A large sports complex that the city has sought for more than a year should be under construction in early 2017 with a grand opening in late 2018, City Manager Joshua Smith announced during his 2016 State of the City address Thursday evening.
Organizers said it was the first such speech presented during the evening — and they were pleased that about 340 attended, larger than prior crowds. It was part a review of recent successes and part pep rally, with the sizzle of news about the sports complex development and a 100-apartment luxury residential complex with retail on the street level.
Following a hype video entitled “We Are Hamilton,” featuring overhead drone videos of the city that touted the city’s successes and hopes for a bright future, Smith made a point at the start of his presentation to thank his fellow city workers, small businesses in the city, and volunteers who have energized city events.
Two men in the audience who appreciated Smith’s accounting of the progress were Sam Beiler, founder of Spooky Nook Sports in the Lancaster, Pa., area, the largest of its kind in the country. Hamilton’s complex will be on that scale, he said.
“There is so much momentum here in Hamilton, and they did a good job of bringing that forward tonight,” Beiler said about talks by Smith and Mayor Pat Moeller, who introduced Smith. “I think Hamilton is perfectly poised for a downtown revitalization that will be remarkable.”
City officials believe the proposed "Spooky Nook at Champion Mill," named for the former paper mill the property is to occupy, itself will be remarkable. The sports facility in Pennsylvania, the country's largest, is expected to draw 1 million visitors this year.
Beiler said an agreement could be signed in a week or two, because only the agreement’s exhibits are still being written. He said he was unable to put a price tag on the project, but said it will be “well over 700,000 square feet,” mostly indoors, with at least one outdoor field. The project will include a hotel, restaurant and bar across B Street from the complex.
Also present was Jim Cohen of CMC Properties of Blue Ash, which will build what the company is calling Marcum Apartments. City leaders hope those apartments can attract what Cohen calls “intrepid young professionals” who can fuel demand for downtown businesses, eateries and bars that in turn can attract other young professionals and retirees to the area.
Cohen said he has floor plans and is prepared to speak with people about pre-leasing.
Smith and Moeller also touted revitalization of Main Street during the evening. Smith, in the speech at the downtown Courtyard by Marriott, announced that next month, the first phase of free wifi will come to downtown, followed by a second phase in the first quarter of 2017.
Also, when Spooky Nook opens, Smith announced there will be free buses circulating through downtown and other areas, such as German Village, to transport people through the city.
Hamilton’s future is not in the rear-view mirror, Smith said, noting Spooky Nook will breathe new life into the Champion complex, one of the factories that built the city’s industrial might.
Meanwhile, Marcum Park is about 60 days from completion. South Hamilton Crossing, a dream for more than 100 years, has also begun, Smith noted. And Municipal Brew Works opened in the former municipal building.
“This is not a moment, it is a movement,” Moeller said, quoting from the Broadway musical, “Hamilton.” “Hamilton is truly a comeback city,” he said.
“I think we had a tremendous 2015-2016,” Smith later agreed. He cited the growth at the Vora technology park and other employment growth downtown and in other parts of the city. plus the launch of Hamilton Flea, Alive After 5, and other community events.
“You know that we’re just picking up speed,” Smith said.
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