When the gigantic indoor sports complex called Spooky Nook Sports at Champion Mill opens in about 2½ years, there will be significant traffic and the need for lots of parking, the owner of the proposed facility said during a visit to Hamilton last week.
And city officials and the complex operators have been working on several solutions for both, said Sam Beiler, who operates a similar facility near Lancaster, Pa., and has seen what works and doesn’t when it comes to managing the thousands of vehicles.
Here’s how significant he believes the traffic will be through Hamilton: “There’s no doubt that on a Saturday morning, on a Sunday morning, the traffic that you’re used to seeing on weekdays will probably be matched on that arrival period.”
On the positive side, “With a few improvements, they’re confident that the traffic can be handled on these streets.”
Meanwhile, traffic is a good thing, Beiler said: “Traffic is traffic. If you want business, you’ve got to have traffic.”
That said, Beiler said he understands the negative impact traffic can have on city residents and neighbors, “and we’re committed to making sure it’s as efficient as possible.”
When the Pennsylvania complex first opened, Beiler said, he spent 16-hour days each weekend for about two months managing the parking lot.
Through that, “We learned a lot about parking lots, and how to get cars off the road quickly — and that’s the key,” he said. “We had not enough parking spaces back east. In fact, we still don’t. We have to manage our events based on how many parking spaces we have.”
That’s why, when evaluating the Hamilton location, “I said, ‘Look, we must have 2,700 parking spaces.’”
Here are 4 of the remedies under consideration:
Construction of a ‘slip lane’
A “slip lane” from Ohio 129 (High Street to Main Street) onto North B Street, the roadway where the complex will be located.
Beiler said vehicles driving westbound over the High-Main Bridge turning onto B Street will experience neither yield signs nor stop signs. Instead, they’ll have the right-of-way, “so traffic will keep moving,” he said.
Rich Engle, Hamilton’s Director of Engineering, confirmed plans for that: “We’re adding another lane to the Park Avenue ramp, which goes from High Street to B Street, right there where Park Avenue starts off of B (Street).”
Signs directing westbound High Street traffic onto northbound Martin Luther King Boulevard. As parking at the Spooky Nook site itself begins to fill, some traffic will be directed onto MLK to parking areas on the east side of the Black Street Bridge, where shuttles will transport those parking there to the complex.
“I can’t commit that in the first two or three events that we’ll have that down just right, but as we watch traffic flows and where they come from, we’ll be able to make the adjustments, and I’m confident the streets will handle it.”
Engle said the parking areas will be along North Third Street, but traffic will be directed up MLK.
Shuttles from downtown parking garages
Downtown parking garages also can be used, along with shuttle service that connects them to the sports complex. The city owns one parking garage downtown, but has an obligation to STARTEK downtown to provide parking for its employees, so the availability of spaces there would depend on how many aren’t used during the weekend, Engle said.
In order to ease traffic flow and create safer walking between sports-complex buildings, officials are planning to reroute B Street to the west of Spooky Nook’s complex, closer to the hillside below North C Street.
Beiler said B Street will curve westward at the southern edge of the Spooky Nook property, with a traffic circle connecting B Street to Rhea Avenue at the northern edge of the property.
“Because of the thousands of people walking around on site, we wanted to avoid the traffic and pedestrian crossing, so we’re moving the road up, or west, to the bottom of that hillside,” Beiler said.
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