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Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Isn't it pretty? Such a shiny, swirly, and CBJ-ish logo

I. Introduction
Welcome, one and all, to the Army of the Ohio 2007 NHL Entry Draft primer and guide for all those who are planning to travel to Columbus this June 22nd to the 23rd. This guide is being made in the hope that it will help to better enrich your experience not only at the NHL Entry Draft, but also make your time in the Arena District, and Columbus as a whole enjoyable and exciting.

Several topics are going to be covered in this guide, and I am going to do my best to make sure that all possible questions are covered. Topics are going to range from how to get to Columbus by car as well as plane or bus, hotels and other accommodations available in the Columbus area during your stay, entertainment and activities that are in and around the Columbus vicinity, as well as an overview of the Arena District, and Nationwide Arena, which is both the home of the Blue Jackets and the site of the entry draft this year.

This post is subject to changes, as new information is garnered either on my own or through fellow residents of the Columbus area who are capable of giving more detailed information, as well as share what they feel is important details on accommodations, entertainment and dining, and the like. With that in mind, I'll be adding a direct link via an image to this post in the top left-hand corner of this blog in the near future, for easier access.

II. How to get to Columbus
Due to the fact that Columbus is the capital of Ohio, the city itself has a variety of available ways to travel to it, depending on your preference. Cars, buses and planes are the easiest methods available, and trains are possible so long as you don't mind a one and a half to two hour driving distance from the nearest major Amtrak train stations.

Directions by car are taken directly from the site for Nationwide Arena, and are related to directly driving to the arena from all four directions.

By car (north):
South on I-71 to I-670 west. Exit at Neil Avenue. Turn left at intersection onto Neil Avenue. Proceed to the signed event parking entrances.
South on I-71 to I-670 west. Exit onto N. Third St. Turn right onto Chestnut Street. Proceed to the signed event parking entrances on Chestnut Street.
South on OH-315 to I-670 east. Exit at Neil Avenue. Turn right at intersection onto Neil Avenue. Turn left onto Nationwide Blvd. Proceed to the signed event parking entrances.

By car (south):
North on I-71. Exit at Front St. (#100A). Turn left at intersection onto Front Street. Proceed north on Front Street to signed event parking entrances near Front Street and Nationwide Blvd.

By car (east):
West on I-70. Exit at Fourth Street. Continue on Fulton Street to Front Street. Turn right onto Front Street. Proceed north on Front Street to signed event parking entrances near Front Street and Nationwide Blvd.
West on I-670. Exit onto Neil Avenue. Turn left into Nationwide Arena.

By car (west):
East on I-70. Exit at Fourth Street. Continue on Fulton Street to Front Street. Turn right onto Front Street. Proceed north on Front Street to signed event parking entrances near Front Street and Nationwide Blvd.
East on I-670. Exit onto Neil Avenue. Turn right into Nationwide Arena.

By plane:
The first and most optimal choice for a destination by plane when traveling to Columbus is, well ... Columbus, of course. The airport of choice is going to be the Port Columbus International Airport. This airport is the closest public airport available, and is just several miles outside of the downtown area, with buses and taxis in service, as well as car service. The drawback to Port Columbus for many Canadian travelers is that the only direct flight from Canada is via Canada Air, and that is from Toronto. Anywhere else and I assume it'll have to involve connecting flights.

The next best option due to both its size and relative availability and flexibility of flights is Cleveland Hopkins National Airport in ... *drumroll* ... Cleveland! This airport allows for direct flights from Montreal, however still requires connecting flights from anywhere else in Canada.

Unless you're flying from Montreal or don't have the money to spare on a car or some form of transportation from Cleveland to Columbus, your best bet is to most likely find a connecting flight that will take you straight to Columbus.

By bus:
If you don't mind hunkering in to a bus for several hours to just a few hours depending on where you're coming from, Greyhound has a bus station which is smack dab in the middle of downtown Columbus. In fact, once you arrive in Columbus at the bus station, the trip to Nationwide Arena is less than a mile and a half, as you make a beeline all the way up High Street before turning towards the arena towards your left. You won't be able to miss it, with the giant Nationwide Insurance building at the corner where you turn.

By train:
Personally, I love trains. I grew up on them during my time in boarding school, visiting home every weekend on one.

