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What's new at Nationwide Arena?

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

A new season is upon us, and let's just get this one out of the way: bacon on a stick has made its way to Nationwide Arena.

Everyone still composed and ready to keep going? Ok, it's cool. We felt the same way at first. We can also attest that it's very delicious, but that's not really much of a surprise. It's one of many new food and beverage options available this season at Nationwide Arena, and as part of our look behind the curtain today, we're bringing you the details on what's new around the best rink in the business (and not just food).

We'll start with one of the more noticeable changes at the arena, especially so if you've made your way to the lower bowl since mid-August. The arena management and facilities team has been hard at work this summer preparing the building for some major changes, and late in the summer, they embarked on a seat replacement project for nearly the entire lower bowl. From sections 102-109 and beyond, the 13-year-old seats and their cushions were removed one-by-one and replaced with brand new furniture from American Seating.

If you've ever had a 13-year-old couch and gone through the process of replacing it with something fresh, this is *kind of* the process we underwent at Nationwide Arena - except there were thousands of couches and they were all the same color. The frame of the seats remained intact and the new chairs fit in seamlessly, making for an efficient transition.

In all seriousness, the new seats look fantastic and it's a true credit to the hard work from Scott Lofton and his team, who logged countless hours during the dog days of summer to make sure the lower bowl was ready for tomorrow's opener against the Calgary Flames. 

Another change for 2013-14 took place on the club level, where fans visiting the Pizzuti Club Lounge will notice a renovated bar area that provides more points of sale to improve the speed of service and traffic flow. There is also room for more seats at the bar for fans looking to grab a drink during breaks in the action.

"I think people love coming to Nationwide Arena for a game, not only with the way the team finished last year, but with the game presentation we have, the cannon firing off and now the new scoreboard," said Larry Hoepfner, the Blue Jackets' Executive Vice President of Business Operations. "I think these are just a few more changes as we continue to try to keep Nationwide Arena a fun place to be, and a place people want to come for a game."

Making our way upstairs to the AEP Power Level, fans visiting Nationwide Arena's upper concourse will see something that made its debut on the main concourse a year ago. The success of the Front Street Market, a self-serve, grab-and-go style market located just outside of section 110, made fans eager to have a similar concept on the upper concourse.

Just like its counterpart downstairs, the newly-named High Street Market features snack items, healthy food options like wraps and salads, as well as a selection of beers and assorted sundries. The ease of access and convenient location made the Front Street Market a hit with Blue Jackets fans last season, and now, another dimension has been added to the AEP Power Level.

"The fans were very happy and satisfied with what we did at the Front Street Market," said Tom Booth, General Manger for Delaware North SportsService at Nationwide Arena. "We're really looking to add variety, some healthier options and things like that for our fans on the upper concourse. The new market upstairs will have different wraps, sushi, vegetable and cheese plates, hummus among other things. We're continually adding new items, and making adjustments from there. We have chef-inspired sandwiches that were tested this offseason, and our fans will be able to purchase those, as well."

Remember when we mentioned bacon on a stick? Let's talk more about that (just kidding).

Booth and the Delaware North team at Nationwide Arena have worked feverishly over the summer to create new and innovative menu options for fans throughout the building. Whether that's a revamped menu for dining in the Time Warner Cable HD Lounge or a creative flavor of ice cream, fans can expect to see a variety of new menu items this season.

If "such as?" is your next question, here you go:

The Arena Smokehouse (section 114) - pork shoulder, beef brisket and turkey breast are arena-smoked and served with macaroni and cheese and house-mae potato chips.

Papa John's 8-inch cookie (all Papa John's stands) - imagine a cookie pizza, and this is what you'll see. It's fantastic.

Bacon on a Stick (we keep coming back to this) - thick-cut bacon skewered and griddled, served with Slapshot mustard.

The Dancing Kevin sandwich (section 117) - inspired by the man himself, this sandwich features ham, pulled pork, Slapshot mustard, bacon and fried mozzarella cheese sticks on a pretzel bun.

Section 222's menu has been redesigned and includes items such as hand-pattied burgers, italian sausage, The Arch City Chop and chicken wings with an assortment of sauces.

Suite holders at Nationwide Arena will see new items, as well. A sampling:

Chef Ed Kowalski's Bacon Bomb - italian sausage stuffed with bacon, cheese and BBQ sauce rolled in a basket weave of bacon, smoked and basted with BBQ sauce. 

Re-imagined Personal Plates including shrimp cocktail, nine layer drip, a variety of salads, buffalo chicken mac and cheese, season gazpacho shooters and more.

And in the newly-remodeled Pizzuti Club, one of the new offerings this season are delicious buffalo chicken sliders.

Everyone is excited and ready to roll out the changes and additions at Nationwide Arena this season, and the goal is to make the in-arena experience one of the best in professional sports. With the 2013-14 season beginning this week, there's no time like the present to head down to the arena and check out "what's new at NWA" this year.

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