A baseball team practices in an indoor space with turf floor at the Spooky Nook Sports Complex near Manheim, Pa. Spooky Nook Sports is planning a similar facility at the former Champion Paper Mill site in Hamilton. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Youth sports will be primary goal for new Hamilton sports complex, developer says

In fact, it’s a bigger deal, from Spooky Nook Sports’ perspective, for organizations like Hamilton’s championship-winning West Side Little League to participate, because the facility’s primary focus is youth sports.

Spooky Nook Sports, which hopes to break ground on the proposed Spooky Nook at Champion Mill in Hamilton next month, had been talking with FC Cincinnati about such a relationship last year, and had let the team use its existing gigantic sports training and playing complex near Lancaster during 2016 while the team had games nearby.

A facility for club training is planned in Milford, with the Clermont County board of commissioners considering a countywide 1-percent hotel bed tax to finance it.

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Spooky Nook owner Sam Beiler said it is local and regional youth sports teams — some teams travel from as far as a 3.5-hour drive to the existing Spooky Nook facility near Lancaster, Pa., for tournaments — that drive the country’s largest indoor sports facility’s success.

“We think it would have been exciting,” Beiler said. “But the primary goal of this project is youth sports development and economic impact. And so we feel like we’re right on target. There would have been a lot of sizzle for that, but the steak is in youth sports.”

The Hamilton complex, like its Pennsylvania counterpart, will be able to provide activities like winter softball for youth and adults, as well as volleyball, basketball, and a large variety of other sports. Training and workout facilities also are planned, including classes for local people wanting fitness options.

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Youth sports also are what bring in 10,000 to 20,000 athletes and their families to Lancaster many weekends.

That’s the economic driver,” Beiler said. “When you have the youth tournaments, and they come in by family or by team, that’s where the economic impact happens. There’s nominal economic impact from a professional or semi-professional team. They just don’t – there’s not enough. The costs are too high to manage that.”

Spooky Nook earlier this year presented its first youth softball tournament in Butler County, as a way to introduce itself to the community. For years, Spooky Nook employees have been talking with teams, leagues and sports associations in this region to build relationships that could lead to those groups working out and playing at Spooky Nook.

“We’ve had dozens and dozens of conversations with youth sports organizations,” Beiler said. “West Side Little League is an example. Their input helped us design our baseball area. We expect they’d be heavy users.”

The U.S. Women’s Field Hockey Team also has its training facilities at Spooky Nook’s Pennsylvania complex.

“We would be interested in that, but I don’t think we have landed on a partner at this point, although there are several conversations underway that would lead to a recognizable organization being a part of that,” Beiler told the Journal-News.

“That’s not critical to our model, so it would have to be a good fit, for us and the other organization. USA Field Hockey back in Pennsylvania, it’s a great relationship. I believe they have a top-notch facility for practice and play. But the largest part of our field hockey program there is with the youth players,” he said.

“So even if there was someone like that out here, it’s at the youth level that we are most engaged. The professional sports…. We have excellent sports training, but most of our focus is on youth sports,” Beiler said.

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