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Columbus Ticket Taxes Take Effect As Opponents Threaten Challenge

Fans wait to enter Nationwide Arena for a Blue Jackets scrimmage.
Olivia Miltner
Fans wait to enter Nationwide Arena for a Blue Jackets scrimmage.

Central Ohioans buying tickets for shows and sports events in Columbus will see higher prices starting Monday, as two new 5% ticket taxes kick into effect.

The much-debated and long-anticipated ticket taxes affects "arts, culture, entertainment, and professional sports events within city limits," with a few exceptions. School athletic events, like Ohio State games, are exempt by state law.

The first fee also doesn't apply to tickets that cost less than $10 or tickets at venues that hold fewer than 400 people, although Nationwide Arena is exempt. It's projected to raise about $6 million annually for arts groups.

Instead, a second tax will be added to Nationwide Arena events, including concerts and Blue Jackets games, with most revenues going toward improving the arena. That's expected to raise $2.4 million a year for the arena and another $600,000 for the arts.

Jami Goldstein with the Greater Columbus Arts Council says the revenue will enable arts education and grant programs in the area.

"Columbus is drastically underfunded publically in the arts," Goldstein says. "We invest only of what Cleveland does, and less than a third than Pittsburgh."

But the fee is not without its detractors. Opponents say they will submit almost 20,000 signatures to the City Council clerk's office, hoping to get a measure on November's ballot to eliminate the tax and prevent similar ones in the future.

Goldstein says because GCAC is a non-profit, it will not weigh in on the ballot measure proposal. But she asserts regular people will fight for the fee if it goes before voters.

"There is a citizens group that is ready to step into that arena when the time comes," she says. 

In the meantime, Goldstein is excited for what the ticket tax will mean for the city.

"It's going to enable us to support more free festivals and programs, potentially double the amount of arts education experiences provided by our organizations to nearly 2 million, and significantly increase our grants to artists, a program that we've already had to close this year due to lack of funds," Goldstein says.

Clare Roth was former All Things Considered Host for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU in February of 2017. After attending the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, she returned to her native Iowa as a producer for Iowa Public Radio.