The roof was blown off the Hara Arena during storms and tornadoes on May 27-28, 2019.

Hara owner is hopeful arena can be saved for future buyer

In the wake of a savage tornado, the developer of Hara Arena was cautiously optimistic Wednesday morning that the iconic Trotwood building can be salvaged.

If not, the building will have to be demolished, said Michael Heitz, the Lexington, Ky.-based developer who took control of the historic building a year ago.

FROM LAST YEARNew owner sees hope in Hara

Heitz — in a phone interview conducted while he was driving to Trotwood — said he will have a structural engineer inspect the building today. The 650,000-square-foot arena suffered massive damage in Sunday’s tornado, with its roof torn off and part of the side structure sheared off in the storm.

A big question is whether the structural framework is sound, he said. The main arena “looks fine” from aerial photos he has seen, he said.

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“Metal can be replaced,” Heitz said. “It probably needed to be replaced anyway.”

Much depends on the engineer’s assessment. Heitz said he has a “letter of intent” from a prospective buyer of the arena, and he said he secured a $145,000 grant from JobsOhio to conduct a “phase 2” environmental study of the site.

Monitoring wells were to be drilled around the property. Chemicals were used when the building hosted hockey teams, and the study will examine what impact that had, Heitz said.

If the environmental study proved favorable, that building will likely be sold, Heitz said. He declined to identify the possible buyer or its industry.

“It was going to bring jobs,” Heitz said of Hara’s possible future use. “We met with the JobsOhio people last week, we got the tentative approval (based) on the phase 2 (environmental study), and then we were going to sign the letter of intent this week.”

Heitz hopes to know more in coming days. For now, he’s cautiously optimistic.

“I’m going to take a look at it today,” he said. “I really don’t know what the engineers (will say).”

Elsewhere, Steve Staub, co-owner of Staub Manufacturing Solutions in Harrison Twp., said his business at 2501 Thunderhawk Court lost power for a time Monday but otherwise was unaffected by the storm. 

But his company’s previous location at 3525 Stop Eight Road was damaged, as was a warehouse building behind that, at 6120 Ventnor Ave.

“We had that main building and the warehouse behind us, and the warehouse (6120 Ventnor) is just literally leveled,” Staub said. 

Global Automation Service, a maker of automation equipment, occupies 3525 Stop Eight Road today. 

Gary Cox, Global Automation owner, said the warehouse housed some 20,000 square feet of material and equipment. Those goods will have to be “crammed” into the building that remains standing, he said.

“I have two buildings on my property, and the back one is completely destroyed,” Cox said. “The main building has a little bit of outside damage, but it’s structurally fine.” 

He’s confident that he will be able to continue with operations.

“It’s going to be a little chaotic for a while,” Cox said. “But there’s not much else we can do.”

He described himself as a “one-man company.”

“Things will continue as normal, even though we’re one building short,’ he said. 

The very first building in which the Staub business got its start, at 3500 Stop Eight, was also affected by the storm, Staub said. 

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