Columbus is one of the fastest growing cities in the country. If you need any evidence of this, just look at all the construction that has taken place, not only on the Ohio State campus, but all around Columbus over the last decade. Even though I live just a few miles away from the campus area, it feels like every time I am down on campus there are new buildings going up.
Even though Columbus is growing rapidly, they shouldn’t be considered as an expansion city if the NFL decides to expand. I can understand why Columbus would be an attractive option, since when it comes to watching football it seems like Ohio’s capital city is always near the top of the television ratings. While it may seem easy to assume that because there are a lot of people that like to watch football there it would be impossible for NFL football in the city to fail, when there are a number of reasons why it could possibly be a bust.
While Columbus doesn’t have an NFL team, it’s not too difficult to see a game in-person. There are five teams within 210 miles of Columbus. Take I-71 and you can go to Cleveland for a Browns game, or down to Cincinnati and watch the Bengals. Hop on I-70 and in about three hours you could be in Pittsburgh for a Steelers game if you head east, or watching the Colts in Indianapolis if you drive west. Even heading up to Detroit for a Lions game isn’t that bad of a drive from the Columbus area.
If the NFL was to consider Columbus as an expansion city, you would have to imagine they’d get a lot of push-back from at least Mike Brown and Jimmy Haslam, since both of those teams are in the state of Ohio. A lot of fans of both teams come in from Columbus to watch games throughout the year, with some even having season tickets. If the league added a third team in Ohio, it would definitely hurt ticket sales for both Cincinnati and Cleveland, and to a lesser extent Indianapolis and Pittsburgh.
Can fans afford to support both Ohio State and an NFL expansion team?
It might sound crazy asking this question about an area that has over two million people in the greater metro area, but with prices of everything rising around the country, a team in Columbus might be a tough sell to fans after the initial shine wears off. Not saying that fans around Columbus aren’t passionate about football, since we know that isn’t the case at all.
What worries me about adding an NFL team in Columbus is the trend we’ve seen recently with Ohio State’s football ticket prices rising. The Buckeyes are still packing 100,000 inside Ohio Stadium for games, but if the NFL adds a team in Columbus it will make some fans have to make a choice. The first few years could be especially tough, since you’d likely see ticket prices higher than expected since the team would be newer and fans would be more intrigued to get in and see the team play live.
Where would an NFL team in Columbus play?
Not that this should be a huge concern, but there really isn’t much room to put a new football stadium inside of I-270. Just look at how long it took the Columbus Crew to find a new location for a stadium. Granted, noted scumbag and former Crew owner Anthony Precourt insisted on a downtown stadium, which severely limited their location options. It took a while to find the current site for Lower.com Field.
There are some who would wonder why Ohio Stadium couldn’t just be renovated and the stadium shared by both the Buckeyes and an NFL expansion team? For everything that would have to be done to the stadium to get it up to NFL standards, it’d probably be less of a headache just to build a stadium for an NFL expansion team somewhere in central Ohio. While there are things inside Ohio Stadium that would be helped greatly by a renovation, it feels like a better option for the two teams to have separate homes. Plus, it feels like the field itself at Ohio Stadium might be a little small for NFL games, which is the reason why Ohio Stadium hasn’t been considered for FIFA World Cup matches in the past.
Too many other sporting event options in Columbus
This might sound a little crazy since there’s always room for more sports. Trying to consume all the sports you can at home and on television is one thing. Actually going out and shelling out the money for tickets, food, drinks, parking, and everything else that comes along with attending sporting events is a whole different story.
There are currently two professional sports team in Columbus. From October-April (and possibly later if they make the playoffs) the Columbus Blue Jackets play at Nationwide Arena. From March-late October/November Columbus Crew SC play just down the street. The Crew have gotten a shot in the arm over the past year when it comes to attendance thanks to their shiny new digs. Even though they aren’t technically a professional sports team, you also have to factor in Ohio State basketball during the fall & winter as competition for money and attention.
There are times during the year where it feels like some Blue Jackets & Buckeye basketball games are only half full. What happens if a new NFL team in Columbus has a lengthy stretch of losing in their first few years in the league? You could see interest in the team drop. It does help a little that Ohio State football wraps up their home schedule in late November, but what if college football changes and the Buckeyes are hosting playoff games in mid-December? Love for the scarlet and gray would likely come first over anything a NFL expansion team in central Ohio is doing.
On the other hand, what if things start off hot for an expansion team in Columbus? How would this hurt the Blue Jackets and Crew? Maybe fans decide to opt for season tickets for an NFL team over getting them for the Blue Jackets or Crew. As much as we’d like to believe that we’d be able to support everyone, we have to be realistic.
It would be a whole different story if this was an expansion NBA franchise that was being floated, since not only is there Nationwide Arena for the team to play at, there are significantly less seats that have to be filled at a basketball game. Having both Ohio State football and the NFL in Columbus feels like just a little too much. What feels best for Columbus in terms of “professional” football is to get in with one of the spring leagues, and hope the league survives. While I’d love another professional sports team in central Ohio, I don’t want it to be at the expense of one that is already here and established.