‘Transformative’ Spooky Nook Sports project earns statewide preservation honors

Spooky Nook’s rehabilitation of the former Champion Paper Mill has earned the transformational $165 million project a pair of historical preservation honors.

The organization earlier this week announced recipients of various awards, which included Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill earning the Heritage Ohio’s Best Commercial Building Rehabilitation in a Large Community and Best Public-Private Partnership awards.

The Heritage Ohio Annual Awards were held on Tuesday at the Ohio Theatre in Toledo. The awards honor the state’s best projects, places, and people who create lasting impacts through historic preservation and community revitalization, the organization said.

“Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill is one of the largest preservation projects in Southwest Ohio and the largest private investment in the City of Hamilton in decades,” according to a release from Heritage Ohio. “The project is an adaptive reuse of a former industrial paper mill into a 1-million-square-foot indoor and outdoor sports facility, gymnasium, convention center, and hotel space. It is the largest indoor sports facility in North America. Spooky Nook has become a major catalyzing force toward the revitalization and reinvestment effort in the urban core of Hamilton.”

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Heritage Ohio, which is the state’s designated preservation partner with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, supports economic growth by preserving and revitalizing downtowns and neighborhoods across the state.

Hamilton City Manager Joshua Smith said his team and City Council “are very honored and appreciative” of the recognition by Heritage Ohio, calling it “the preeminent historical preservation organization in our state.”

The Spooky Nook project has been called “transformative” for the city of Hamilton as it uses “echoes the legacy of Champion Mill as a driver of economic and residential development and regional draw to the city of Hamilton,” according to Heritage Ohio. “Through a strong public-private partnership, the restoration of the property will allow it to survive and continue to service Hamilton residents for many more years to come.”

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Spooky Nook Sports at Champion Mill marketing manager Bonnie Bastian said they are “thrilled” by the recognition.

“Our team has put forth such a tremendous effort and care into transforming the former Champion Mill,” she said. “We’ve had former employees come into the space and are excited about what it has become. We know that our efforts, along with the city of Hamilton, to preserve these historic buildings will truly revitalize the area and bring even more development to the city.”

The multi-faceted, multi-million-dollar project happened through Spooky Nook’s partnership with private and public investors, namely the city of Hamilton and state of Ohio.

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Hamilton helped aid the construction of the project by funding approximately $31.75 million, and Ohio pitched in $4.7 million for construction through historical tax credits and grants. The project also received federal historical tax credits for a total equity of $12.14 million from the federal and state governments. Additionally, the project received a total of $51.25 million in tax increment financing (TIF) and PACE (property assessed clean energy) bonds.

Hamilton-based architecture firm Community Design Alliance and Sandvick Architects developed the design and layout of the project. Three general contracting companies have worked on the project.

Spooky Nook is within two months of substantial completion ― the site’s first major event will be a volleyball tournament during the week of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday ― and Smith said it’s not hard to recall a decade ago when converting the former paper mill into the country’s largest indoor sports complex was suggested to him by Mark Frank, Moses Glicks’ vice president of operations.

“It is one thing to have a crazy vision; it is a very different thing to execute on that vision at this scale,” said Smith.

He said there are too many people to thank on the project, from Frank and Spooky Nook owner Sam Beiler to Hamilton Mayor Pat Moeller, the City Council, and local organizations like the Hamilton Community Foundation and Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce. He said turning the abandoned paper mill, which supported Hamilton families for generations, “into a first-in-class mixed-use facility that will be a massive catalyst for our small businesses.”

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