Spooky Nook goes vertical: Giant Hamilton project moves to building phase

The media was invited to a tour of construction at Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill Wednesday, June 17, 2020 in Hamilton. The multi-use sports and convention complex will have over a million square feet of space and is expected to be completed in December of 2021. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

After about a year of site preparation, the sports complex portion of Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill is starting to go vertical.

Massive steel beams erected this month on the west side of B Street indicate just a fragment of the project’s 1.3 million-square-foot size, which will make it the largest indoor sports complex in North America once it debuts late next year.

Rising from the demolished interior of the former Champion Paper mill, those beams run down the center of a 700,000-square-foot space dedicated to sports.

“You can begin to see the space and understand it,” said the facility’s founder/owner Sam Beiler, who also operates Spooky Nook Sports near Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Standing inside a 100,000-square-foot portion of the project Wednesday, Beiler pointed out where various amenities will go, including two artificial turf fields — one indoor and one outdoor and designed for a broad range of uses including soccer, field hockey, lacrosse and other sports.

The western part of the structure will feature 10 hardwood courts, a small baseball area and concessions. The eastern part will feature 90,000 square feet of wide open, unimpeded space designed to complement the 500,000-square-f00t convention center that will be sandwiched between B Street and the Great Miami River.

It also will provide a space to add volleyball nets and basketball hoops so that there will be enough space to host as many as 50 volleyball games or up to 30 basketball game at once.

“What we’ve designed into the space is tremendous flexibility so that we can respond to whatever the needs are,” Beiler said.

With demolition efforts wrapped up, the facility’s construction is less than 10 percent complete but still on schedule to open as planned in December 2021, he said. Crews will spend the next 18 months building walls and roofs and extending the facility from the already walled-in entryway that hosted Hamilton’s State of The City event last October.

Dan Bates, president and CEO of the Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, said it’s “great” to see steel rising from the site.

He dismissed talk from “naysayers” of Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill starting strong but petering out.

“What has happened in Lancaster (since opening) is that it has continued to grow and evolve, add new services, adjust when something became less popular, replace it with something that’s more popular,” Bates said. “They have proven that they have a model that works.”

He said one local company is “so taken” by the excitement of what’s happening in Hamilton, including Spooky Nook, that it is preparing to move to the city along with its entire employee base and then double the size of its operation.

“That tells me we’re certainly in the right place at the right time,” Bates said.

Now that the project is past the design phase and construction is underway, Spooky Nook Sports is meeting with potential tenants interested in setting up food or retail options within the facility, Beiler said.

“In Pennsylvania, we operate most of the businesses that are inside the building,” he said. “Out here we’re looking for more tenants. We’re excited about the meetings we have set up this week for people that are interested (in) either restaurant use or retail use and we remain open to requests for information or proposals for those types of uses.”

Beiler said he is “very confident” that the economic landscape will be back to normal by the time the project opens in late 2021.

“The economic challenges that we’re in right now, I don’t believe are a structural issue in the economy,” he said. “What we’re feeling now is a reaction to COVID and so we believe we’re going to come out of it not as quickly as we went in, obviously, it was practically overnight, but the economic structure in America is still very solid. We remain completely confident in this facility, in Pennsylvania and in the economy overall.”

Once it does open, the $90 million projected economic impact Spooky Nook had on the Lancaster, Pennsylvania area in 2018 is expected to be “even more significant” in Hamilton and the surrounding area as early as its second year of operations, Beiler said.


700,000: square feet for the sports side of the complex

500,000: square feet for a hotel and convention center

$144 million: overall estimated cost of the project, not including public utilities and street repairs

20,000: amount of visitors Spooky Nook Sports near Lancaster, Pennysylvania ees some weekends

1.4 million: Amount of people who came through Spooky Nook Sports in Pennsylvania in 2019

$90 million: projected economic impact on the Lancaster area in 2018

$100 million: estimated economic impact on Butler County by Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill by the second year in business

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