Structural engineers are still examining Hara Arena, but the property’s developer is confident that while the main arena structure can be saved, an attached section will have to be demolished.
Michael Heitz is the Lexington, Ky.-based developer who has acquired several distressed Dayton industrial sites over the years, including the closed Hara Arena and its 120 acres last year.
However, Heitz Wednesday morning said a prospective buyer of the property had backed away from a possible deal after the recent Memorial Day tornadoes that damaged Hara and hundreds of other Montgomery and Greene County properties.
What Heitz called “the middle part” of the building — perhaps connecting the Arena to the East Exhibit Hall — cannot be saved. That will have to be demolished, he said.
He said he hopes to make a announcement a week from today about the arena’s future.
“Pretty much, we know the building can be saved,” Heitz said. “There is very little structural damage to the part that we want to save. And we’re going to have to demo part of the building.”
He identified that section as the “middle part there, with the room for the convention center.”
“The arena part is fine, I know that for sure,” he added.
Heitz earlier told the Dayton Daily News that he had secured a JobsOhio grant to conduct an environmental study at the property off Shiloh Springs and Wolf roads, with a possible purchase hinging on what that study found.
Still, he is relieved that the arena itself can be salvaged.
“We were kind of shocked on that,” he said. “It looks worse than what it is. It blew the metal off but it didn’t hurt the structure, only on one part of the building that we are going to demo.”
The story behind Hara is a long one. The Wampler family owned and operated the land on which the arena sits since the 1950s, with what was first a dance hall and later an exhibit hall in an area that had been a family fruit orchard.
When the complex shut down in 2016, the estimated economic hit to Trotwood and the area was said to be $36 million a year.
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