WEST CHESTER TOWNSHIP, Ohio — A new five-story Home 2 Suites hotel by Hilton is planned for Schulze Drive in West Chester Township, bringing 112 new hotel rooms to Butler County.
The new hotel is nearly 20 miles from where the giant Spooky Nook sports and convention complex is expected to open next year in Hamilton. Officials said township residents and businesses will reap the benefits.
“When you talk about bringing in 400 teams for a weekend, there’s no way Hamilton can accommodate all of these. And the next best location is West Chester,” Mark Hecquet, president and CEO of the Butler County Visitors Bureau, said. “Because all the brands are here, the convenience of the highway, you’ve got the restaurants and the shopping, it’s the next logical location.”
According to the BCVB, there are only two hotels with 168 rooms in Hamilton now — 235 rooms are planned as part of the Spooky Nook complex — and in the balance of the county outside West Chester the options are: Fairfield 609; Liberty Twp. 222; Middletown 25; Monroe 87 and Oxford 407 rooms that are already here or coming soon, for a total of 1,753.
The township and other jurisdictions have split a 6 percent hotel tax with the visitors bureau. Over the past five years the township has culled nearly $5.2 million to help pay for services to residents and businesses. During the pandemic shutdown, when travel was severely curtailed, it made a big dent in revenues. Annual collections dropped from about $1.2 million to $627,867 last year but have bumped back up this year-to-date to $859,848.
The BCVB relies on hotel taxes to do its job of helping bring tourist events and opportunities to the county. Over the past five years they have culled $6.36 million in lodgings tax revenues. The five-year high was in 2019, with $1.736 million, but it dropped to $802,304 last year. For the first half of this year they collected $561,557.
“What has happened with COVID-19, as we all know, travel was decimated and still nowhere near has returned to pre-pandemic levels, so our hotel communities, especially in West Chester, are really struggling on their Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday business,” Hecquet said.
“On the positive, with the borders reopening, in November, we have seen an uptick in business. But now we’ve got some new variants. So it's going to be some tough sledding.”
Countywide, even with the pandemic hitting hotels hard, seven new lodgings options — one of them a re-purposed hotel — have or will be opening soon. Five of them are in West Chester. Hecquet said these establishments don’t materialize overnight. They were planned years before anyone could predict the global disaster.
West Chester Community Development Director Aaron Wiegand said Spooky Nook will certainly have a positive impact.
“We do see Spooky Nook as a positive influence throughout Butler County and certainly into West Chester,” Wiegand said. “We’re hearing that from some of our new hotel developers; they’ve mentioned Spooky Nook coming on line.”
Wiegand said the new hotel is going into an area already zoned for hotels. Details about the project are sparse. The Hamilton Journal-News reached out to the owners for details, but they did not respond.
Having a huge stable of hotels has its perks, but Wiegand said they also hear comments that there are already too many hotels in the township. He said they can’t “close the door” if someone wants to build one within an area already zoned for that use.
“The general consensus is there’s too many of them ...,” Wiegand said. “To be honest, they see it as local residents don’t generally use the hotels like a new restaurant, or a new shopping center or a new retail place. They get excited about those things. Hotels are basically for out-of-towners to use. I’m not sure it’s that they don’t like hotels. It’s they like restaurants and retail they use on an everyday basis.”