Wednesday, November 12, 2008

We are 1 today! The Arena District, finally!

It was one year ago today, I had a silly idea. See neon signs. Take pictures of them. Post to a blog. Boy that sounds silly huh? Growing up in larger eastern cities, I acquired some, let's just say, unusual interests as a kid. Unlike most kids my age, I loved living in the city. I loved the traffic, the street scenery, the people all around, going here and there, speaking various tongues on the T trains. Sure I liked playing baseball outside or riding my bike. But living so close to it, I considered the ocean and beach my 'outside'. I never felt the need for a large backyard as a child. As a teen when I moved away from the ocean, I still was fascinated with the city and urban life, including it's lights. As a kid I remember wanting to be older so I could go inside the cool (to me) bars, restaurants, shops, etc which were aglow with blue, red, and orange neon signs. Today, I still love city life, and I live right in the heart of the city, very close to some of those 'cool' establishments which hang their neon signs. As a sign of being a real adult, not the one of my childish fantasies, I had to sell a few neon signs I had collected to pay the bills. I hope to restart my collection one day. For now, my camera, my feet, and my car help me share my quirky interest with the world (of which I have many, but let's just keep this to neon for now!!!)

To celebrate the fact that I have been doing this for one whole year, I thought I would take the time to cover one of the areas I had been wanting to get to probably more than any since I started this blog. I have already covered the downtown area for the most part. German Village and Brewery District..done, except for establishment specific entries when I go inside those places. Campus and Clintonville, pretty much covered (though I still need to cover the Gateway/south campus). So what are the two areas of Columbus richest in neon? The Short North and the Arena District of course. They are pretty much next-door neighbors, with the arena technically located in the northwest corner of downtown Columbus. The Short North is located just north of downtown, mostly along N. High St and is the intermediary between downtown and the OSU campus area. Nationwide Blvd. pretty much is the dividing line between what is considered 'downtown' or central business area, and it also is the main drag of the arena district once west of N. High, to about Neil Avenue. I decided to focus on the Arena District, since there was no hockey game and being a Tuesday, not as many people out and about here. Tucked between Park Street and High Street is the North Market , which could be considered part of either area. Enjoy! All pics taken the evening of Tuesday, 11/11.

This large neon sign, with digital message board, tells you where you are!

This clock is part of the large sign and message board across from the actual arena.

This cool neon is located inside a building across from the arena. I did not want to appear suspicious, so it was hard to get a good view of this neon pointing the way to the elevators.

Various businesses across from the arena along Nationwide Blvd. Hope these restaurants do well after a game!

Wanna see a movie? What was commonplace decades ago is a rarity today: the downtown movie theater. This opened a few years ago, and along with the arena, a music pavilion, the restaurants and bars, and ballpark being constructed across Neil Avenue, this is a complete entertainment district. One really feels like you are in a big city here after a game, or a Saturday night out.

Most sports franchises have their practice facilities off premises, for various reasons. The Blue Jackets have theirs in the same building as the arena. It is called the Ice Haus and has had a few different sponsors since the teams inception in 2000, but has been sponsored by the Columbus Dispatch for the last few years.

The Frog Bear and Wild Boar bar is a very popular hangout after a Jackets game. Often after a home game, the radio announcers go down here and field questions from the patrons or via phone and e-mail, and is usually broadcast immediately after the game as part of the post-game show. I grew up a Boston Bruins fan, and while nothing beats the old Gahden (which has since been torn down and replaced by a new arena), Nationwide is a great place to watch a game. The Jackets have been doing pretty well since starting their rookie goalie Mason. Maybe this will finally be the year they make the playoffs? Let's hope! I love OSU and the Buckeyes, but a city this size SHOULD be able to support a major league sports franchise. Lets hope the Crew and Jackets stay here for a long time to come!

Though a chain, I love this Italian restaurant! I have eaten at Bucca di Beppo a few times. It is served family style, which in Italian means "eat a lot"! Actually what it means is that instead of each individual person selecting an entrée from the menu, the 'family' picks usually one or two courses to be shared by all, as if it were made at home. Kinda pricey, but very good food, and lots of leftovers! Also, Beppo is down with the gas! All restaurants feature wicked cool, old world style neon signage, including this animated masterpiece which could be right out of Times Square! If you look back to my Worthington post from last March, you see they won the rights to install neon on their High Street/I-270 location, in a city which frowns upon neon. Yay Beppo, grazie!

Buca is roughly translated as 'basement' or 'cellar'. This location's dining area is actually below street level, so you walk downstairs to get in! Wicked cool! The newer suburban ones are not like this.

Another restaurant which shares the wide expanse of now densely populated land on which the arena sits. I would call this Nationwide Plaza, if not for the fact that the actual Nationwide Plaza is along High St., where the insurance giant's cluster of skyscrapers is located, a few blocks from the arena.

In the 'back' of the district, along Neil Avenue, immediately next to the new ballpark (which will truly expand the district as far as business density and acreage) is the Lifestyles Community Pavilion. With the demise of Polaris Amphitheater, many acts play here, with the biggest and highest price ones playing at Nationwide itself, or Value City Arena on campus. I guess there is a White Castle inside, which advertises being open 24 hours, but appeared very closed this particular evening.

Behind the arena, in the northern edge of the district where the Arena District starts to blend in with the Short North and Victorian Village, is Vine Street. These bars are located in a cool area near Vine and Park Streets.

Sugar and Spice (and everything nice!)

This small strip along Park St. between Vine and Goodale Ave seems pretty hip, way too hip for someone like me to be strolling along, maybe? That or they wanna be that way. I still enjoy their neon, even if I don't wanna spend $15 on an appletini, or whatever they drink.

The North Market. One of my favorite places to shop, eat, or just hang out. And photograph their large animated neon sign! Watch for a future post sometime from inside the building. Better Earth is located inside the North Market. This sign is on a window facing Park Street. The large sign by the main entrance faces Wall Street.

This bar is on High Street, though the foggy signs are on the side of the building facing Wall St., across from the North Market.

Well, thousands of snapped photos, almost six hundred posted photo files, videos, and slide shows, and such, and one year later, Columbus Neon is doing well. Hope year two is just as good. Look for better photos and more videos as we start our second year!

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