Columbus’ Arena district will be a hub of activity Wednesday when three major sporting events draw up to 40,000 fans – and possibly serious traffic jams – at three major venues simultaneously.
Columbus police have for weeks been planning an attack by sports fans in the Arena neighborhood, the first time that all three stadiums will be used simultaneously for football, hockey and baseball.
To the expected convergence of sports fans in the area will be added a Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA), which allows visitors to transport alcoholic beverages in marked cups, outdoors, in much of the 300,000. square feet of neighborhood shopping, dining and entertainment venues. .
“We’re going to see a great concentration of people,” said Columbus Police Cmdr. Smith Weir, who oversees the downtown area. “We encourage people to have fun and have a good time, but to save extra time, watch the traffic and be patient.”
Things will start at Huntington Park, which will have a minor league baseball game at 6:15 p.m. between the Columbus Clippers and the Louisville Bats. Up to 5,000 fans are expected to attend the game on a sunny day.
Participants “are encouraged to purchase their tickets and parking in advance to save time!” according to a Tweet from the Clippers.
At Nationwide Arena, the St. Louis Blues face the Blue Jackets at 7:00 p.m. in an NHL pre-season game. The arena’s capacity is over 18,000, but attendance is expected to be around 12,000, Columbus police were told.
And the new Lower.com pitch, which seats more than 20,000, will play its first international game at 8 p.m. Wednesday as the crew, who have won their last three home games, face Mexico’s Cruz Azul in the Campeones. Cup. .
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Bars and restaurants in the area usually open hours before the start of games.
Officials said the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic could deter some from going to crowded indoor places. In early September, the city of Columbus promulgated a mask mandate that requires employees and customers to wear masks in grocery stores, restaurants, hair salons, movie theaters and any indoor space accessible to the public.
DORA is activated three hours before the start of each Blue Jackets, Clippers and Crew home game and lasts until midnight, according to the Arena District website.
Read more: Arena District DORA has limits
The events are a local respite from the pandemic recovery and a welcome diversion, according to local officials.
“Is this exciting? Said Don DePerro, President and CEO of the Columbus Chamber of Commerce. “These are the fun things that keep us away from the drudgery of the pandemic. “
He plans to make the trio of events a staple in the community where fans can attend more than one venue on the same night.
“What a great event, first for the city of Columbus, but more importantly for downtown.”
Lisa Defendiefer, of the Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District, said the downtown area was “unbelievably quiet.”
“It’s great to know that there are so many great things to do. We want to welcome people from the city center again. “
While there have been other “soft” DORA deployments, this will be the “grand opening” and the first test of resources and rules, Weir said.
In similar areas elsewhere, streets are closed to create square-like consumption areas. This will not happen in the Arena district, Weir said.
“So many parking lots are accessible from Nationwide Boulevard,” Weir said. Closing it “would really throw a wrinkle back into the plans … to really spoil the traffic.”
In addition to the special duty officers the sites pay for, the city planned to have a nearly full staff on Wednesday, including two additional police cars, bicycle patrol boats and manned observation towers.
COTA is not planning any additional buses to or from the region, but it does indicate that the start times of the events coincide with its peak operations.
“We will have all of our transportation lines available,” said spokesperson Jeff Pullin. “We will be complete. “
Columbus Police Lt. Marc Dopp said there was plenty of parking but added: “You may have to walk a bit.”
Some sites have given ticket holders specific instructions on the best parking spots based on which direction they are coming from.
Dopp encourages everyone to come up with a game plan and an upbeat outlook.
“Approach with a positive attitude, add 15-20 minutes to your trip, know that you may need to sit in some traffic, be courteous to others and hope we win all three games.”