Butler County Visitors Bureau gives $1.5M for Spooky Nook as latest area support for Hamilton project

The city of Hamilton has secured another $1.5 million pledge to help with the massive Spooky Nook sports and convention center under construction in the old Champion Paper building downtown.

The Butler County Visitors Bureau board recently approved a $1.5 million contribution, one that will be paid out over 15 years. Mark Hecquet, executive director of the BCVB, said the payments for the first five years will be $75,000, $100,000 the next five and $125,000 at the end of the term.

Officials are still working out final details with the city and Spooky Nook, including assurances Butler County hotels will be given a priority for visitors.

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“We’re still working on that, that’s part of the puzzle,” Hecquet said. “We’re close, to an understanding what we were really asking for. Obviously very, very, very important to us is we want to protect our hotel industry in Butler County, that is number one important thing.”

The visitors bureau operates on hotel taxes. The gigantic Spooky Nook project, expected to attract teams for tournaments from three-hour drives or beyond, also will include Greater Cincinnati’s second largest convention center, behind the Duke Energy Convention Center in Downtown Cincinnati.

Hamilton originally asked the BCVB for $2.5 million, but Hecquet said the Hamilton Visitors Bureau is now involved.

“It was not possible to do a joint deal for that amount so what in essence is happening is the Hamilton Visitors Bureau is doing it’s own separate deal,” he said. “The Hamilton piece is moving right now and they are in negotiations with the city and Spooky Nook so it’s kind of like a tandem effort.”

City Manager Joshua Smith said funds from the visitors bureaus will be used for parking and the contribution is appreciated.

“The Butler County Visitor’s Bureau continues to be a strong partner to the city of Hamilton, and also to Spooky Nook,” Smith said. “Their sales and marketing reach is significant and they will play a critical role to making Spooky Nook a success. Their financial contribution continues to show Hamilton’s success is predicated on collaboration and partnerships.”

The $144 million Spooky Nook complex will include the sports complex, a fitness center, hotel, restaurants, brewery, meeting and event space, officials said. The Hamilton Community Foundation has also pledged $13 million of its investment assets to help Spooky Nook secure a bank loan.

The Butler County commissioners approved their $2.5 million deal with the city in May, with the understanding funds won’t be available until 2021.

The county is also helping the project through the port authority. Early estimates are the developer can save about $3.8 million in sales taxes on construction materials with the port’s help. In turn the port is expecting to collect about $770,000 in fees from the deal.

Port Authority Executive Director Mike McNamara said his board has authorized the deal.

“We’ve passed resolutions to allow them to use the sales tax but we haven’t closed on it yet,” he said. “I think they’re waiting to get everything in line and start closing all at once.”

Spooky Nook broke ground on the project last October but there has been a lot of pre-construction work to do. Andy Brossart, a financial advisor for the city on the this project, said all of the financing is still being finalized.

“The fee that the port authority charges is an up-front fee based upon what is going to be saved over the construction period,” Brossart said. “Once they close on it they have to pay that fee which doesn’t make sense to do that until we have the financing in place, which should be the next month and a half.”

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

Smith said there is also the potential for a windfall from the state if a new piece of legislation comes to fruition. Senate Bill 39 authorizes tax credits for “transitional mixed use developments” like Spooky Nook.

“If Spooky Nook becomes eligible for SB 39, the city of Hamilton would actually recoup monies we have into the project,” Smith said adding they are “hopeful” the Ohio House will approve the measure.

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