People pack Spooky Nook Sports for first large tournament in facility

Over the next several weeks, there will be a handful of sporting events as more of the Spooky Nook Sports at Champion Mill mega-complex has recently opened.

The sports side is half of the 1.2 million-square-foot complex, which has a conference and events center, small businesses, brewery and hotel in the other half. This weekend, the sports side is filled with athletes competing in a volleyball tournament that on Saturday had cars overflowing in the largest of the multiple parking lots throughout the day.

The events side also had activity occurring.

The volleyball tourney has an estimated 15,000 people attending. A basketball tournament scheduled for President’s Day weekend, Feb. 18-19, will bring 4,000. And there is another basketball tourney planned for March 4-5 that will bring the largest crowd yet with an expected 22,400.

Even more are expected throughout the summer, when more parking options are likely to be available.

During this weekend’s event, parking attendants and local officials were on hand to monitor the activity, which will guide decisions and adjustments the area may need to accommodate a comfortable flow for visitors and locals.

The $165 million Spooky Nook at Champion Mill project is a key part of the city’s economic development efforts, as it has drawn in new businesses and has seen existing businesses expand. With buildings on the western shore of the Great Miami River and on either side of North B Street, it features 1.2 million square feet of indoor and outdoor sports space, hotel rooms, conference rooms, entertainment venues, food options, and more. The complex is named for the original sports center on Spooky Nook Road in Manheim, Penn., and for the former Champion Paper Mill, which previously occupied the site.

Spooky Nook is Ohio’s second-largest convention center and the nation’s largest sports complex, as the development features 19 meeting rooms, 28 basketball courts, 46 volleyball courts, a 65,000-square-foot fitness center and a 233-room hotel. Also, the Champion Mill Arcade, a 5,000-square-foot arcade leased to Pinball Garage owner Brad Baker, opened earlier this week.

In January, City Manager Joshua Smith hinted at more development and business news to the Journal-News, saying, “there are several things that have not been announced yet, that we’ll be announcing, I’m guessing, late first quarter, early second quarter (2023) that people will truly recognize what the true impact of Spooky Nook is for Hamilton.”

Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce President Dan Bates said in January although the ramp-up is gradual, “seeing is believing.”

“It’s exciting to see enough movement forward to prove the project is coming to fruition as promised,” said Bates. “I actually like that there is a gradual build because it gives local businesses and residents an opportunity to adjust. The business community is excited but also has a learning curve to adjust to a whole new influx of customers.”

Though the facility is open and Spooky Nook officials are bringing more features online as time progresses, facility spokeswoman Bonnie Bastian said in January, “There is work still to do.”

“As we invite more people into our complex for competitions, rec leagues, our fitness center, practices, and events, we know they will be amazed at the magnitude of our facility and all that we bring to the area,” she said. “We look forward to being the place where people gather together for fun and entertainment and to be able to introduce visitors to all that the Hamilton community has to offer.”

There is a $5 parking fee to spectate or participate in an event at Spooky Nook Sports at Champion Mill, and Bastian said tournament organizers might charge an additional entry fee. There is no parking fee, however, for weekday local activities and events.

Here are some of the upcoming scheduled events set for Spooky Nook-hosted tournaments in the coming weeks:

Outside tournament organizers also have upcoming events being played at Spooky Nook Sports in the coming weeks. The next big event from an outside organizer is a basketball tournament on March 4 and 5, which is expected to draw more than 22,000 people. Starting at the end of March and into the first weekend of May, Hamilton could expect weekend tournaments and events to draw crowds in the five figures.

General facility hours are 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Mondays to Saturdays and 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sundays.

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