The massive Hamilton sports complex project could be game-changing. Especially for this neighborhood.

Even before the owner of the proposed Spooky Nook Sports at Champion Mil advised people to rent storefronts in Hamilton now, before the competition snaps them up, people in the city’s German Village were spreading that same message.

The neighborhood, located just east of the proposed mega-sports complex — to be built along the same scale as the original indoor complex near Manheim, Pa., billed as the largest in North America — wants to have some attractions up and running well before the Hamilton sports facility opens. Officials expect to have a groundbreaking by this fall.

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The original Spooky Nook facility drew about 11,000 athletes, their families and fans each day over the recent Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, Sam Beiler, founder of Spooky Nook, told an audience last month at the Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce’sannual dinner.

If just half those people leave a similar tournament in Hamilton someday and visit restaurants nearby, that will be 5,000 hungry customers, he said.

An economic impact study that examined the activity created by the existing Spooky Nook facility, which is close to Lancaster, Pa., found it created $98.5 million in business, including direct and indirect benefits, Beiler said.

While Beiler said he believes Hamilton is primed for the excitement and energy another Spooky Nook will bring, “You don’t have enough restaurants to feed 5,000 people yet.”

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German Village residents and business people are thinking along those same lines. They plan to have an event Feb. 19 for business owners and developers to show off the neighborhood and several buildings that are available.

“We are basically trying to get people who are interested in opening up new businesses within Hamilton, but especially within German village,” said Sheryl Silber of Hamilton’s German Village Inc. and owner of Rezen Mind Body Spirit, a massage-therapy business.

“We have a couple of restaurants that are currently empty, we’ve got a few buildings that could be turned into really cool restaurants or bars,” she said. “We just have a lot to offer. We’re probably the only district that’s really a unique mix of business and residential, and being located close to Marcum Park, close to the (under-construction) Marcum Apartments, we have a lot to offer people.”

“What we’re trying to do is say, ‘If you want to get in on the ground floor before Spooky comes in and Hamilton turns that corner, we just feel that Hamilton’s on the verge of turning, and we just have all these unique places where we can make an absolutely fantastic start to entertainment in Hamilton.”

In the area around the Pennsylvania site, “lots of things are happening (with new business creation) because of the demand,” Beiler said. That site has about 150 employees who work full-time, with up to 600 during the busy season, which last year was 9-10 months.

One thing that will bring people to Butler County is a convention center that will be part of the site. Officials have requested $5 million in capital funds from the state toward that facility.

German Village buildings have “great bones,” she said, “And with the way they are now, you’re going to get in on the ground floor, with ground-floor pricing.”

That synchs with a Beiler suggestion: “If you’re thinking about opening a business — this is free advice — get a lease now. “Those storefronts on Main Street, on High Street, are going to be gone.”

As for the former Champion site, “We’re planning on preserving the buildings, pretty much as you see them,” Beiler said. “We’re planning on keeping all the exterior wall along B Street … so when you stand down there in what I think we’ll call the B Street canyon, it’s going to look like it looked when somebody’s grandfather worked there.”

Hamilton advocates want Spooky Nook visitors to park their cars there for the weekend and spend their time within city limits at restaurants, bars and places to listen to music.

She envisions places that will stay open until 10 p.m., where people can visit after concerts or after the athletes playing at Spooky have been put to bed.

“When you start listing restaurants, other than fast-food ones, you come up with a very short list,” she said. That can also serve Hamilton residents as well as people from the rest of Butler County, including Liberty Twp., West Chester Township and Fairfield, officials said.

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