People shouldn’t think of the proposed Spooky Nook at Champion Mill gigantic indoor sports complex as only an athletic facility, City Manager Joshua Smith told an audience Thursday at his ninth annual State of the City speech.
Here’s another way to view it, he suggested: When completed in 2021, it will contain the region’s second-largest convention space, behind only the Duke Energy Convention Center in downtown Cincinnati — three times larger than the one in Sharonville.
“I want to make sure this is very, very clear,” Smith said. “It is a sports complex. But it is so much more than a sports complex. It is truly a mixed-use development.”
The complex will contain about 230,000 square feet of convention space.
“Let’s put this in perspective,” Smith said. “Duke Energy Convention Center is the largest in the region at 750,000 square feet. Spooky Nook, once constructed, will be the second-largest convention space in the tri-state area, and that is a huge draw for everyone in Hamilton.”
“It is bigger than the Northern Kentucky Convention Center, it’s bigger than the one at the National Underground Freedom Center, it’s bigger than the one at the Newport Aquarium, and Sharonville, which is the one I’ve been to probably the most since I’ve been here, it is three times larger than the convention at Sharonville. And that is a huge statistic.”
“This really, I think, changes people’s perspective when they think about this project,” he said.
Aside from the athletic, fitness and training aspects of the sports complex, it will have the convention space, restaurants, hotels and retail that serves the facility’s customers and non-customers from the Hamilton area.
Smith, who recently marked his eighth year with the city, thanked the many volunteers, city employees and others who have been creating a rebirth for the city.
This year’s speech was offered at the approximately 450,000-square-foot former Ohio Casualty complex, which once housed 1,000 employees and has been rebranded as “Third & Dayton.” In recent weeks, Industrial Realty Group LLC, more commonly known as IRG, had transformed parts of the building to a more modern office space than what existed there before the complex closed in 2010.
Next year’s speech will be even more eye-opening, officials said. Somehow, they plan to have it in what will be the under-construction Spooky Nook at Champion Mill complex, Smith announced.
He cited economic-impact statistics a consulting group released based on financial operations at Spooky Nook’s existing complex, the largest in North America, near Lancaster, Pa. Among them, it attracted 1.1 million visitors last year, 470,000 from outside the immediate area.
“The off-site spending in 2017 was almost $40 million,” Smith said. “Forty million dollars that currently is not being pumped into our local economy — $40 million that is not being used at the convenient store, at the restaurants, at the coffee shop….”