The National Hockey League lockout is over, let the fun begin. Few specifics have been revealed at this point, including the start date to a shortened season, which will likely be a 48- 50 game season where every game carries a playoff atmosphere.
But that didn’t keep affected local bars, restaurants and team apparel shops in every city from letting out an exhausted sigh, perhaps even a fist pump, as they are likely the only ones happier than the players that the lockout is over. Oh, and that luxury hotel Columbus built in time for the All-Star Game… that’s probably not on the list of excited local businesses… those revenues aren’t coming back.
Will the fans return? Radical fans are calling for a league-wide boycott for the first few games in hopes of sending a message. From a hockey fan’s perspective (I am a novice at best), it’s not actually that radical and would be nice for the fans to show who’s boss once in a while as opposed to the owners continuously getting their way. But that still doesn’t help the many local business owners and Arena employees affected by the lockout and a lack of paychecks for the concession stand workers, ticket-takers and ushers. And, don’t forget about the large cleaning crews that work behind the scenes after each game is over.
As of November, the lost revenue from the lockout was estimated league-wide to be around $800 million. There seems to be a myriad of estimates as to the revenue effect on small-market teams like Columbus that couldn’t afford for the lockout to happen in the first place. Depending on fan turnout, economic impact may still be felt long after an abbreviated season begins. But did the Arena District really suffer? Not like the last lockout of 2004. And judging by the recent activity around the massive structure, it’s hard to really say the effect really compares to last time. The area typically accounts for $30 million in annual state and local income tax revenue and can be credited for making Columbus a destination for young professionals for many reasons, not just hockey. Nonetheless, even the smallest effect hurts and local bars like Boston’s began lighting up Twitter once the tentative agreement was announced. Who can blame them? It’s time to find out where your allegiance lies. Mine tends to side with the place serving the cheapest drinks. Can we expect a half-price beer night in the arena as an olive branch to fans?