Support for Spooky Nook: What other agencies are doing to fund Hamilton’s giant sports complex

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Butler County commissioners officially agree to give $2.5 million for Spooky Nook.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Butler County commissioners have approved a previously promised $2.5 million to the city of Hamilton to help pay for B Street road improvements for the massive Spooky Nook sports and convention center complex.

The commissioners committed the money last fall, but the contribution was made official on Monday. It will be the first cash award the commissioners make once their general fund debt balance rolls to zero next year.

The resolution passed by the commissioners indicates the funds will not be dispersed before June 2021. Commissioner Don Dixon told City Manager Joshua Smith he is a big reason for the vote of confidence.

“I know this is a big project, I can tell you how much we’re hoping that it works out in the best interests of everyone,” Dixon said. “I truly believe it will, because being a developer, I’ve seen a lot of developments come up that are marginal. They can go one way or the other. What makes a difference is people truly believe in what they’re doing, and in this instance you are a true believer.”

Hamilton officials have also asked the Butler County Visitors Bureau for $2.5 million. Executive Director Mark Hecquet told the Journal-News previously said there are assurances the BCVB needs in writing before that deal is sealed.

“We basically need to make sure the facility comes in and understands, you’re bringing in a lot of people from out of town, we want you to use the Butler County hotels first, it’s pretty simple,” Hecquet said. “That’s very important for us as community, as a county and these economic numbers are based on that fact. We want to make sure there is an agreement in place for that.”

Hecquet could not be reached for comment on Monday, but BCVB Marketing Director Tracy Kocher said details are still being negotiated.

Smith told the commissioners Monday if the Spooky Nook experience in Pennsylvania is any indication, the county will be flooded with visitors who spend money, benefiting the entire region. He pointed to a recent basketball tournament at the original Spooky Nook.

“They filled so many hotel rooms that just looking at the existing hotel rooms we have only in Butler County you would have to fill every room in Butler County, Warren County, and head into northern parts of Hamilton County, just to have the rooms that they used the one tournament weekend,” he said.

Commissioner T.C. Rogers said he welcomed the new project but added there are issues to address..

“People have brought up, ‘Well what about all the traffic?’” he said.

Smith said the city is considering investing in smart traffic technology to deal with any possible traffic difficulties.

“If we want to adjust a traffic signal today we literally have to dispatch a crew, go out physically to a traffic control box and do that, versus sitting at a computer in an office with real-time information, making real time changes,” he said.

With three bridges and a single underpass, the city is already traffic-challenged, Smith said.

“We’re going to keep working. We’ll never get past certain restrictions because we don’t have the infrastructure to do that, but we certainly can do a better job,” he said. “We’re going to stay laser-focused on those improvements.”

MORE: Butler County officials asked to give $5 million for Spooky Nook

The Butler County Port Authority is also involved in Spook Nook. Mike McNamara, the county’s development administrator in charge of Port Authority, said it has two agreements with Spooky Nook that will allow the developer a sales tax exemption on construction materials and from the prevailing wage.

He said because it hasn’t closed on the deal yet and final construction costs are unknown, very preliminary estimates indicated that Spooky Nook will save about $3.8 million with the exemptions and the Port Authority would receive an estimated $770,000 in fees.

Hamilton Mayor Pat Moeller said the $140 million investment is going to be a “game-changer.”

“It’s going to be amazing,” he told the commissioners while thanking them for their contribution.

“It’s going to lift up this city, it’s going to bring this region to even higher heights, we’re at pretty high heights right now, things are going well. This is truly a game-changer, not only for a year but decades and decades.”