April 17, 2024

Columbus Making a Strong First Impression

In the first few months of 2024, athletes, fans, and reporters from across the country and around the world, made a trip to Columbus. For many, it was their first.

They came for the competition and they left in awe.

In February, Columbus welcomed the U.S. Figure Skating Championships and the Pro Volleyball Federation for the first time.

In the weeks that have followed, Columbus is basking in the afterglow of its performance.

Five-time U.S. ice dancing champion Evan Bates, who competed in this year’s event, called Columbus’ support “phenomenal.”

Sarah Everhardt, a U.S. pewter medalist, said “I’ve never skated in front of such an awesome crowd before.”

Across three days of competition, Nationwide Arena hosted more than 60,000 fans. Two of the sessions were sold out, a rarity for this competition, which holds a different home each year.

USA TODAY columnist Christine Brennan has covered U.S. figure skating for more than three decades, traveling around the world for various competitions, including the Olympics. She’s seen it all in the sport, and she offered Columbus high praise.

“A huge sporting event comes to town, happens to be figure skating, happens to be an Olympic sport … and Columbus does what Columbus always does,” Brennan told The Columbus Dispatch. “The atmosphere has been really great … People in Columbus love their sports.”

Columbus supported the skaters, but the event also supported the city as the Greater Columbus Sports Commission estimated that the championships brought in $8 million in direct visitor spending.

This year is the inaugural season of the Pro Volleyball Federation, a women’s professional volleyball league. Nationwide Arena is home to the Columbus Fury, one of seven teams in the league.

On February 21, 9,145 fans packed the lower bowl of Nationwide Arena to get their first look at the city’s new team. And Columbus earned its first win in franchise history, a 3-1 win over the Omaha Supernovas.

Columbus’ team is made up of former college volleyball stars from across the country. Their coach, Angel Pérez, was a distinguished former player who competed all over the globe. Each member of the team has varying degrees of familiarity with Columbus, but all were blown away by the passion shown in the home opener.

Pérez told the Dispatch that the atmosphere of the first game was “more than all of us imagined.”

“Hopefully, we gave them a show that they can come back and keep supporting us this way every time we come here to play.”

Columbus started its season with two losses on the road, but middle hitter Asjia O’Neal said that the home crowd in that first game helped fuel them to the victory.

“You want to give your fans something to cheer for,” O’Neal said. “You want them to be excited and you want them to come back. We wanted to start off the season defending our court.”

The Fury’s home schedule goes until May 11. Tickets at Nationwide Arena start at $25.

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