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Hamilton isn't ready to handle millions of Spooky Nook visitors — yet

Posted at 12:40 AM, Apr 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-12 01:39:57-04

HAMILTON, Ohio — Representatives of Spooky Nook, a planned $144 million sports complex at the site of the former Champion Paper Mill, expect more than 1.25 million visitors annually once it opens its doors in 2021.

City leaders have wagered $26 million on the expansive project being a success that can throw the gradual revival of their community into first gear.

But what about the rest of the city? Is it ready to handle an explosion of passers-through?

“Absolutely not,” marketing director Jonathan Snavely said Thursday. “If we opened today, definitely not enough hotel rooms (for them).”

They dealt with the same issue in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where one Spooky Nook location already exists. There, Snavely said, the complex opened within six months of a deal being signed; hotels and retailers spent the next two years trying to catch up.

The long run-up to opening day in Hamilton should alleviate some of those issues, he said. Businesses will have time to expand their existing operations or start new ones before the situation reaches critical mass.

“Now, plenty of developers have time to prospect the area,” he said.

Still, Hamilton is likely to never have enough hotel rooms to accommodate all the guests who might want them, city director of economic development Jody Gunderson said. That’s why he and other officials are shifting their focus to partnerships with other area cities that stand to benefit from Spooky Nook’s performance.

“They met with hoteliers in West Chester, really indicated to them we’ll never have enough hotel rooms in Hamilton, no matter how many hotels are built,” he said. “We’ll rely on what spills over into nearby communities.”

The growth that can fit within Hamilton city limits will still be extensive, Snaveley added. He estimated Spooky Nook would create around 150 full-time jobs, about 50 of which would command between $50,000-56,000 as an annual salary.

Hiring for many of them will begin in 2020. Part-time positions, which Gunderson hopes will become local high school students’ first jobs, will begin hiring in 2021.

The company has estimated the total economic impact of the complex on Ohio’s economy could be $98.8 million.