Hara Arena demolition underway; owner to auction sign letters

A nearly 65-year run that saw legends like the Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley entertaining on Hara Arena concert stages came to an end Friday when demolition began on what’s left of the iconic venue.

Demolition of Hara Arena began Friday by the property owner as county and Trotwood city officials talked about the significance the entertainment spot played in the lives of thousands of Miami Valley residents and what the future holds for it.

“This is very important to the city of Trotwood. This is going to create some momentum for redevelopment,” said city manager Quincy Pope. “This was an iconic site here. We know that this creates energy and we’re going to be working with them to redevelop this site to be something this city can be proud of.”

Trotwood Mayor Mary McDonald reflected on memories she had at the arena from the Michael Jackson concert to teaching her kids how to drive in the parking lot.

“So as we come together today to celebrate with fond memories, let’s remember that the city of Trotwood is continuing to move on and do aggressive work in advancing our city, our region and making this great for the people in this area,” McDonald said.

Montgomery County commissioner Judy Dodge too remembered attending weddings, prom, and concerts at Hara Arena. “Hara is going to be a loss no question about it, but the sun is coming up and we’ve got great expectations here as well as great businesses here so we couldn’t be more excited.”

Area resident Jenny Alcala said she came to see the arena torn down to be part of history and is pleased that the building is coming down.

“It’s kind of distressing but I knew at some point it needed to come down. It used to be, in its heyday, packed with all kind of stuff. People would come here and really enjoy themselves. I’m glad its going to be gone because it was a real eyesore.”

The owner of the property said letters that spelled out Hara Arena on top of the arena will be saved and auctioned off at a later date. The proceeds will be donated to charity.

“We’ve gotten many calls on these letters and instead of us choosing, we figured it was a good way to raise money for a local charity,” said arena owner Cory Heitz.

Heitz said his company, Tax Redevelopment LLC, is in talks with a global company to put something on the property. He would not give the name of the business, but said it would not take up the entire 128 acres at Hara Arena.

The Lexington, Ky.-based company has over the years acquired several distressed Dayton industrial sites, including the closed Hara and its 120 acres in 2018.

Heitz estimates it will take four to six months to have the arena completely torn down and cleaned up and is hoping to have something set there in the next 12 months.

“This is a pretty big eyesore and now its going to start coming down. It’ll be good for the community,” Heitz said.

In March, pre-COVID, Trotwood City Council approved new zoning for the area, updating it from recreational uses to light industrial, opening the door to that kind of user, in time.

“This area has been a reminder of the devastation our community suffered from the 2019 Memorial Day tornado,” Pope said. “We are ready to move forward, and the city has already taken action so that this property is ready for what’s next.”

The arena, which initially was ballroom in 1956, held 5,500 seats and included the main arena, four exhibition halls, a conference center, pub and golf course.

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