HAMILTON, Ohio — The former Champion Paper mill is cleaning up well, and so is North B Street, as it runs between the former operation’s gigantic buildings.
Gone now are the ugly utility poles cluttered the street, replaced by elegant street lamps and improved sidewalks. Windows now are being installed on the paper mill’s buildings after decades of having been bricked over.
Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill, a large indoor sports complex and convention center, is coming into shape, with its 233 hotel rooms being framed, painted and furnished. Many rooms will have very tall ceilings and large windows. Some rooms will look out over the “B Street Canyon,” while 58 will look out on the river.
A focus since the start “was to really pay homage to the historic memories of the Champion mill when it was in operation,” Spooky Nook owner Sam Beiler said. “And I think we’re going to be successful with that on B Street. People remember driving through to see their uncle, or their father, or grandfather, or aunt or someone working in the mill. So one of our goals was to keep that B Street corridor, while modernizing it, maintain its historic look.”
And the mill will look better than anyone can remember, because in the early 1900s, when electricity became more common in manufacturing, “they blocked up all the windows,” Beiler said. “So we’re going well back into history in terms of bringing back to life those windows.”
The Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce is planning its “party of the decade” gala to show off the $165 million facility on April 20.
The large lobby area, which resembled the inside of a basement or garage when it hosted a large crowd during Hamilton’s 2019 State of the City presentation, is being painted white and is much more welcoming. It will include a beer garden, smoothie bar, concessions and a large space for Orthopedic Associates of Southwest Ohio, whose trainers will be available to help the 10,000 athletes and their families who will visit many weekends.
One large part of the complex will include 14 courts — “the largest number of hardwood courts under one roof in the country” — Disbro said. There will be large mezzanines spectators can watch from, and 19-year-old, 7′3″ National Basketball Association prospect Kai Sotto plans to operate his Kaiju Academy for youth in the 1.3-million-square-foot complex.
With the push of one button, the hoops will lower from the ceiling, and the large sports-equipment manufacturer said that Spooky Nook project “was the biggest contract we’ve ever had,” Disbro said.
In an adjoining part of the complex, 14 other basketball/volleyball courts, covered with a multi-sport surface, can be covered and used to host conventions and trade shows.
A two-level fitness area will serve mostly local people with parking close to it. It will have elliptical machines and other cardio equipment on a deck overlooking a basketball court, running track, pickleball courts, a turf area for running sprints, free weights, a sports-performance area, and a child-watch place. There also will be three exercise areas, for classes such as yoga or Zumba.
Birthday parties, high school sports and batting cages
Aside from the sports, Spooky Nook will have an arcade/game room. It also will have an Adventure Zone, “clip-and-climb,” where people walk on pegs, and if they fall, Bungee cords keep their landings soft. There also will be a rock-climbing area.
The sports area also will have four team rooms, about 1,000-square-feet each, that can host tournament headquarters or birthday parties. People hosting birthday parties can rent basketball courts, can have arcade cards or rock-climbing cards.
One thing Spooky Nook can provide conventions or company gatherings, Disbro said, is its ability to host team-building games, such as “amazing races,” scavenger hunts or basketball tournaments without leaving the site.
Other areas are coming together:
- The two-story-tall Hamilton Ballroom can hold 600 guests, and will have windows so tall, it looks almost like an industrial cathedral. The Riverside Ballroom can hold 400, and the Butler Ballroom can fit 275 and will have beautiful river views. A “Waterfront Hall” can hold 130-150, said Lisa Disbro, the director of hospitality operations.
- Other areas each can host 50-75 people. There will be 16 smaller meeting rooms.
- Some businesses will be operated by Spooky Nook itself, including its Forklift and Pallet restaurant, a bar, bakery, and smoothie bar.
- Hamilton’s Municipal Brew Works will have its second location, with views of the river. Petals & Wicks also will open its second shop.
- Still available is an area that can accommodate a two-level restaurant.
Some new additions:
- The outdoor turf football field, which will be between the indoor sports complex the “D Street hill” already has its lights installed, and with the turf yet to come, and officials expect it to host some local high-school sports.
- Sometime in the future, Spooky Nook plans a baseball center with batting cages in the building between the football field and the hill. That’s because “one of our goals was to make really convenient access for locals, and I think that, for baseball, will service the local interests very well,” Beiler said.
Several parking lots will surround the complex, including east of the Great Miami River, with spillover parking at the city’s McDulin Parking Garage. Shuttles will carry people from downtown to German Village, Main Street and Spooky Nook.
Without the shuttles, a directions application estimates the 0.6-mile walk from the convention center entrance to the intersection of Main and B streets will be a 12-minute walk.
“The city is well-positioned to welcome thousands of guests that’ll be coming in,” Beiler said.