With four days until the Blue Jackets open the season at Nationwide Arena on Oct. 4 vs. Toronto, BlueJackets.com is counting down to the days until start of the campaign. Today we look at four improvements fans will likely notice as they attend games at Nationwide this season.
Two decades into its life, Nationwide Arena is still one of the gems of the National Hockey League.
That's thanks in part to the brilliant architecture of those who planned the home of the Blue Jackets, as such design aspects as the Bud Light Terrace, party towers and west side balcony seating have stood the test of time.
But it's also an ode to those who maintain the building. An arena like Nationwide can deteriorate quickly if it's not kept up, but from the general upkeep to the addition of new features, the venue remains one of the best not just in hockey but in sports.
A few new upgrades have been made this offseason to keep it that way. Here's four new things fans might notice when they enter Nationwide Arena on Friday for the home opener.
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A bright idea
The first thing fans might notice will be obvious when they walk into the seating bowl to watch the game.
The game lighting system at Nationwide Arena has been entirely replaced, with the switch from traditional lights to an LED-based lighting system.
The benefits are numerous. Not only is the LED lighting easier to manipulate and more energy efficient, it provides a much brighter, crisper light for the playing surface.
And when we say much brighter, we mean much brighter.
"Half of the teams in the league have LED lights now, so it's the trend that arenas are doing," said Derek Smith, associate general manager of Nationwide Arena. "We want to maintain what the league is doing. We've gotten some pretty good feedback."
The lighting system -- which cut the number of fixtures being used in half -- also offers new creative opportunities, such as the ability to manipulate individual lights for cool effects and the ability to light the seating bowl in multiple colors, that could be used throughout the season.
New scoreboard graphics and stats
Replacing the lights was far from the only change made to the equipment in the back end when it comes to putting on the average CBJ game. All of the back-end equipment used to produce graphics and control the lights and video boards has been replaced, giving the team some new opportunities thanks to the new hardware and software involved.
Immediately, that means fans will see a new graphics package deployed to show stats around the arena scoreboards, something that started with the opening preseason game. But what has Derek Dawley, the team's senior director of event presentations, most excited is the capability to show more statistical information to engage fans.
For example, not only will shots on goal be showed on the main Nationwide Arena scoreboard, but shot attempts will also rotate into the mix. In addition, the east end scoreboard over the cannon will be able to show more in-depth player stats, while the west end boards will show more team stats.
"It allows us to bring in the statistics and display them much easier," Dawley said. "Those stats will start our simplistic and will get more complex as we learn the system better."
For example, Dawley said, the hope as time goes on is the team can show more stats that will engage the analytically inclined, such as player tracking data and perhaps even player heat maps and shot charts.
New food, drink options
For those hoping to wet their whistle or fill their stomachs during game, many of the old favorites will be back in Nationwide Arena, a list that includes such delicious options as Skyline Chili and Papa John's, plus local beverages like Land Grant, Brewdog, North High, Great Lakes and High Bank.
There will be some new options available, though. As a part of a new team partnership with Perry's Ice Cream, the company has created a custom CBJ ice cream flavor called the 5th Line Crunch. This sea salt and caramel-based ice cream with peanut butter swirls and chocolate covered pretzels will be sold at Nationwide Arena (sections 107, 115, 122 and 214) and retail outlets around central Ohio, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the CBJ Foundation.
Other new food options will include:
- A double stack bacon burger basket at all of the grill stands
- Jumbo all beef hot dogs including the 5th Line Dog (topped with sauerkraut and spicy mustard) and the Empty Netter (topped with baked beans, cheddar cheese, onion straws and BBQ sauce) at section 105
- A Skyline Chili walking taco at sections 119 and 206
- A BBQ platter featuring brisket, pulled pork, baked beans, and mac and cheese at the smokehouse on the Bud Light Terrace
Other arena improvements
A number of other projects were undertaken over the summer that will result in an improved fan experience at Nationwide Arena this year.
Perhaps the most noticeable changes took place on Suite Level, where 30 of the arena's 52 suites have been remodeled with new graphics, LED lighting, carpeting and more. In addition, all of the carpet on Suite Level has been replaced.
The Blue Jackets will also debut a new text assist program that was tested last season. Fans who need assistance in Nationwide Arena or need to report something to arena personnel can do so by texting 69050.
For those coming in from the cold on those frigid winter nights, a new improvement should warm up the McConnell entrance on the southwest side of the arena. New fans have been installed in the ceiling of the entrance lobby that will better force warm air downward, warming what has been one of the arena's persistent cold spots.
Other improvements include new flooring in upper concourse restrooms; a rebuilt staircase outside the arena that leads to the arena garage; and a handful of newly installed terrace tables on club level.