Hara Arena

Hara Arena was a 5,500-seat multi-purpose arena located in the Dayton, Ohio suburb of Trotwood. The facility began as a ballroom in 1956, added an arena in 1964 and grew to a six-building complex which closed in August 2016.[1]

Hara Arena
Trotwood Dome
HaraArena.JPG
Location1001 Shiloh Springs Road
Trotwood, Ohio 45415
Coordinates39°49′16″N 84°15′22″W / 39.82111°N 84.25611°W / 39.82111; -84.25611
Capacity5,500 permanent seats
1,500 additional festival seats
Field sizeIce surface: 195 x 84 ft (59 x 26 m)
SurfaceConcrete/Ice
Opened1964
ClosedAugust 27, 2016
Tenants
Dayton Gems (IHL) (1964–1977, 1979–1980)
Dayton Owls (IHL) (1977)
Dayton Jets (CnHL/AAHL) (1985–1987)
Dayton Dynamo (AISA) (1988–1990)
Dayton Bombers (ECHL) (1991–1996)
Dayton Ice Bandits (CoHL) (1996–1997)
Dayton Sky Hawks (IFL) (1999–2000)
Dayton Jets (IBL) (2005)
The Marshals (NIFL) (2007)
Dayton Gems (IHL/CHL) (2009–2012)
Dayton Silverbacks (CIFL) (2011–2012)
Dayton Demonz (FHL) (2012–2015)
Gem City Rollergirls (WFTDA) (2012–2014)
Dayton Sharks (CIFL) (2013–2014)
Dayton Demolition (FHL) (2015–2016)
Website
www.haracomplex.com

At one time, it hosted the Dayton Jets basketball team and Dayton Gems (1964–1977, 1979–1980 and 2009–2012), Dayton Blue Hawks, Dayton Owls, Dayton Bombers, Dayton Ice Bandits, Dayton Demonz, Megacity Hockey Club and Dayton Demolition ice hockey teams and the Marshals indoor football team.

HistoryEdit

The site was originally the family-owned fruit orchard of Harold and Ralph Wampler. The name stems from HA from Harold and RA from Ralph. In 1956, the Wampler Ballroom was erected, which still stands today in the six-building complex. The arena itself opened in 1964.[1] Both of the arena's founders were Shriners, and originally founded the venue after realizing that there was nowhere suitable in the area to hold the Shrine Circus.[2] The original plans did not include an ice rink, but were changed to accommodate the Dayton Gems who were looking for a home arena. As of 2016, the complex spanned 165,000 square feet (15,300 m2) which includes the main arena, four exhibition halls, a conference center, a pub and a golf course. The Arena regularly used the slogan in advertising "Nowhere Else But Hara."[3]

On July 29, 2016, it was announced that the facility would close after hosting a final event August 27, 2016 due to ongoing financial issues and a 20-year long legal fight over the unresolved estate of founder Harold Wampler. At the time of the closure announcement, the facility was said to have a $36 million annual impact to the area.[4][5] The closure forced events, like the annual Dayton Hamvention, to search for an alternative venue.[6] It also forced the Dayton Demolition ice hockey team to cease operations after only one season. Prior to its closure, the Arena was said to have had a parking lot filled with potholes and not received any significant update since 1975.[7]

As of March 2018, the property had been abandoned for over a year-and-a-half, at times vandalized and broken into. In December 2017, PNC Bank foreclosed on the property, seeking to collect on $350,000 owed to the bank. It was reported that many had called Trotwood's government with ideas for the property, which had a list price of $775,000, but anyone seeking to acquire the property would need a "specific plan for the complicated situation of 'well over $1 million' in taxes that are due, and the multiple parcels of land and arena."[8] In April 2018, YouTube video from a self-described "local explorer" illicitly entering the arena showed disrepair and deteriorating conditions. The city of Trotwood had made attempts to secure the property, but with limited success, and it was reported to have hundreds of code violations.[9]

