Hamilton’s Spooky Nook is expecting a huge year right as it opens in 2021. Here’s why.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Combined ShapeCaption
What the mega sports complex at the former Champion Paper mill might look like - especially the hotel, convention space

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Facility also expected to attract 1.25 million visitors in first year

Spooky Nook at Champion Mill, a mammoth indoor sports complex and convention center expected to open in mid-2021, will create hundreds of jobs, some of them high-paying and some to be filled in the first quarter of 2020.

Spooky Nook officials also are predicting the facility will attract 1.25 million visitors in its first 12 months. That’s something the original Spooky Nook complex, located near Manheim, Pa., in the Lancaster region, didn’t accomplish until its third full year of operation, in 2016.

The company said the facility will create 100 full-time jobs with benefits at the former Champion Paper mill on North B Street, with one-third of them having average pay of more than $56,000 per year.

Those will include department directors and managers, including for the facility’s hotels, said Jonathan Snavely, Spooky Nook’s director of marketing and corporate partnerships There also will be 365 part-time positions that will be ideal for college- and high school students, as well as for retirees.

Those jobs can be especially helpful for Butler County youth.

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Crews load piles of bricks a machine to pulverize bricks at the former Champion Mill and future Spooky Nook Sports location on B Street Friday, April 5 in Hamilton. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Crews load piles of bricks a machine to pulverize bricks at the former Champion Mill and future Spooky Nook Sports location on B Street Friday, April 5 in Hamilton. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Combined ShapeCaption
Crews load piles of bricks a machine to pulverize bricks at the former Champion Mill and future Spooky Nook Sports location on B Street Friday, April 5 in Hamilton. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

The U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey found that while overall unemployment for all people 16 and older in Butler County was most recently 4.3 percent, it was 13.6 percent for those 16-19 years old, and 7.9 percent for those 20-24, according to statistics provided by Bret Crow of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

In addition to the people directly employed by Spooky Nook, the company believes another 150 full-and part-time jobs will be created by restaurants, shops and other businesses that will fill the more than 10,000 square feet of space that will be leased to others within the complex.

Also, there will be 150 construction jobs on site over 18 months, the company said.

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“We’ve heard feedback from the community: ‘These are all entry-level positions,’” Snavely said. “We will need those, as you know.”

But the company will also have “managers, directors, of departments, especially in the hospitality industry, in the banquet side, hotel side, sport services, our guest services. Each of those departments, they have managers, they have directors, and that’s where that number comes from,” he said.

Snavely recently spoke with a Miami University sports-management class about opportunities for that field that will be available, he said.

The first full calendar year of operation for the Spooky Nook complex in Pennsylvania, it had about 600,000 visitors. The second, it had about 800,000. The third, which was 2016, it had more than 1 million. But Snavely said Spooky Nook visitors are expected to far eclipse 1 million in year one here.

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“When the complex opened (in Pennsylvania), we opened it phases,” he said.

The first phase was just half the sports complex, and didn’t include the in-house hotel. During the following two years, the additional phases opened.

“Part of it is we plan on having everything open in that first year,” Snavely said. “We also have learned a lot. The meetings and conventions piece isn’t something that we led with over the first two years here, so having that open right away will definitely be another reason we hit that million-person mark.”

Also,having help from the Butler County Visitors Bureau in booking conventions, trade shows and sports tournaments should boost attendance, compared with the Pennsylvania complex’ start, Snavely said.

Mark Hecquet, president and CEO of the Butler County Visitors Bureau, said it’s too early to begin signing leagues and conventions, because the designs of the complex are not yet finished, and organizations want to see those first. But prospective customers are enthusiastic, he said.

“There’s not a group we have come across that has said, ‘Oh, no, this is definitely not for us.’ It really can accommodate so many different things,” he said. “It’s exciting for us. It’s exciting, obviously, for the whole county and Hamilton, but as an organization, it just opens up so many more doors of groups we have previously met with where we couldn’t accommodate them for multiple reasons, and now we can.”

At the Pennsylvania Spooky Nook, the largest space originally available for conventions was going to be an electronic go-cart track, “so it wasn’t built to be a large ballroom,” Snavely said. “We’re kind-of leading with it out there (in Butler County), so our largest space will have that ballroom look, feel, and will have all the service components to go along with it.”

“We’ll also have more hotel rooms on site as well, which will assist,” he said.

Snavely said Butler County does not now have enough hotels to accommodate the crowds that will be coming. So Spooky Nook officials have been letting people in communities surrounding Hamilton know about the need.

He noted Ross Township officials visited the Pennsylvania complex last month, and officials elsewhere are starting to realize people visiting the Hamilton athletic complex will be using hotels 35 to 45 minutes away from Spooky Nook.

“We see that currently in Lancaster, where when we have a 525 basketball teams in for a tournament, they’re filling in to not just Lancaster County, but then into Dauphin County as well,” he said. “So we definitely don’t feel there are enough hotels currently. We do feel like a two-year timeframe is enough time for developers to look at property, have those hotels start being built, because we know we’ll be filling them here shortly.”

More restaurants also are needed to meet the oncoming demand, Snavely said.

“It’s not just what happens on our campus, because we can’t accommodate them all to stay there,” he said. “When they leave our campus, and when they go to restaurants, it’s, ‘What are the wait times?’ and, ‘What do the staffing levels look like?’ to make sure that it’s a great experience, so they keep coming back for their events over and over again.”

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Hecquet, like the company, is confident the first year will be a big one for Spooky Nook, because he says this is a desirable area for conventions, trade shows and families of athletes to visit.

“Seeing such a desirable part of the country and its accessibility, and population numbers, and all those kinds of things, it’s very appealing,” Hecquet said.


ABOUT SPOOKY NOOK

• It will a gigantic sports complex and Greater Cincinnati’s second-largest convention center.

• The complex will be on the same scale as the original Spooky Nook complex near Manheim, Pa., which is North America’s largest indoor sports complex.

• Owner Sam Beiler describes as 14 acres under one roof.

• Construction started in December. It’s scheduled to open in mid-2021.

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