Alas, trains are not the best way to get to Columbus, since the city has no stations which will service Amtrak. If you must take a train, though, the best option depends on where you are coming from. If you are coming from the New York/New Jersey area, or the Washington D.C. area, you are going to want to take the Cardinal/Hoosier State route, which relies on you getting off at either Cincinnati or South Shore, KY. Yes, wherever that is, is apparently the closest station by 14 less miles compared to Cincinnati.

Coming from the west, some of the options available really depend on where in the west you're coming from. If it's from Central-North California, the obvious choice is the California Zephyr followed by a connection in Chicago with the Cardinal/Hoosier State mentioned before. If it's from the Texas region, then the Texas Eagle with another Card/Hoos connection is your best choice.

I could go on and on, however I'd recommend just looking through the Amtrak site if you really must travel by train.

III. Where to stay in Columbus
So you want to know where to stay, huh? Well, that all depends on if you have the pocketbook of Donald Trump and luxury is your thing, or are the typical average joe and you are looking for a modest hotel to crash. Either way, there are several hotels within the Greater Columbus area.

The Crowne Plaza & The Hyatt Regency - With the Crowne Plaza right on Nationwide Blvd. and the Hyatt Regency on High Street (that same street mentioned to be connected directly to Nationwide Blvd. in the overview of bus transportation), these two locations are the most optimal. Of course the obvious drawbacks are (1) the extremely expensive cost of either of these places for so much as just one day, and (2) the fact that there may not even be much availability left a whole three months and a few weeks away from the draft.

Hampton Inn & Suites (Downtown Columbus) - This little doozy is something I noticed on my way to work every day. On High Street, it is situated across from the Columbus Convention Center, and is only a walk away from the arena. It's unique in that it sits right at the corner of a street smack dab in the middle of downtown, which I kind of like. Prices are modest, compared to the Crowne and the Hyatt.

Red Roof Inn & Fairfield Inn - The only reason I mention either of these is because I see them each and every day on my way to work. Both the Red Roof Inn and the Fairfield Inn are off of Olentangy River Road, which is also home to the #7 COTA bus, which will allow for direct transportation to the Arena District. Due to the distance from the downtown area, prices are even lower, and while I wouldn't recommend the Red Roof Inn based off of how it looks on the outside, I can tell you right now that the Fairfield Inn is of at least modest quality and price, as I've seen many a visiting college basketball and college ice hockey team use it during their trips to take on OSU at the Schottenstein Center, which is just down the road.

[For more lodging locations, click here.]

IV. What to do in Columbus
Oh, this is the kicker right here. While many people outside of Columbus and Ohio may not know this, the NHL draft this year is going to be running right alongside Comfest, which is the Columbus Community Festival. While the website for Comfest has yet to put up anything for this year's event, you can be sure from just looking at its past incarnation and past schedule that it'll be something of an insane and fun time if you decide to make an excursion up High Street from the arena. Having never been to Comfest, I'll let fellow Columbus readers fill help me out by adding their input here.

Besides Comfest, let's break this down by focusing on specific areas. In particular, I want to focus on Easton Town Center and the Arena District, due to their being focal points of activity when it comes to entertainment, dining out, and other activities.

Easton Town Center - This is my favorite place to go whenever I have the available time to make the trek from the west side of Columbus to the east side, and for good reason. Easton has more things going on than you could possibly imagine. With several restaurants such as Champs, BD's Mongolian BBQ, Max & Erma's (their hamburgers are to die for), and The Cheesecake Factory, you'll never be left wanting for good good.

Entertainment? Try The Funny Bone, the comedy club situated in at Easton, who is going to have Jeremy Hotz as the headline act over the weekend of the draft (ironic considering his Canadian roots). Looking to play some video games (yes, that's my geek showing)? The Gameworks has more than its fair share of arcade games, and it doubles as a sports bar and place to party, sharing it's location with the Arena Sports Bar & Grill. And don't forget the AMC Theater, either, located in the central hub of the town center.

Shopping is always possible, with a variety of stores depending what you're looking for, with focuses on clothing, gifts and novelty, and the like.

The one drawback to Easton? It's not central to Columbus, and is actually on the east side of the city. Buses do run to Easton from downtown, however.

