Winter softball, anyone? What huge Hamilton sports complex may offer

  • Mike Rutledge
  • Staff Writer
Sept 25, 2017
When the Spooky Nook Sports at Champion Mill opens in Hamilton, it will offer a variety of sports that people around here usually can’t play during the winter, including softball and flag football. Here, the sprawling Spooky Nook complex near Manheim, Pa., hosts a volleyball tournament. MIKE RUTLEDGE/STAFF

Winter softball, anyone?

That’s one sport the proposed Spooky Nook Sports at Champion Mill plans to provide access to during the snowy months for youth teams and adult leagues alike.

At the existing Spooky Nook sports complex near Manheim, Pa., which is the largest indoor complex in the country, there are adult rec leaguesfor ultimate Frisbee, softball, volleyball, field hockey, dodge ball and flag football, according to Mackenzie Bender, communications and public relations manager for Spooky Nook.

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There also are indoor adult slow-pitch softball tournaments during the winter.

The company plans to build a mega indoor sports complex on the same scale at the former Champion Paper Mill site along North B Street in Hamilton.

Dates of a groundbreaking and completion remain in flux while the company and city leaders work to arrange financing and work out other details.

The proposed facility can help local athletes and teams step up their fitness and skills, while also keeping them playing during the winter.

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Spooky Nook employees were in Hamilton last week, meeting with softball groups about the possibility of hosting a softball tournament on existing local fields in the spring, well before the sports complex opens.

Spooky Nook employees are meeting with parks officials, local coaches and teams, according to Bender.

“We’re open to working with anyone and everyone in the area,” Bender said. “We just don’t have the concrete definition of what those relationships will look like at this point.”

The company has been sending teams of employees just about weekly to Hamilton for meetings with a variety of groups, including the city, sports leagues and teams, local organizations and businesses.

“When the (Spooky Nook) teams are coming out, it really is just fact-finding. We’re checking in with those (athletic) teams, understanding what the dynamics of the (Butler County) area are,” said Spooky Nook Marketing Director Jonathan Snavely. “It sounds like there could be a softball tournament in the near future (this spring).”

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Sam Beiler, founder of Spooky Nook Sports, in January said he hoped to start construction on the facility in June of 2017. Once it begins, the work is expected to take 18 months.

Bender works with a 10-and-under softball development team, along with Spooky Nook’s softball director.

“What we’re doing with them, these kids who are really building their skill level to be able to play at the travel level next year, we have two-month sessions that they can sign up for — one practice once a week — and we can run them through the winter to get them ready for spring, because we have the indoor facility to be able to do it,” Bender said.

That way, “they don’t necessarily have to wait a whole other year of training to try for that travel team, because we’re working with them on a weekly basis for an hour and a half every single week,” Bender said.

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“Because we have a sports-performance area, we have local high school teams that utilize that,” Snavely said. “So, when you come to our facility, you get not only the indoor practice facilities, we have a mental-training coach on staff, so understanding the mental portion of the game, and then also the sports-performance side, conditioning and how to work out, and what should I be working on from a sports-performance level to run that two-tenths of a second faster.”

Rather than creating Spooky Nook academy teams, the company wants to work with existing teams and leagues, he said.

“We’re looking to build relationships with the local softball community, in hopes that they will then come and train at our facility,” Snavely said.