Blue Jackets' three highest years of attendance were the first three seasons of the team's existence, something may need to change (besides winning more games).
The better you treat your customers, the better return you'll get (i.e., coming to games more often). Here's three changes the Blue Jackets organization could make to start drawing in bigger crowds in the next few years – which definitely wouldn't hurt their odds at being more successful.
1. Food Options/Pricing
Columbus isn't necessarily the hotspot for Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, but we certainly have some food worth showing off. Have the food options improved in recent years? Yeah, you could say that, but they're a far cry from a place a couple hours north called Progressive Field. Gold standard.
Not only are the options relatively limited, but they aren't too easy on the wallet either. Spending a silly amount on a bottle of water because the drinking fountains are broken or M.I.A. isn't ideal.
For food pricing comparisons, check out what the Atlanta Hawks just did: think they're gonna draw in a bigger crowd during their rebuilding years?
2. Wide Open Spaces (Being Implemented)
Nationwide Arena is a great multi-purpose facility, but it can get a little bottlenecked, especially immediately before/after games, and in-between periods. Think of that mezzanine area with the clumsy overhang (which isn't an inexpensive ticket option despite the lousy view)...could something be done there?
The concourses are fairly narrow, and don't allow for much mingling space without feeling like you're blocking someone from trying pass by, especially on the upper concourse.
Having a few more open blocks of space to chat, eat and watch the game (or just rest your food/drink) without having to physically be in your seat would be definitely be more comfortable, especially for the non-diehard fans.
And as much as we hate using them as an example, check out 3:00-3:18 of this tour of Consol Energy Center (Home of the Pittsburgh Penguins). Every level of the stadium has open walkway to view the game from the concourse:
3. Passing the Aux
Let's just say it. The 'Hockey Song' and the 'Pizza Song' just gotta go.
The Hockey Song is fun and has become an arena staple in the third period, but it's not the best idea to play it with two minutes left in a tie game. You can feel the air get let out of the arena before the puck drops again.
If you disagree, try watching this clip outside of the context of actually being at a game. It's a 1-1 match with under five minutes left, and then...buzz kill:
For the record, the Bruins won that game in overtime.
As for the Pizza Song? Who knows. The Blue Jackets have retained their marketing partnership with Papa John's for 2018-19, so we'll see.
Overall, the music between whistles mainly consists of 1980's and 1990's rock genre (with the occasional dubstep thrown in there) that caters to about 20 percent of the crowd. Everyone else is left to stare at their phone for 30 seconds.
These in-game changes won't make or break the Blue Jackets becoming a Stanley Cup contending team, but they would sure help the fan experience during that process, which in turn, means a louder and more engaged 5th Line.
Let us know what you would change, if you had the power to do so.
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