RiversEdge in Hamilton could see $1M from Ohio in funding bill

Sub. House Bill 2 still needs to go through the Ohio Senate, but that’s not likely to happen until after the March primary.

RiversEdge is a community gem of Hamilton that attracts tens of thousands to downtown over the course of a summer.

Since 2017, more than 175,000 people attend the 120-plus events and have generated an estimated $6.25 million in economic impact. As Hamilton continues to evolve and grow, city leaders want its preeminent event spaces to follow suit.

The recent Ohio House-passed Sub. House Bill 2 has $1 million earmarked for RiversEdge’s redevelopment and expansion, which over two phases will cost an estimated $3 million. The bill, which is providing one-time state funds for several Butler County projects and organizations, is still in need of Ohio Senate approval, which it’s not likely to be debated until after the March primary election.

The House overwhelmingly passed Sub. HB 2 on Feb. 7.

“It’s a huge deal for us,” said Hamilton Chief of Staff Aaron Hufford. “This project is going to take RiversEdge to the next level, and (Hamilton Resident Services Director) Adam Helms and his team have done a fantastic job, and this is really just going to enhance the whole area and continue to make downtown Hamilton a magnet throughout the region. It’s a huge deal for our community.”

The city annually invests $500,000 a year into RiversEdge, and in 2023 that return on investment more than doubled related to its estimated economic impact. The 25 shows in 2023 attracted more than 30,000 people, and coupled with $150,000 in private sponsorships, the amphitheater next to the Great Miami River and Marcum Park impacted the local economy as people spent an estimated $1.1 million around town.

“That $1 million is huge because after the first of the year prices on steel and everything else went up,” Helms said. “Our costs have now gone up and my funding gap got bigger. The $1 million, if it comes through, is critical because it helps us get Phase 1 done.”

Helms said Phase 1 would essentially include installing a bigger roof, a fence around the complex and some concrete work. If that funding does not come through, Helms said he might be able to build a new roof.

Phase 2 will include adding a concession area, a box office, restrooms and a VIP area. This phase would help solve the issue of not being able to have a permanent liquor license, but there is no funding earmarked yet for this part of the project.

“RiversEdge has been a catalyst for the city from Day One. Iit helps start economic development, and it’s become part of the community fabric,” Helms said. “If it’s Thursday in the summer, there’s a good chance there’s something happening in downtown Hamilton at RiversEdge.”

Now this expansion project also means not all of RiversEdge would be free as Helms said they’d like to attract bigger names and acts to the downtown Hamilton venue. To be able to do that, it’s “absolutely critical” to get that state funding. While the city would entertain charging for some events, there will still be free concerts at RiversEdge.

The RiversEdge concert season typically begins around Memorial Day. Helms said he is working on the line-up, and it could be released as early as the end of next month. Though he wouldn’t hint at some of the acts booked for 2024, he said it will be “another great season” at RiversEdge. There will be close to two dozen events at the amphitheater this summer.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

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