Spooky Nook Sports project in Hamilton gets $6.4M in Ohio tax credits

The news of the $6.4 million-plus Ohio tax credit the Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill project received this week has gotten some of Hamilton’s business owners even more excited for the multi-million dollar complex’s opening.

Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill will receive more than $6.4 million in state tax credits for the redevelopment project of the former Champion Paper Mill company. The $165 million redevelopment project consists of 1.2 million square feet, half encompassing a multi-use sport and event complex. The other half includes a convention center and hotel, which features 233 rooms.

Hundreds of jobs are expected to be created as a result of Spooky Nook, and will spur other developments, such as anticipated hotels.

Tyler McClear, of Tano Bistro, 150 Riverfront Plaza, said Spooky Nook will be “a launching pad” for not only his restaurant that opened six months before the COVID-19 pandemic started, but for the city of Hamilton and Butler County.

“We’ll have thousands of people coming through town and it’s up to the businesses to make a first impression on and take care of them,” said McCleary. “There are a lot of reasons why Tano Bistro chose to locate in Hamilton but Spooky Nook was definitely was in that conversation because we think it’s going to be huge.”

The small downtown Hamilton restaurant said he is excited to have more people come through “giving us a chance to show what we can do.” McClearly said this will then create jobs for many industries in the region, and he could open the restaurant seven days a week once the multi-use complex and convention center reach near capacity. Currently, Tano Bistro is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday.

“If we have the demand, we will (open seven days), as long as we have the staff,” he said. “We’d love to be open every day of the week, but the only reason we’re not is just a staffing deal.”

Butler County was the only southwest Ohio project to receive state support through the new Transformational Mixed-Used Development Program created in the 133rd Ohio General Assembly and became effective in 2021. Hamilton City Manager Joshua Smith said the city is fortunate to be the lone community in the Cincinnati MSA to receive the tax credit.

“We are thrilled that the Department of Development saw the value proposition of the Spooky Nook mixed-use development, and understood its economic impact,” said Hamilton City Manager Joshua Smith. “The tax credit award will allow Spooky Nook to use the tax credits against development costs incurred during construction.”

Smith said bill sponsor Sen. Kirk Schuring, R-Canton, ensured areas with smaller populations would be eligible. Hamilton’s population, according to the 2020 census is 63,399. He also gives credit to Sen. George Lang, R-West Chester Twp., as well as Hamilton’s Economic Development Director Jody Gunderson and Economic Development Specialist Stacey Dietrich-Dudas who worked with consultant Doug Moorman with Development Strategies Group “to tell our story repeatedly to anyone who would listen.”

Sarah Dankoff, owner of Wildfire Home & Gift, 226 High St., said good news for Spooky Nook is good news for Hamilton.

“We’ve got a lot going on here in Hamilton, but Spooky Nook is only going to bring in new people who otherwise wouldn’t be here in Hamilton so more feet in our doors, which is only good for a small business,” she said.

“I’m just excited for what it means for Hamilton, and I think all of the small business owners, we’re just kind of preparing to be busier and stay open later.”

Hamilton’s Urban Backyard co-owner Dave Ernst built on Dankoff’s thoughts, saying, “it’s going to put a stamp on Hamilton, Ohio” and people from across the nation will find out what Hamilton has to offer.

In all, Ohio is supporting 13 mixed-use projects with the Transformational Mixed-Used Development Program tax credits. These projects will spur more than $1.4 billion in investment and result in more than $2.1 in new payroll. The Ohio Tax Credit Authority approved a total of $100 million in tax credits for the projects that will include the construction or redevelopment of more than 5.8 million square feet of transformational space.

The projects were recommended by the Ohio Department of Development, which administers the program.

“This new program allows us to help local communities bring long-term change to underutilized areas by transforming vacant buildings, building new business and recreation spaces, creating more housing, and bringing in thousands of new jobs to Ohio,” said Gov. Mike DeWine, adding the projects “will have a tremendous positive impact on the local economy and on the quality of life for area residents.”

Of the $100 million awarded, $76,693,955 was awarded to major city projects and $23,306,045 to general projects. Major city projects must be located within 10 miles of a corporation limit of Akron, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, and Toledo. Eligible costs include land acquisition, building acquisition, demolition, site improvement, and new construction of the site.

It’s anticipated another round of grants through the Transformational Mixed-Use Development Program in the coming month.

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