Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman continues to support the use of casino tax dollars for the public purchase of Nationwide Arena.
In 2011, the city and Franklin County agreed to spend 250 million dollars in casino tax revenue to purchase, operate and maintain the arena through the year 2039. Last week, a citizens group called the Columbus Coalition for Responsive Government submitted petition signatures to get a measure on next year's ballot that would amend the city's purchase contract and stop arena purchase payments by 2016. Coleman tells WCBE the arena deal protects jobs and tax revenue that funds essential services.
The arena was also purchased to keep the Columbus Blue Jackets hockey team in town. The team was losing money on its lease deal. The purchase deal gives 100 percent of concession and parking revenue from hockey-related events to the team. Earlier this year the private board overseeing the arena, Columbus Arena Management, adopted a policy to hold one public meeting a year, at which its annual budget would be adopted. The remaining meetings are held in private. Coleman, Franklin County Commissioners, and county prosecutor Ron O'Brien urged the board to hold meetings in public, because tax dollars are involved. Coleman responded this way when asked about the board's one public meeting policy.
The coalition says the arena deal should have been subject to a vote of the people.