“People come and they stay for a couple of days. And there’s not usually a lot of time between the games, so whatever’s in this very local area is what will benefit the most,” he said.
A “unique, creative food or retail” business is what Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill wants to play host to, not a “take-something-off-the-rack type of retail.”
“We understand there might be several thousand volleyball players here. They want something to do in the hour-and-a-half between games. What can they do?” he said. “There’s a couple of things up here on Main Street that are good examples, like the candle shop (and also a ceramics place). Those are the types of things I think that people are interested in. They want experiential retail versus just a dollar exchange for just a shirt.”
Hamilton-area residents could visit Spooky Nook to dine at a restaurant or patronize a retail business, even if they’re not interested in the fitness aspect of the place.
“We’ve not identified one, but we think there will be a strong demand for a salon or spa type use,” he said.
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City officials said they are not surprised that Beiler is focusing his offerings on providing unique guest experiences.
“He was once the father of a young traveling athlete, and he understands his customers very well,” said Brandon Saurber, Hamilton’s director of neighborhoods. “We’re excited about all the offerings, at Spooky Nook Champion Mill and throughout the city, that will provide quality experiences to Hamilton residents and visitors.”
Dan Bates, president of the Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, said there many small businesses that are successful in Hamilton that had initial interest in being inside Spooky Nook, but some of them, as they’ve examined the specifics, have realized it may not be good fit.
“Then it’s a decision (of), ‘Do I give up my current bricks-and-mortar (location) to do everything at Spooky Nook or do I try to do both?’” Bates said.
Some business owners have realized they can benefit just by being open near Spooky Nook, without having to be inside, he said.
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The boom that is projected to accompany Spook Nook’s opening will benefit not only existing businesses along Main and High streets, but also will grow the business community, with entrepreneurs opening shops along side streets, as well, Bates said.
“Two years ago, you were either on High Street or you weren’t interested,” he said. “Now there’s more and more people looking at Court and the next streets over.”
Retail and dining options outside of Spooky Nook will be important for the city, Beiler said. The original location of Spooky Nook Sports was greatly aided by the opening of a small new development an exit away, he said, one that now includes a Fuddruckers, Tropical Smoothie Cafe, McDonald’s, Hampton Inn & Suites and Mick’s All American Pub.
“That helped us a lot because … there might be 7,000 or 8,000 (people) at a time in the building,” Beiler said. “Well, we can’t feed that many, not properly, so it’s really important that there be hospitality infrastructure in the surrounding area. What we see in Hamilton now is a good start, but I guarantee you as the crowds come in, there’s going to be more restaurants, there will be another hotel or two, and those kinds of things will develop based on demand.”
Increased demand will see local retailers needing to up their game to keep serving their customers, officials said. In 2013, two weeks after the Pennsylvania Spooky Nook opened, a local gas station reached out with a request.
“They contacted us and said, ‘Hey, could we please have a schedule of your events, because we ran out of gasoline last weekend,’” Beiler said.
Travelers are increasingly looking for unique and one-of-a-kind experiences that communities offer, experiences that will make a trip memorable and experiences that a traveler can’t find at home, according to Mark Hecquet, president and CEO of the Butler County Visitors Bureau.
“Spooky Nook’s focus on bringing in unique experiences from both a retail and dining perspective will certainly help it to draw a wider variety of people to the facility as well as provide those who arrive for sports events more activities and options to do while in the area,” Hecquet said. “In addition, it will further differentiate Spooky Nook from other of facilities in the region when competing for prospective groups and events.”
Staff Writer Mike Rutledge contributed to this story.
BY THE NUMBERS
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