The Arena District - This is where about 90% of all activity is going to be taking place during the draft, both in terms of events being held by the National Hockey League, and just general location of people who have come for the draft. The Arena District is smack dab in downtown Columbus, meaning it is a great location for people to converge upon for many different reasons.

Outside of the most obvious location that you'll be traveling to -- Nationwide Arena -- there are a variety of stores, restaurants, and places to seek entertainment if you so desire to find something to do.

Starting with the restaurants, I'll list off one of my favorite: Ted's Montana Grill. Owned by media mogul Ted Turner, this place's specialty is their bison meat, which is both leaner and with less fat than the average beef burger (and it tastes like awesome mixed in with meatiness, too!). One of the funny little novelties of this place? For change, they'll give you $2 bills instead of $1 bills, and sometimes even five of them instead of a $10. True, it gets a little annoying when you're desperately craving something from a vending machine, but it's no big deal.

Outside of Ted's, and literally in the exact same spot but just next to it, is TBD Tavern. To tell you the truth, this place only recently opened up within the past two weeks, after the previous bar and tavern shut their doors due to financial reasons. I couldn't tell you what to expect there.

Other restaurants that I would recommend (and hopefully others can give you the skinny on their specialties and good things about them) are the Frog Bear & Wild Boar, which doubles as a party location with a patio outside for congregating (the patio is right near the entrance to the arena, too!), another Max & Erma's, Gordan Biersch which is to the left of the arena entrance and a quick walk, Cotters which is actually connected to the arena at the rear entrance (the food is rather pricey for little, sadly), another BD's Mongolian BBQ, Buci de Beppo which is one of the most awesome family Italian restaurants and is centrally located just below the Frog Bear in a cozy, basement level area you can reach via steps outside, and for all you Brendan Shanahan lovers? We have an Irish Pub called O'Shaughnessy's!

Besides those restaurants, there are a variety of take-out and fast food, as well as small snack locations that you'll find, such as Starbucks, McDonald's, Chipotle, and even a lunch area inside of the nearby Arena Grand Theatre where they make a mean chicken parmesan panini sandwich.

Which brings me to the entertainment part of the Arena District! The Arena Grand Theatre is just to the side of Nationwide and across the street, in an alcove near the Ted's Montana Grill. Ticket prices are reasonable, and while the theater itself is cozy and not as massive as your average AMC theater, it still is up to date with all the latest hot movies on the big screen.

If movies don't tickle your fancy, maybe a skate around the Dispatch Ice Haus will give you something cool to do. Until the New Jersey Devils finish the Prudential Center, the Blue Jackets will continue to be the only team which has their practice facility and ice rink in the same arena. The Ice Haus, while I am unsure of the times during the draft, is a great place to go to when you want to go for a skate.

A variety of other venues are hidden around the Arena District, though sadly none can come to mind. I'm sure that Drew or Tyler might know a few they can think of.

Before I wrap things up on the Arena District, it's mandatory that I mention The R Bar, home of many of the HFBoard forum goers who post on the Columbus Blue Jackets message board, and also the central point of many a Blue Jackets-related viewing party (as is obvious from the regular greetings from Danny Gare and Jeff Rimer while they broadcast the Jackets to the people there). Before and after each game, the place is nothing short of packed, and win or lose in always buzzing with activity. You'll find it tucked away in a little spot to the right of the entrance in to the arena, and between a parking garage and another building.

In short? Go there for the hockey-related buzz, and stay there for the hockey-related buzz. The beer helps the staying power, too.

V. Nationwide Arena; an overview
Ah, yes. Nationwide Arena. The home of the Blue Jackets, the Columbus Destroyers, the Ohio Junior Blue Jackets, and oftentimes a venue for many singers, bands, or other sports-related events. Nationwide has often been called one of the best modern venues not just for sports, but also for events in general! It's also regularly touted as the arena which was voted the #1 fan experience by ESPN a few years ago. I guess you could say that's why the fans still seem to keep coming despite the product on the ice, right?

Here's a picture of Nationwide from the outside, front entrance:

A picture of Nationwide from the outside, ticket office entrance at the rear:

As well, here are some pictures of several of the concourses, both on the lower concourse, upper concourse, and the like!:

There's also the Bud Light Arena Pub:

The Dispatch Ice Haus:

And then the center ice itself, which will be done away with for the draft, of course:

(Pictures will be added at a later date, when I've had the time to go around the arena during one of my breaks and just snap a few photos for tour purposes)

In terms of the interior layout during specific venues when it comes to seating, you can see that right here:

(Courtesy of MTCTickets)

The reason that I chose a concert venue layout over a hockey game layout is because of the fact that it seemed better, when considering how the NHL Draft layout normally is at the arenas which it has taken place at.

