Dayton Hamvention, the world’s largest amateur radio enthusiasts event, will move to the Greene County Fairgrounds & Event Center next year keeping up to an estimated $17 million in the region.
Organizers scouted alternative venues for the event, which draws about 25,000 people from all over the world, for more than a year. The Greene County location was finalized after it became clear Hara Arena would be forced to close, Michael Kalter, a Dayton Hamvention spokesman said Monday.
After holding Hamvention, a three-day event, at Hara Arena for more than 50 years, event officials announced plans to stay in the Dayton region on Friday in what they hope will be a new “permanent home.”
“That particular hockey team that pulled out, they were trying to buy Hara as well,” Kalter. “We were part of that discussion not to buy Hara, but to support Hara because we had worked with them so long. We thought if the new owners came in there, then it would be great. We could stay there. But that fell through.”
The Dayton Demolition, a professional hockey team, moved its home games from Hara Arena to South Metro Sports, a recreational center in Centerville, in January due to the arena’s financial distress.
Three months before Dayton Demolition moved, a Dayton Daily News investigation in October found local officials feared Hamvention would pack up and move out of the region. Hamvention organizers were exploring options for alternative venues. At the time, an Iowa-based consultant firm asked Trotwood to buy the venue, but city officials declined.
As financial woes for Hara Arena lingered on, Greene County Fairgrounds & Event Center became a strong contender to host the event, Kalter said.
“We like the people,” Kalter said. “We like the location. We think it’s the closest thing around that fits.”
The Greene County Fairgrounds and Event Center, a 38-acre complex on Fairground Road in Xenia, met all of Hamvention’s needs compared to other locations, Kalter said.
Dayton Hamvention is scheduled May 19 to 21 and is expected to have a significant impact on Xenia.
“All types of opportunities have opened up for our local business community when you’re hosting this kind of event,” said Xenia City Manager Brent Merriman. “With the dollars that can flow from that many attendees, 25,000 attendees, that’s a significant opportunity for our community.”
The logistics, such as police, fire and emergency medical services, still need to be worked out, Merriman added.
“We’ll also be an important partner in terms of making a connection with our business community so that restaurant, hotels and other retailers have the opportunity to serve this constituency that’s coming in as part of the event, as best we possibly can.”
Montgomery County will lose some of the economic benefits of Hamvention when it moves to Greene County, but some of its visitors are loyal customers of hotels and restaurants in Montgomery County and will continue to patronize those businesses, said Jacquelyn Powell, president and CEO of the Dayton/Montgomery County Convention & Visitors Bureau.
“There will be, I’m certain, some losses to businesses in Montgomery County,” she said.
The convention and visitors bureau for years worked with Hamvention on a contingency plan if it needed to move out of Hara, Powell said.
The bureau submitted a proposal to host the event at some other sites in the county, she said.
Potential alternative venues included Dave Hall Plaza, the University of Dayton Arena parking lot, the Dayton Convention Center and the Montgomery County Fairgrounds.
“We are happy that Hamvention is staying in the region but certainly we’re disappointed it’s not going to be in Montgomery County,” Powell said.
Hamvention’s relocation, however, provides an opportunity to host some new events in the county because there may be more hotel and motel rooms available, she said.
Preparation for Hamvention will be a “labor of love” for both Greene and Montgomery counties, said Greene County Commissioner Alan Anderson.
“I think we’ll be even more of an expo center as the Hamvention continues on,” he said. “… I know it’s a great location and it’s going to be a great partnership.”
Staff Writer Cornelius Frolik contributed to this report.
STAYING WITH THE STORY
This newspaper has provided in-depth coverage of the Dayton Hamvention location and the uncertainty of the future of Hara Arena.