Hamilton is selling its city government building. Here’s what that means going forward.

Hamilton City Council voted unanimously Wednesday night to sell the city government building at 345 High St. to a community authority and lease it back over anywhere from five to 30 years as a way to fund financial assistance Hamilton has promised the Spooky Nook gigantic indoor sports complex and convention center.

There was only one significant indication of how talked-about the issue has been. That was when Vice Mayor Michael Ryan offered a short statement before the vote, explaining to residents who are concerned about the financial arrangement, and saying he had experienced those same concerns.

“Bringing Spooky Nook to Hamilton is the very change we need,” Ryan said.

He said he understood why people would fret over whether selling the seven-story government tower “is in our best interest as a city.”

City Manger Joshua Smith after Ryan’s comments, but before the 7-0 vote, said that while the community authority, made up of three developer representatives and four from Hamilton, will sell bonds that will be paid off by 2049 to finance assistance to Spooky Nook, he expects those to be paid off “much faster than 2049.”

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The authority plans to borrow about $26 million, about $10 million of which would go to pay off the city building, with other funds going toward Spooky Nook grants and loans, and some going toward a Gilmore Road roundabout.

Under the arrangement, the city will pay $1.4 million in annual rent, the same amount it now is paying on what it owes for the building, which was dedicated in 2000. The authority will use that pledged $1.4 million from the city to borrow to provide funds for Spooky Nook.

“I know it’s difficult to hear. It’s difficult to consider,” Ryan said. “I know, because I have felt the same way. And I have spent weeks, and countless hours, researching and analyzing all the whys, the hows, and the what-ifs of the sale.”

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Ryan noted the proposed Spooky Nook at Champion Mill project, which will be on the same scale as the existing Spooky Nook complex in Lancaster, Pa., which is called the largest indoor sports complex in North America, is expected to create hundreds of jobs.

Officials say it also will consume large amounts of electricity, which should help keep residents’ rates stable, and attract a million athletes and their families to the city each year to visit Spooky Nook and other Hamilton businesses.

Smith didn’t elaborate much on how the building would be paid for more quickly, but said: “I know there’s been some angst about what the sale/lease-back of the building actually means. I think that as time moves forward in 2019, I would like to have some public meetings about that.”

“We do have a plan as a city to be able to call the bonds on the building in 2027, take the building back, and there is, in my mind, a very clear path toward repayment much faster than 2049,” Smith added. “We have been working on that for that last couple months, and I think that we’ve made very good progress here in the last couple weeks on that. But sometime before the summer comes, I would like, with council’s permission, have a public set of meetings where we can talk about that, because I think that’s going to provide a lot of clarity to this issue.”

As previously reported, officials are considering a sales tax of undetermined amount that would be levied on all sales within the Spooky Nook complex itself, but not outside the complex; and a hotel tax that would apply only to Spooky Nook’s hotels. The city also can lease out space in the city tower and reap revenues from that. It also can sell other city assets.

Officials have said the city will require having the option of being able to pay off bonds as soon as seven years, or possibly five years if that makes financial sense.

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• 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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