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Business & Economy

Renovations to Greater Columbus Convention Center and Nationwide Arena could cost $190 million

Nationwide Arena
WOSU file photo

Nationwide Arena and the Greater Columbus Convention Center need almost $200 million worth of renovations over the next two to seven years, according to the entity in charge of the buildings.

Director of the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority Ken Paul said $62 million worth of improvements are needed for Nationwide Arena. Another $130 million is planned for the convention center in the agency's capital plan.

The arena is nearing its 25th year in operation since opening at the turn of the century, while parts of the convention center first opened in 1993.

Paul said most of the changes aren't flashy upgrades, but critical to the building. These include new roofs for both buildings, HVAC upgrades for the convention center and a new scoreboard in the arena where the Columbus Blue Jackets hockey team plays.

"There is great, useful life remaining in the arena. If we choose to reinvest in it today... improve and enhance what is already a great facility, we can add surely another 25 years to its life," Paul said.

Paul said the renovations would happen over the next seven years. He said hotel tax revenue and investment by private sources in the center and in the arena by the Columbus Blue Jackets will fund these projects.

The FCCFA also owns the Hilton in downtown Columbus.

Paul said the arena itself was only taken over by the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority about a decade ago. Since then, the arena has needed about $80 million in improvements.

The convention center has gone through many expansions since it first opened. Paul said this means parts of the venue have aged differently than newer wings of the center.

Paul said a lot of maintenance on the convention center needed to be delayed because of the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the tourism industry. He said since then, the industry has rebounded and pointed to the success of the downtown Hilton in helping Columbus recover.

"I'm very optimistic for our future. And the performance of the Hilton is through the roof. This year will be a record year for the Hilton. And we're functioning for the first time as a full 1,000 room hotel, the largest hotel in Ohio," Paul said.

Paul said the projects got bolstered by about $2 million from the recently passed Ohio Legislature State Strategic Investment Fund. Paul said the authority had requested $9 million, but state lawmakers only voted to approve $2 million.

"Clearly $2 million is just a start. And we'll likely go back to the state for additional support, but we're grateful," Paul said.

George Shillcock is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. He joined the WOSU newsroom in April 2023 following three years as a reporter in Iowa with the USA Today Network.