Construction continues on the Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill enormous indoor sport complex, convention center and hotel complex, despite the economic slowdown brought on by coronavirus-related business closures.
“Things are moving right along” at Spooky Nook, said Jody Gunderson, Hamilton’s economic development director. “You see guys scuttling about on the property now. But I think over the next probably month, you’re going to see things really begin to ramp up. So we’re obviously pretty excited.”
“We’ve gotten everything that we need (with bond sales and other financing) to, for the most part, allow things to get going, so off we go,” Gunderson said.
The $144 million Spooky Nook project, due to open in late 2021, already is having a positive economic-development impact in Hamilton and Butler County, with companies moving in or expanding operations in anticipation of the project, which can attract more than 10,000 athletes and their families to the city on some weekends.
Fortunately for the construction industry, which often works outdoors, or at least in larger indoor spaces, physical distancing isn’t as difficult as other fields of work.
“We had our weekly Nook call today,” Hamilton City Manager Joshua Smith said Thursday, and although Spooky Nook’s Pennsylvania operations are essentially closed (because of the coronavirus), owner Sam Beiler “remains excited about Hamilton,” Smith said.
“As long as the supply chain doesn’t slow down, and the governor doesn’t make everyone ‘shelter in place,’ we will see construction ramping up in the next few weeks,” Smith added.
“There are workers there today, and they have been making steady progress. My hope is they can continue to perform the concrete work,” he said. That concrete work is necessary before erection of the steel structure starts, Smith said.
“Best case: We see the steel building under construction in May,” Smith said.
Ken Rivera, director of Hamilton’s Building Department, said so far, the construction industry continues rolling on.
“From our perspective, I don’t see any change at all,” Rivera said. “The job sites are still moving along. If anything slows them down, it’s the weather. It’s not the other events that are going on.”
“The job sites tend to be spread out,” he said. “It’s not everybody in a small space. It’s more open, especially in jobs that aren’t enclosed yet, and they’re just working outside.”
Construction as a whole is moving along, so far, with companies continuing to apply for building permits, Rivera said.
“For us, it’s actually business as usual, and things were already starting to ramp up for the construction season. So far, that’s still the case.”
“Things are really moving along very nicely,” he said. “Jobs that are already underway are progressing nicely. We have a steady flow of applications.”
Hamilton last week closed off its city government tower to the public as a coronavirus prevention measure, but people can still apply for permits via emails or the mail or by submitting large paper files in a drop box in the building’s lobby, near the elevators.
Building inspections are happening as they usually would.
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