On May 2, 2018, it was revealed that the property was purchased by Michael Heitz, a developer based in Louisville, Kentucky. Heitz stated that he had bought the income tax liens from Montgomery County and hoped to close on further liens with the banks later in the week. Heitz stated that his first priority was to clean up the site and secure the property. He is known for purchasing other distressed properties within the area and getting them shovel ready for users.[10]

On February 25, 2019, at least three individuals were arrested for breaking into the property in an attempt to steal air conditioning parts.[11]

On the night of May 27–28, 2019, the property suffered extensive damage when tornadoes and severe storms moved through the area. The roof and sides of the structure were blown off in several places.[12] In response, Heitz stated that he was cautiously optimistic that the building could be salvaged, but if not, it would have to be demolished. He noted that much of the main arena looked fine and that the metal which had been lost could be replaced and likely needed to be replaced anyway. He also stated that he had recently secured a grant to conduct a phase 2 environmental study of the site, with the possibility of selling the building to another buyer, which would bring new jobs to the area.[13]

 
Hara Arena, 12-31-2019, badly damaged by an EF4 tornado and tagged with graffiti

In October 2019, it was reported the existing facility would not be able to be salvaged due to the already existing damage having been compounded by the tornado. The owners planned to request rezoning from entertainment from commercial to attract interest that would aid the facility's cleanup and redevelopment. It was estimated that the facility suffered $7.5 million in damages, the most for any property in the Montgomery County area.[14]

In March 2020, it was announced the property had been rezoned and that demolition was likely to start soon. However, it was unclear how any such plans might be affected by the increased restrictions and financial difficulties put in place shortly afterwards due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[15]

In May 2020, Heitz revealed that a multi-million dollar NASDAQ corporation was interested in the plot and could bring at least 50 new jobs to the area. He and the client planned to present a plan for construction to Trotwood in late July, with demolition to start immediately if the plan was approved.[16]

In September 2020, Trotwood officially announced plans to demolish the arena and rezone the land.[17]

Championship Teams at HaraEdit

  • 1968–69 Dayton Gems
  • 1969–70 Dayton Gems
  • 1975–76 Dayton Gems [18]
  • 2013–14 Dayton Demonz

Professional wrestlingEdit

Hara was the scene every other Monday night in the 1960s and 1970s for the "Original" Big Time Wrestling, featuring such stars as the Sheik, Bobo Brazil, Fred and Bull Curry, Igor, Mark Lewin, Ox Baker, and many other wrestling stars. Hara also hosted Georgia Championship Wrestling in 1983 and 1984. It also hosted a WWF Superstars of Wrestling TV taping in March, 1987, a WWF Wrestling Challenge taping in August, 1988, and the Pay-Per-View events as follows: the 1995 WCW Great American Bash, WCW/NWO Souled Out (1998), and ECW Heatwave 1998 and ECW Heatwave 1999.[citation needed] Hara Arena was known as being "legendary" for wrestling, with the WWF's first show at the Arena featuring the famed André the Giant. The Sheik held his first event at Hara Arena in 1965, just one year after its opening.[19]

Notable eventsEdit

 
Interior of the arena during the 2003 Hamvention.

The arena was also venue to many types of concerts, music festivals, trade shows and conventions, formerly including the annual Dayton Hamvention (which, starting in 2017, is held at the Greene County Fairgrounds and Expo Center). The Miami Valley Home Improvement Show was also held annually here.[1] According to the American Radio Relay League, the 2016 Hamvention had been the 65th held in Dayton and the Hara complex hosted more than 25,000 visitors in that final year.[20]

Over a 60-year history, the facility hosted many musical performances from bands ranging from the Rolling Stones and the Grateful Dead[4] to Guy Lombardo And His Royal Canadians.[21] The facility, in fact, hosted one of the first-ever U.S. performances of the Rolling Stones, which was attended by only 648.[2] Heavy metal band Pantera performed at the facility numerous times between the years of 1990–2001, and were officially named the house band of the venue in 1998.

Hara Arena was where Wayne Gretzky played his first professional hockey game;[22] a pre-season game between the Indianapolis Racers and the Cincinnati Stingers, on September 27, 1978.