The exterior is simple enough to navigate. The front entrance has two entrances in to the arena, however one of them will most likely be closed off. The first entrance is, of course, the main entrance through the glass doors right in to the arena. Looking to the left of that if you were facing the arena, you will find The Blueline, which is where all hockey-related and Blue Jackets-related memorabilia is sold. I'm not sure how entrance in to the draft is going to work yet, but since this is a ticketed event, free tickets or not, I'm venturing a guess that we'll have the interior doors closed off. But then again, we could very well have the doors outside shut, with admittance in to The Blueline permitted only to people from within the arena, like we do during game days.

I'll try and find out, and update with the pertinent information. But right now it's still early, and this all may be dictated by the NHL, and not by Nationwide or the Blue Jackets.

VI. NHL Entry Draft Admittance & Tickets
Admittance to the entry draft, as it currently stands, is nothing more than a crap shoot and luck. Going off of the information at the Columbus Blue Jackets website, you must do the following to receive any tickets for the draft:

(1) You must sign up for the Blue Jackets Cyber Fan Club. To do this, type your e-mail address in to the specified box on the bottom right corner of the site linked.
(2) You must then fill out your personal information with all required details about yourself.
(3) Lastly, you must select how many tickets you wish to obtain for the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. The minimum is 1 (duh), and the maximum number of tickets you can request is 6. As the page indicates, an e-mail will be sent to you after April 30th with the details you need concerning your ticket request.

In all honesty, it isn't the most professional of ways to set up ticket requests for the draft. Having to join the team's "Cyber Fan Club"? Talk about amateur, especially since not everyone interested is from Columbus, nor a Jackets' fan. C'est la vie, right?

VII. Bloggers meet up! (Conclusion)
Admit it, you know you want to meet your fellow bloggers. The idea of sitting around with them, kicking back brewskies and jostling one another over your love or hate for your teams, coupled with two days of non-stop draft speculation and conversations about the playoffs is more than appealing. To that end, Drew at End of the Bench and myself will be doing our best to plan something of a draft party that'll be open to others around the blogosphere.

There's hardly been any real talk about anything serious just yet, and it'll certainly take a wee bit of time to hammer out some specific details which people can go off of. Where will it be? When will it be? How will this all be planned out? These are all questions that have to be considered, so please stay tuned and hopefully within the following month or two, plans will become better laid out for everyone to follow if they wish to take part in something big.

Remember that in the grand scheme of the NHL geography, Columbus is probably one of the most central locations when it comes to the general distance between itself and the jam-packed Eastern Conference and about 6 of the 15 teams in the Western Conference.

So let's take advantage of this, folks! Come to Columbus! Come to the NHL Entry Draft! Have some fun, and let's get to meet one another!

Unless you want to be anonymous, like Eklund. And you don't want to be another Eklund, do you? Do you!?

VIII. Links and references
Nationwide Arena
Columbus Blue Jackets - 2007 NHL Draft
Arena District
Easton Town Center
Greater Columbus Sports Commission - Lodging
The Short North (nearby city section by the Arena District)
The Chiller (several ice rinks across the Columbus area)


  • At 2:30 PM, Blogger CVail said…

    No love for Gordon Biersch? Come for the southwest egg rolls, stay for the 6 beers brewed on site. I highly recommend the Hefeweizen.

  • At 3:58 PM, Anonymous Sarah said…

    Nice work, guys. I'm interested in a blogger vote is always for the R Bar, unless we want food, in which case I'd vote for Gibby's. In theory it might be fun to meet at Comfest, but would probably be very difficult to find people there.

    Just as an addendum to the flight information, when a friend of mine came down from Ottawa a couple years ago, the cheapest flight he found was through Dayton. US Air's had some financial trouble since then, so I have no idea if that's changed...

    When I lived in Canada, US Air flew out of both Ottawa and Toronto to Pittsburgh, so assuming that is still the same, folks can get a connecting flight there or even rent a car and drive...

