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Nationwide Arena isolated as Columbus revises ticket tax plan

Columbus City Council has revised a proposed ticket tax, with amendments cutting the rate from 7% to 5% while stipulating that only tax revenue from events held at the US city’s Nationwide Arena can be used to fund improvements to the venue.

The changes revealed yesterday (Tuesday) are part of the Columbus Art Alliance, a new funding strategy to invest in creativity and stability of public facilities. “This proposal is a direct result of what we do in Columbus: radical collaboration,” said City Council president Shannon Hardin.

“We listened, we looked at the research, and we balanced public needs with economic reality. We must take responsibility for our aging buildings and for the next generation of arts, artists and arts education for local families and their kids. This plan offers a path forward for two important challenges.”

The Columbus Art Alliance will act to financially support the city’s cultural and performing arts community with a 5% fee on tickets to concerts, local arts performances and major sporting events. The funds raised will be invested in two major areas – Creativity and Stability, through grants managed by the Greater Columbus Arts Council (GCAC).

The Creativity Fund is a 5% ticket fee on performance and sports events at venues with more than 400 seats and on tickets priced at more than $10 (£7.80/€8.90). The fund will help increase inclusion and access to major venues and arts performances, and nearly double the amount available for grants to local artists and arts groups.

The Creativity Fund will collect revenue at venues other than events held at Nationwide Arena (pictured), home of NHL ice hockey team the Columbus Blue Jackets, or Ohio State University sporting events. The Creativity Fund of the 5% ticket fee is projected to generate $6m annually.

The second part of the new strategy is the Stabilisation Fund, which will be generated from a 5% ticket fee on events at Nationwide Arena. This Stabilisation Fund will be invested in maintaining buildings with an estimated $3m in revenue annually.

This is designed to ensure that only revenue raised from events at Nationwide Arena can be used to support building improvements at the venue, which opened in September 2000. From this Stabilisation Fund, 80% will be reinvested for long-term capital and maintenance projects at the Arena, with museums, theatres and other “critical civic gems” receiving the remaining 20%.

The Columbus Dispatch newspaper said that the Blue Jackets and PromoWest Productions, a Columbus-headquartered entertainment company, were among the opponents of the 7% tax. The city council is said to have altered the proposal after hearing concerns that a 7% levy would hurt ticket sales, while arts organisations were also said to be unwilling to share revenue with the Nationwide Arena.

Hardin said the council made its decision after weighing up ticket taxes imposed in other US markets. The Dispatch said Nashville has a 9.25% admissions tax; Cleveland is at 8%; Pittsburgh and Milwaukee at 5% apiece; and Cincinnati, 3%.

Council will host its second public hearing on the matter tomorrow (Thursday) to consider legislation for a December 10 meeting. If enacted, the plan would be in place from July 1, 2019.

“We have a responsibility to keep the doors of art and culture open and accessible,” Hardin added. “Investing in our creative economy, investing in our aging public arts and events spaces will have immeasurable returns for everyone who works, visits and calls Columbus home.”

Image: Nationwide Arena