The Arena was also home to many popular touring shows, such as Disney on Ice and Sesame Street on Ice.[23]

Karen Wampler, arena marketing director at the time of its closure, cited a visit from the Ringling Bros. Circus as being particularly memorable, due to it to being the last stop on the tour for the circus.[2]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c "History". HaraComplex.com. Archived from the original on 2016-05-27. Retrieved May 27, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c Weissberg, Brad (August 10, 2016). "Last Hurrah For Hara Arena". Retrieved May 28, 2019.
  3. ^ Bucher, Jim (January 9, 2017). "Visiting the worst of 2016". Xenia Daily Gazette. Retrieved March 22, 2018.
  4. ^ a b "Hara Arena to Close". WHIO. July 29, 2016.
  5. ^ Staff, WDTN (2016-07-29). "Hara Arena closing its doors after 60 years". WDTN. Retrieved 2016-07-30.
  6. ^ Frolik, Cornelius (July 29, 2016). "Hara Arena closing forces Hamvention to find new home". WHIO.
  7. ^ jessicagraue, "Laugh Riot Girl" (August 3, 2016). "Nowhere else but Hara". Dayton.com. Retrieved December 31, 2019.
  8. ^ Schroeder, Kaitlin (March 21, 2018). "Nearly two years later: Debt, back taxes linger for Hara Arena property". WHIO. Retrieved March 21, 2018.
  9. ^ "Hara Arena deterioration shown in new video". WHIO-TV. April 4, 2018. Retrieved April 4, 2018.
  10. ^ Gnau, Thomas (May 2, 2018). "BREAKING: Developer says he has purchased Hara Arena". WHIO-TV. Retrieved May 2, 2018.
  11. ^ "Thieves break into Hara Arena, attempt to steal air conditioning parts". WDTN. February 25, 2019. Retrieved February 25, 2019.
  12. ^ Cano, Kelsey (May 28, 2019). "State of Emergency issued for Trotwood; Hara Arena roof blown off, schools closed after tornadoes". WHIO-TV. Retrieved May 28, 2019.
  13. ^ Gnau, Thomas (May 29, 2019). "Hara owner is hopeful arena can be saved for future buyer". WHIO-TV. Retrieved May 29, 2019.
  14. ^ Sweigart, Josh (October 17, 2019). "Hara Arena owners request rezoning to help with redevelopment efforts for tornado damaged property". Dayton Daily News. Retrieved October 17, 2019.
  15. ^ Gnau, Thomas (March 9, 2020). "Demolition of most of Hara Arena will start soon". Dayton Daily News. Retrieved May 4, 2020.
  16. ^ "Multi-million dollar company interested in redeveloping Hara Arena". WHIO-TV. May 26, 2020. Retrieved May 26, 2020.
  17. ^ "Trotwood announces plans to demolish Hara Arena". WHIO-TV. September 22, 2020. Retrieved September 22, 2020.
  18. ^ https://www.hockeydb.com/stte/dayton-gems-5426.html
  19. ^ Greer, Jamie (May 28, 2019). "Ohio's Legendary Hara Arena Destroyed by Tornado". Last Word on Pro Wrestling. Retrieved May 28, 2019.
  20. ^ "Good-Bye, Hara Arena! Hamvention to Relocate in 2017!". ARRL. July 29, 2016.
  21. ^ "Guy Lombardo – October, 1976 Itinerary".
  22. ^ Becky Grimes (2009-09-30). "Hockey Returns To Hara Arena". WHIO TV. Archived from the original on 2011-07-25. Retrieved 2010-01-08.
  23. ^ Hauser, Christian (July 29, 2016). "Hara Arena set to close doors in August". WRGT-TV. Retrieved March 21, 2018.

External linksEdit

Events and tenants
Preceded by
None
Home of the Dayton Bombers
1991 – 1996
Succeeded by
Ervin J. Nutter Center
Preceded by
None
None
None
Home of the Dayton Gems
1964 – 1977
1979 – 1980
2009 – 2012
Succeeded by
None
None
None
Preceded by
Biltmore Hotel
Host of the Dayton Hamvention
1964 – 2016
Succeeded by
Greene County Fairgrounds