HAMILTON — For the past few weeks, the players on Badin High School’s boys soccer team have scouted out their new home field.
Even head coach Eric Hickey found himself parking along Rhea Avenue, and just looking at the newly installed turf field at Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill.
This will be the home field this season for the boys and girls Hamilton Badin soccer teams, which both have been athletic nomads for the last few seasons, playing home games outside their home city of Hamilton. Before this season, finding fields to play so-called home games has grown more difficult every season for both teams, said Hickey.
The Badin High School boys soccer team, the No. 5 Division II team in the first Southwest Ohio Soccer Coaches Association (SWOSCA) poll of the season, will take on Landmark Christian at 7 p.m. Thursday at Spooky Nook Sports, 611 N. B St.. This will be the first sporting event to be played at the much-anticipated opening of the $165 million complex, a 1.2 million-square-foot redevelopment of the former Champion Mill paper mill.
The complex is bisected by North B Street, and on the west side of the road is Spooky Nook Sports, also known as Mill 1, which will feature sports and events, from soccer and basketball to car shows and dance competitions. Though Mill 1 is still under construction, the outdoor turf field was completed earlier this month. Owner Sam Beiler previously told the Journal-News Mill 1 could be open sometime next month.
Mill 2 is on the east side of the street and is home to Spooky Nook Conference Center and the Warehouse Hotel, both of which partially opened earlier this spring, and construction crews are still working on completing it by this fall.
“It’s pretty exciting, man,” Hickey said, but called it “weird” to have this much hype before any one game.
“We just kind of play the game and move on to the next one. And this one, there’s a lot of hype. And we’re anticipating a really big crowd. And a lot of media. I’m just really trying to keep those guys focused on the game,” said the coach.
In addition to this being the home opener for the Badin Rams, it’s also alumni night.
“They know it’s a big deal; they’re excited,” Hickey said. “Spooky Nook will be here a long time, and they’ll look back and say, ‘We played the first game.’”
There won’t be the permanent press box and bleachers yet on the field, which Hickey will make some of the players more comfortable.
“I think that kind of helps, in a way, because they won’t be surrounded in this arena,” he said. “And for a lot of these guys that play club (soccer), they play on turf all the time and people have lawn chairs on the side. It’s going to be almost like a club game.”
Hamilton Badin spokesman Dirk Allen said the school has been talking about playing at Spooky Nook for a couple of years, “our boys and girls soccer teams are really looking forward to the opportunity.”
The Badin girls soccer team, which is SWOSCA’s No. 4 in Division II, will play its home opener at 7 p.m. Monday against Fairfield High School.
While the massive sports and events complex had experienced construction delays, including pushing an anticipated 2021 opening into 2022, Spooky Nook at Champion Mill is expected to be fully operational in 2023. They anticipated 1 million visitors to the complex within the first year of full operations.
“Our team is thrilled to be hosting Badin soccer for the 2022 season,” said Scott Rodgers, general manager of Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill. “As everyone around knows, our complex is a massive project that has been years in the making, and to host our first sporting event is truly a milestone for us. We have some work yet to do, but this is just the first of many games and activities we will be hosting here at Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill.”
UPCOMING HOME GAMES
Here are the next few upcoming home games for Badin’s boys and girls soccer teams at Spooky Nook Sports, 611 N. B St. (all games start at 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted):
Boys: Thursday vs. Landmark Christian; Aug. 30 vs. Harrison; Sept. 1 vs Roger Bacon; Sept. 6 vs. Ross
Girls: Monday vs. Fairfield; Sept. 14 vs. McNicholas; Sept. 19 vs. Monroe; Sept. 28 vs. Fenwick