League officials toured Nationwide Arena for much of the past week, as the Blue Jackets and the city of Columbus continue their preparations to host the 2015 NHL All-Star Game.
Officials enjoyed a walk-through of the arena as plans were discussed for broadcasting, transportation, concessions, and most importantly, the fan experience.
The 2015 NHL Fan Fair will be one of All-Star Weekend’s key attractions. For three days, the Greater Columbus Convention Center will be fan headquarters for the league’s star-studded experience in central Ohio.
Guests will have the opportunity to take part in a number of interactive games and attractions. Former Blue Jackets, as well as past Hall of Fame players from around the NHL, will be in attendance to meet the fans, sign autographs, and take photos. Fans can also take pictures with the Stanley Cup and other hardware from the NHL’s trophy collection.
The NHL began hosting Fan Fair in 2009 in Montreal as an effort to make the All Star Weekend a memorable experience for the community and not only those who are attending the game itself.
“Fan Fair is a big deal," said Don Renzulli, the NHL's Senior Vice President of Events. "Over the course of three days, we’ll get about 30,000 people who float through there and some of them are going to go to the game, but a lot of them aren’t. It gives them the opportunity to do something different.
“When you can say ‘I’m going to go spend my Saturday downtown, I’m going to go to fan fair, I’m going to see the red carpet’, the atmosphere downtown gives you a whole day’s worth of things to do.”
Nationwide Arena seats approximately 18,500 for hockey games, meaning only 37,000 people would be able to attend the game and skills competition, and that’s assuming most seats aren’t occupied by the same people on both nights. With Fan Fair, the NHL can incorporate the entire city and fans of all ages.
“When you start to look at the number of people that can come to the All-Star skills competition or the game, it’s not many,” said Renzulli. “This is an event for the local community and you need to get more people involved.”
With that expanded reach, more fans can enjoy the All-Star experience, while the league will have the opportunity to reach more of its young fan base.
Renzulli has been in his position with the NHL since 2007 and helped to develop Fan Fair. And while the NHL hasn’t held an All-Star Game since 2012, Renzulli and the NHL have still promoted the fan experience with its series of outdoor games and high-profile events that seek to introduce young fans to hockey.