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A recent visit to Las Vegas demonstrated the wisdom and far-sightedness of the Nevada city's leaders compared to the "thinkers" of Columbus regarding NHL hockey and casinos.

Two decades ago, Columbus landed an NHL expansion team, the Blue Jackets. The team was housed downtown in Nationwide Arena.

It was Columbus' first "big four" major league sports franchise. Fans hoped the Jackets would be competitive from the start, make the playoffs and eventually win the Stanley Cup.

What ensued was an epic fail. The Jackets have made the playoffs only three times and have never gotten beyond the first round.

Industrialist John H. McConnell plunked down an $80 million franchise fee and the team began play in 2000. After he died, his son John P. McConnell took over. Nationwide Insurance now owns 30 percent of the club.

It is well-known that for professional teams in medium-sized metropolitan areas to compete for championships, the owners must be wealthy enough to subsidize the team to the tune of millions a year. This does not appear to be happening in Columbus.

(The metro areas of Las Vegas and Columbus are similar-sized, between 2 and 2.5 million people.)

Meanwhile, Las Vegas got an NFL expansion team this season after financier and owner Bill Foley wrote a $500 million check. The Vegas Golden Knights played gangbusters winning hockey in their maiden season and won the first three rounds of the playoffs. They are competing for the Stanley Cup at this writing as Foley continues to open his checkbook to subsidize his team.

Score! one for Sin City.

Regarding casinos, comparisons are difficult because Las Vegas feels like one big casino. Three are over 100 casinos there, Many are not located on The Strip. Columbus has two: Hollywood Casino, on the west side, and Eldorado Scioto Downs, south of town.

Las Vegas planners are sophisticated enough to know that casinos are just another form of amusement that blend nicely with other sports and entertainment venues, dining and lodging options.

T-Mobile Arena, the home of the Golden Knights, was built on The Strip, adjacent to the New York, New York and Park MGM (formerly Monte Carlo) casinos.

When Ohio voters agreed to permit casinos a decade ago, the Columbus casino was supposed to be built in the arena district near Huntington Park, Nationwide Arena, the convention center, hotels and restaurants.

The Columbus "city fathers" blew a gasket, and, led by the Wolfe family that then owned the Dispatch and still owns Channel 10, opposed the location on the misguided notion that it would "take away" from the sports, entertainment, dining and lodging venues nearby.

"People just arrive, gamble and leave," we were told. After severe legal and political warfare, Hollywood Casino's owners caved in and it was built miles away, all by itself, on the far west side.

Score! two for Sin City. Its leaders know that the more entertainment options in proximity to one another, the better. Columbus's leaders, no so bright.

Where Does The Money Go From O-H-I-O?

Nearly five years ago, the Ohio State University Foundation invested $50 million of "hard-donated" endowment money in a high speculative venture capital firm named Drive  Capital, headed by one of Gov. John Kasich's political buddies and donors, Mark Kvamme.

This big hunk of money would have been better spent on scholarships for needy students and to attract gifted professors.

No accounting is available on what the $50 million is worth today, but it was reported in the Dispatch the $5 million that was put into Root Insurance, a local startup, is not bearing fruit. Root CEO Alex Timm told the Dispatch that his company is not profitable at this time.

I wonder how the other $45 million is doing?

Ohio Political Ranker Looks Ahead

In the aftermath of a big win in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, Richard Cordray has seized the day, earning daily positive headlines except when he embraced Gov. Kasich, mistakenly believing that anybody in Ohio cares what "National Johnny" is doing or saying.

GOP winner Mike DeWine has been constrained by the developing controversies about ECOT and the leaderless, corrupt Republicans in the Ohio House. It won't be long before Opie and his pals launch mindless negative ads against Cordray, falsely reminding voters that "Democrats bankrupted the state" last time they held the governorship. Cordray had better be ready to answer.

Quickies

  • The Dispatch was too cheap to conduct a political opinion poll during the primaries, when people really wanted to know where the candidates stood, but ran a non-scientific poll question on "sports betting" on its editorial pages the other day.
  • The newspaper's editorial writer referred to critics of the elimination of a 13-acre walking area at the Franklin Park Conservatory as "some have grumbled." Nice way to label readers or former readers.
  • Good thing the Cleveland Plain Dealer still sends reporters to the Cavs and Indians games as the two bylined stories atop the Dispatch sports section April 30 were from PD reporters.

 

Please send your comments and suggestions for future columns to John K. Hartman, ColumbusMediaInsider@gmail.com

 

(ColumbusMediaInsider, copyright, 2018, John K. Hartman, All Rights Reserved

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