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Franklin County Commissioners Approve Arena Deal

Franklin County Commissioners, in a unanimous vote, approved the deal that allows a city-county purchase of Nationwide Arena. One speaker urged commissioners to reject the $42.5 million purchase. Michael Walton, a Columbus attorney, said buying the arena is a bad move because it will not solve the problem: a losing hockey team.  Two other speakers argued the deal was a good one. But all commissioners are behind the deal. Commissioner Paula Brooks said there has been a lot of public and private investment in the Arena District pointing to the new Hilton Hotel that is under construction in the area. Brooks called the purchase an "investment" in the district. While City Council endorsed the project, it still has to approve the lease. There was speculation the Blue Jackets would leave Columbus because of their financial difficulties and lease agreement with Nationwide Arena. The team, which was losing as much as $16 million a year, had not paid its rent to Nationwide Realty for four years. Local leaders say if the Blue Jackets left the city, the thriving Arena District would fizzle out. City and county officials said buying the arena was the only was to save the Arena District and the tax revenue it produces. Nationwide will lend the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority the money to buy the arena from it, and the city and county will use tax revenue from the under-construction west side casino to pay back the loan. The county also took out a $10 million loan from the state to help fund operating costs of the arena. The Blue Jackets play 41 regular season home games a year.