Spooky Nook taking shape in Hamilton: How much will it change the city?

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

For the first time in more than 10 months months, members of the media and some from the general public got to see construction on the mammoth project that will be Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill late last week, and the project’s size came into scope.

The $165 million project remains on schedule to be finished by the end of the year, founder and owner Sam Beiler said. But lots of work clearly remains.

Spooky Nook already has letters of intent for 32 events in 2022 that will bring thousands of athletes and their families from to Hamilton who will be looking for food and entertainment while in the city to play on dozens of courts, turf fields and other facilities.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

The complex inside the former Champion Paper mill also will have what may be Greater Cincinnati’s second-largest ballroom, at about 8,000 square feet.

During the tour, Spooky Nook announced its first tenant, Municipal Brew Works, whose second location will occupy 5,000 square feet, and brew 1,000 barrels of beer a year, compared to the 1,500 already made at the existing location downtown. It will be able to seat 250 and have a patio overlooking the Great Miami River.

Dan Bates, president and CEO of the Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, also took the tour and sees a brighter future for Butler County because of the facility, which will include a 233-room hotel and a convention/meeting center with 125,000 square feet of meeting and exhibition space.

“This is a huge project, moving forward at a really amazing speed when you consider the size of the project,” Bates said. “And I think all the things that people have been talking about and hoping for are all coming to pass.”

Beiler said one reason the complex was able to draw interest for so many events for its first year was because the original Spooky Nook facility already had relationships with many sports organizations interested in offering tournaments in the Midwest.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

The original Spooky Nook facility in Pennsylvania recently was estimated to have a $90 million economic impact on its surrounding area, from visitors who do things like buy gas and food, and rent hotel rooms. Beiler believes Hamilton’s impact eventually will be larger than that.

The 55,000-square-foot fitness center may draw visitors from a 30-minute drive, Beiler said. Some weekday evenings, Spooky Nook in Pennsylvania attracts 4,000 people, mainly for youth sports, but also for non-sports events, he said,

Spooky Nook will attract visitors from sports academies, such as for basketball, lacrosse, field hockey and volleyball.

In Pennsylvania, weekend events, for trade shows or large sports tournaments, often draw 10,000 or more visitors from three hours or farther away.

Some teams fly to Pennsylvania from places like Chicago and Indianapolis for tournaments, “because of the college coaches that are there,” Beiler said.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

The Hamilton facility can host sports like softball, soccer and football, even kickball, futsal, ultimate frisbee and field hockey, fencing and gymnastics. One thing neither Spooky Nook will have is a pool or ice rink because of the expenses. But Beiler told a gathering Friday that if another organization doesn’t take the opportunity to provide recreation on the river, “we probably will. We think river activity is important, but it’s not something we have experience in, so we’d prefer not to do it.”

Seeing rowing on the Great Miami River “brings the river to life,” he said. “And that, we think is an important component there, particularly between the High Street and Black Street bridges.”

“I think we’re going to have Pennsylvania employees deeply jealous of the Ohio location here in Hamilton, because we’re doing things much better the first time,” based on Pennsylvania experience, he said.

Spooky Nook will hire many part-time and young employees, he said. Company officials are working with the Rev. Shaquila Mathews’ program and the Boys & Girls Club to train teens basic skills, such as training for job interviews, Beiler said.

ExploreNew Hamilton remote learning center offers option for parents, students during coronavirus

“We think there’s going to be a good workforce here,” Beiler said.

The sports facility and its hotel rooms will be filled with artworks and mementos of the beloved Champion Paper mill and of Hamilton itself, to encourage visitors to venture into the city rather than remaining inside the gargantuan Spooky Nook complex itself.

The Spooky Nook project routinely has been reported to be $144 million, but other investments by the city for parking and other expenses bring the total to $165 million, officials said.

One concern many Hamilton residents and commuters have is traffic congestion caused by Spooky Nook visitors.

ExploreHamilton to add ‘smart’ traffic signal system in $5.25M project

“We’re spending a lot of time on traffic, on the arrival experience,” and how people can park quickly at Spooky Nook, Beiler said: “We learned all that the hard way in Pennsylvania, so we’re bringing that experience out here.”

The steel building that will house an indoor soccer/football/lacrosse field that recently was blown over by heavy winds still is in the hands of insurance officials and engineers, Beiler said. It may or may not be ready when the rest of the facility opens, but will not delay the opening, he said.

ExploreSteel beams in part of Spooky Nook project damaged by strong winds

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

About the Author