It’s been a few days since the Blue Jackets decided to get the local bloggers together and present their case. You all know that I was not invited, but that’s OK, because I’m sure they truly did not want me there because they know where I stand. But for those bloggers who did get to meet in the commanding heights of Nationwide, we get a nearly unanimous picture of what needs to be done. Call the County Commissioners, phone numbers conveniently posted, say a prayer of thanks every night for this gift from John McConnell, and think about what would happen to the 7,000 jobs that the team has created. (Really, 7,000? Where did that number come from?)
Look, I’ll get right to the point here: If the Blue Jackets want Franklin County to bail them out, that’s fine with me as long as the VOTERS get their say. I would miss them terribly if they left town. I wouldn’t be suicidal, but I wouldn’t be very happy having to drive to Detroit or Pittsburgh or Buffalo or Chicago for my NHL fix. But if the public is asked to bail them out, the public should have the right to vote on the issue.
But that’s not what the Jackets are asking. They want the County Commissioners (phone numbers not attached) to make the tough decision and approve their request, no vote from the public at all. And if the team gets their money and then throws together another run of non-playoff or losing seasons causing attendance to tank, what do you think will happen then? Hint, it will involve moving vans.
I am still puzzled as to why Nationwide Realty has been relatively quiet about this, other than to say they would approve of the County bailout. Why won’t they consider renegotiating the lease? Why won’t they look for new investors to keep the team here and keep their revenue stream running? Is it because the Blue Jackets don’t have as much leverage now that Huntington Park is open? Sure, the Clippers have a shorter season and can’t put as many people in the stands as hockey can, but those customers go to the same bars and restaurants as hockey fans do and might even spend more money since the Clippers don’t charge as much as the Jackets do for admission. Is that why this issue has suddenly come out, during the Stanley Cup? If I were the Jackets, I would want the Arena issue to come out when the public is anxious for hockey, like during training camp or when the season gets under way. Or when they sign Rick Nash to a long-term contract.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: If the Jackets get their way on this, their out-stretched hands will be extended forever. When things go poorly or the economy stays bad, they will ask for something else because they can. “Well, we needed to sign [insert player name here] and if the residents of Central Ohio want the team to prosper, they need to help out.” And I can’t wait to hear the Crew ask, “Hey, show me the love too!” Or the Columbus Symphony, which has every right to ask the same.
I applaud the team for discovering the value of social media, Web 2.0, and the importance of bloggers. It is evident that they did a terrific job impressing their audience and getting their unfiltered message out. But we need to learn more before we say, “Sure, why not, you can have my money.”