    Just avoid flying into Cincinnati. It has the most expensive fares in the U.S.

  • At 4:36 PM, Blogger Matt said…

    Definently up for the blogger meet-up, as I mentioned earlier.

    However, for those flying in, I'd also reccomend the Dayton International Airport.

    Dayton is about 45 minutes Southwest of Columbus, and normally the airfares in and out of there are better than CMH when I have traveled. I would suggest checking the rates and perhaps look at flying in there and then getting to Columbus with a bus or rental car.

    I also quietly sing the praises of Barley's, a brewhouse and grill located between the Convention Center and the Arena, on High St. They brew their own stuff there, and it's quite excellent! I strongly reccomend the Russian Imperial Stout.

    See everyone downtown!

  • At 10:56 AM, Blogger Sherry said…

    Thanks for the information! Again, if I wasn't on a paltry student budget I would definitely try to make the trip.

    That being said, all I know about Columbus is stereotypes. Will I get to witness any war reenactments while I'm there? :D

  • At 7:01 PM, Blogger Michael said…

    DV and Matt - I've never once been to Gordon Biersch before. :-( The one time I tried going with family, it was just packed to capacity. But if I can get a little more info on the type of joint it is, I can throw some more up about it.

    And thanks for the tip on airports, Matt, and Sarah!

    Sherry - Sadly, you wouldn't get to witness any war reenactments while you're here. That is, if you were coming, which I still hope will happen, student budget be damned! >O

    Though we might have one. Maybe Hitch will dress up in an officer's uniform and charge at MacLean before he makes his first draft selection. That'd be gold.

  • At 4:15 PM, Anonymous Tapeleg said…

    Forget Gordon Beerish. How about Moe's? the beer is good, it's classier than the drinking joints, and they have good food. The potato skins are GREAT!

    Also, what about skating? The Icehouse (haus?) usually has public skating, and a blogger skating session would be pretty fun.

    If I am not involved in a big job, I am in.

  • At 10:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'm hoping to make it down if I get tickets- I signed up for the CBJ list that you mentioned. Nice post w/ lots of great info!

  • At 5:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I just got my tickets to the NHL Draft! I'll be coming down with a friend so we haven't decided if we're just staying to watch the 1st round and driving back home afterwards or if we'll stay at a hotel and watch the first few rounds.

  • At 5:34 AM, Blogger The Acid Queen said…

    Fermi the Nuclear Cavalier and I will be rollin' into town for the Draft--so deal me in.


  • At 11:29 PM, Blogger CapsChick said…

    Sounds like fun! I wish I could come, but my crazy boss actually expects me to work all 5 days of the week...nuts. Looks like I'll be partying it up Caps-style here in the DC area, waiting with baited breath to see the new jersey and the new suckers, er, draftees.

    Have a drink for me! I hope to hear lots of good stories about blogger madness after this :)

  • At 7:04 PM, Blogger Kevin said…

    I liked the Blue Danube the last time I was in Columbus a couple of years ago. I remember they had a cool jukebox, too.

  • At 7:32 PM, Anonymous Sarah said…

    I'm in for the meetup for sure now. I have to go to Dayton for work on Sunday, so in exchange I can leave early on Friday for the draft-related goings-on. Looking forward to it!

  • At 10:03 AM, Anonymous Gustafsson said…

    OFB will be represented at the draft, but I am unsure on his plans post draft events. I've passed this post to him.

    OFB endorses Gordon Biersch of DC. We are friends with the brewer and can personally attest to the quality of the brews (and food). I've been to 5 GBs throughout the US and they've all been top notch.


  • At 3:17 AM, Anonymous Mr_Coffee said…

    When I travel to Columbus from Canada, I usually grab a Continental flight thru Cleveland, they run about the best service with regional Embraer jets.

    I would add that if you're in Easton, drop Chipotle's off your list and try On The Border instead. Fresh guacamole made at your table!

    And while downtown, those of you from Montreal that miss the Old Munich might want to check out Schmidt's German Village Restaurant at 240 E Kossuth St.
    Definite hit for schnitzel.

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Name: Michael
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About Me: A mid-20s male who feels much too old even before he's 30. Has a degree in Sport Management and after branching out and trying a few other things in the job market, has finally decided to go back to his first love of hockey and hope he can break in with a team, big or small, somehow.
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