If the under-construction $144 million Spooky Nook at Champion Mill, a gigantic indoor sports complex and convention center, is as successful as owner Sam Beiler thinks it will be, Hamilton alone will need 1,000 hotel rooms, Beiler told the Journal-News.
Currently, Hamilton has 168 hotel rooms. Butler County has less than 4,000 hotel rooms, with another 800 or so planned or being built.
“Every time I give a tour (of the project site), I get more and more excited again,” Beiler said. “If this goes as well as I believe it will, we’ll need a thousand rooms in the city — within the city — to properly pull off conventions as we want to.”
The main hotel that will be part of Spooky Nook is to have 236 rooms. Also planned on the site is a boutique hotel, in the former Champion Paper administration building that faces the Black Street Bridge, which will haveabout 20-30 rooms and is not likely to be completed when most of the complex is finished in mid-to-late 2021. The building now is being used for construction offices.
The sports complex will be on the same scale as the original Spooky Nook sports complex near Manheim, Pa., which is the largest indoor sports complex in North America, and 14 acres under one roof. It draws as many as 8,000 to 10,000 athletes, their families and others on some weekends.
The Hamilton facility will have about 230,000 square feet of convention space, the second-largest convention center in the tri-state area, behind only Duke Energy Convention Center, at 750,000 square feet.
“They have a couple of leads that in 2022 would be a huge number of hotel rooms coming in for a variety of events,” Beiler said. “So the demand is there.”
City Manager Joshua Smith plans to give his 2019 State of the City speech Oct. 3 at 5:30 p.m. on the Spooky Nook construction site to highlight progress so far. Tickets are being sold by the Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce for $25 per chamber member and $30 for a non member. Heavy hors d’oeuvres will be served and there will be a cash bar.
City Economic Development Director Jody Gunderson said city officials have been talking with hotel companies about the possibilities.
“We definitely have a lot of room for growth in that particular industry,” Gunderson said. “There’s a lot of people who see opportunity there. If we could get a thousand rooms, that would absolutely be great. I know that our neighboring hotels are certainly going to be beneficiaries of the complex.
“I think the ones that are closer are going to be bigger beneficiaries of it,” Gunderson added. That is definitely an industry sector that we are aggressively pursuing developments. We continue to meet with people within that industry, so we feel pretty confident that you’re going to see many more hotel rooms here.”
Construction on a hotel can take 12 months, so he expects announcements to be made within about a year “so they will be available shortly after opening, at a minimum,” he said.
Mark Hecquet, president and CEO of the visitors bureau, said he expects not only hotels and other amenities to appear, as they did around the original Spooky Nook near Lancaster, Pa., and around the Voice of America Athletic Complex in West Chester.
Hecquet confirmed Beiler’s description of interest in the complex, calling it “extremely positive.” Hecquet added: “Recently, the BCVB has met with several large, national groups strongly considering hosting their events at Spooky Nook in the coming years. We will be able to announce details of the first major group relatively soon.”
Among the possible new Hamilton hotel locations is the former Ohio Casualty complex, now renamed Third + Dayton, where students attending Miami University’s Hamilton campus have been moving into upper floors. Justin Lichter, vice president of IRG, which owns the complex, has said one possible use for lower floors of the complex is a hotel, as well as offices, storefronts or private residences.
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