Owners of the former Ohio Casualty complex in downtown Hamilton are working to redevelop it, and the first step will be about 56 apartments. A later step is a hotel, around the time the proposed Spooky Nook at Champion Mill gigantic indoor sports complex and convention center is expected to open in mid-2021.
Justin Lichter of Los Angeles-based IRG (Industrial Realty Group LLC), which owns the building, said the company plans to convert the eighth floor of one of the connected buildings into one- and two-bedroom apartments.
IRG has renamed the complex, which has about 450,000 square feet of space and once housed 1,000 employees, “Third + Dayton,” for an intersection where it is located.
“We’re converting one floor, the 8th floor, to market-rate apartments,” Lichter said. “And we’ll be working on conversion of the 7th floor, also.”
Each floor is to have about 28 units, and he hopes to have them finished around August. IRG also is looking for businesses interested in occupying other areas of the complex.
“We’re looking at all the options, given the likely need for hotel rooms, once the Spooky Nook sports complex opens,” Lichter said. “We’re looking at what the region might need once that driver comes into the community.”
Construction started in December on the Spooky Nook project, which will be located in the former Champion Paper mill on North B Street. It will be about the same size as the existing Spooky Nook complex in Manheim, Pa., which is billed as the largest indoor sports complex in North America.
Along with the hotel, there also will be a fitness center, conference-room space and a restaurant that can also serve companies and apartment residents in the building.
That comes as good news for the city of Hamilton, where City Manager Joshua Smith said development of downtown spaces, including the Third + Dayton is a priority, to increase tax revenues and increase foot traffic for downtown businesses.
Proponents of the Spooky Nook complex say it will create a greater need for more hotels in Hamilton and Butler County because some events will attract 10,000 or more visitors in a weekend.
Lichter recently visited the original Spooky Nook complex in Pennsylvania, to better understand how a Hamilton complex will spur job growth in Hamilton.
Of that visit, he said, “I thought it was a great complex. It was a really cool facility.”
When he was there, Spooky Nook was preparing for a large archery event that was expected to draw more than 1,600 archers. In 2017, the same event, the Lancaster Archery Classic attracted 1,100 archers from 13 countries.
He was impressed by the various activities Spooky Nook offers to athletes between their events, as well as their families and other spectators. Those activities include climbing walls and game rooms.
“There’s just a lot of ways to engage with the site,” Lichter said.
Among the many sports that can happen at Spooky Nook are soccer, softball, baseball, volleyball, lacrosse, basketball and wrestling, as well as more niche sports like futsal (a version of soccer on a flatter surface), pickle ball (like tennis, but with paddles and wiffle balls), and ultimate Frisbee.
The Pennsylvania complex also has as a 200-meter track, fitness and weight-lifting areas, and hosts dozens of fitness classes every week. It draws more than a million visitors a year.
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