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Jackets unveil events leading up to All-Star Weekend

by Craig Merz / NHL.com

COLUMBUS -- The Columbus Blue Jackets want everyone to know that the 2015 NHL All-Star Weekend is more than just the game at Nationwide Arena on Jan. 25.

In fact, there will be plenty of events not in the arena or held exclusively on the final weekend of the month, Blue Jackets officials announced Tuesday:

* The Columbus Blue Jackets All-Star Winter Park across the street from Nationwide Arena will have an NHL-sized rink with 500 bleacher seats, skate rental and four heated locker rooms. The park will be open Jan. 16-25.

There will be more than 50 hours of public skating plus private events and youth hockey games, said Larry Hoepfner, Blue Jackets executive vice president of business operations.

* A 34-foot high and 85-foot wide snow slide stretching 175 feet along Nationwide Boulevard next to the arena will be in use Jan. 22-25. The slide will have three lanes and starting points at various heights.

* There will a "Hockey House" in the park in the days prior to the 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Game that will feature food, beverages and live music. Adjacent to that will be the "Kids Zone" with family-friendly activities including a replica of the Blue Jackets locker room. Both tents will be heated and there will be outdoor fire pits.

* A 5-kilomoter run/walk will be held Jan. 24 beginning at Nationwide Arena. There is a limit of 4,000 participants and Hoepfner said 1,300 have already registered.

* The Greater Columbus Convention Center will be site of the 2015 NHL Fan Fair Fest from Jan. 22-25 with more than 200,000 square feet of displays and interactive activities.

"What I say to folks is if you come to Columbus you'll have fun," Mayor Michael B. Coleman said. "That's what we'll have all weekend. It will be fun not just for those (in Nationwide Arena), but for all of central Ohio to enjoy at the same time."

* Nationwide Boulevard in and around the arena will be illuminated by more than 350,000 LED lights on 176 trees from Jan. 15-25.

* The Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation will host a party Jan. 22 to benefit the fight against pediatric cancer.

"We think we're the first city to go the NHL with the idea of tying in such a grand civic plan that has to do with tying in their activities to ours," said Linda Logan, executive director of the Greater Columbus Sports Commission.

Hoepfner said the goal is to set the standard for future NHL All-Star Game Weekends.

"After all, we've got a beautiful arena here with the proximity to hotels and a convention center, things most cities don't have and, of course, the wonderful Arena District which is very unique to Columbus," he said of the vast bar and restaurant area around Nationwide Arena. "We want to take advantage of that and showcase Columbus to the entire world."

This is Columbus' second major event after hosting the 2007 NHL Draft.

Logan said she recently found documents from 2000 when the sports commission bid for the 2003 or '04 All-Star Game. Columbus was awarded the 2013 All-Star Game, but it was cancelled because of the lockout.

"This has been 15 years in the making," she said. "It's well worth the wait. We're a much bigger and better city than we were 15 years ago."

Coleman said Columbus has become a destination city, noting that Crew Stadium since 2001 has been home to the past five World Cup qualifying soccer matches between the U.S. Men's National Team and Mexico, and suburban Dublin hosted the 2013 Presidents Cup (men's golf).

Also, Nationwide Arena will be the site for second and third round games of the 2015 NCAA men's basketball tournament in March.

Last month it was announced the arena will host the NCAA Women's Final Four in 2018 and Columbus is a finalist along with Brooklyn and Philadelphia for the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

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