COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — For businesses in the Area District, the Columbus Blue Jackets home opener is no ordinary game.

Rather, it’s one of the biggest money-making nights of the year.

Crowds started pouring into the area in the early afternoon Friday for the Blue Jackets’ night game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Business owners near Nationwide Arena told NBC4 the season home opener is always a big night — but this year, it’s even more special.

“Opening nights are always exciting,” Tim Emery, owner of Boston’s Restaurant, said. “There’s a lot of anticipation, especially with the new additions this year, there’s been a lot of excitement this summer.”

In July, the Blue Jackets signed David Jiricek, Denton Mateychuk, defenseman Erik Gudbranson and six-time NHL All-Star forward Johnny Gaudreau.

Between the new players and it being the first time since the pandemic started without mask mandates, Emery said he has a good feeling about this season.

And his sales are through the roof, too. He said sales are more than double what they’d be on a typical Friday night. He had his staff in hours before the game in anticipation of the crowds.

“A lot of juice in the district,” Emery said. “Hockey nights are just a lot of fun.”

Down the street at Whistle and Keg, the general manager said the party is just getting started.

“I mean obviously you can see around us everything is booming. It’s so exciting to have the season opener especially against the reigning champs,” Carson Yerian said.

With the bar being in the heart of the opening day plaza party, Yerian expects it to be busy. But with the recent expansion of the Arena District, Yerian said it feels like business never stops.

“We have a great fan base with the Jackets, the Crew are fantastic as well, we get quite a few concert folks as well,” Carson Yerian said.

Both Emery and Yerian said the best part of the night was the energy from the fans — and they’re both ready to keep the momentum going for the rest of the season.