Thousands of spectators are descending this weekend on the 16th annual Premier Health Flyin’ to the Hoop at Trent Arena, the state’s largest high school arena.
The event draws an estimated 20,000 spectators to the arena over four days, boosting the local economy.
But a dozen years ago this week, arena officials were excited about country singer LeAnn Rimes performing the inaugural concert at the facility behind Kettering Fairmont High School. The inaugural concert in April 2006 ended up being one of the last at the venue those officials originally billed as “the wintertime Fraze.”
“We are going to showcase what this building can do, and hope it will be a stepping stone to other concerts,” the arena’s manager said in January 2006. “We hope to make Trent Arena the wintertime Fraze.”
That first concert? It was a good performance, but one which prompted officials to do some soul searching.
“Initially, it was thought that the Trent Arena could be used as a concert and events venue,” said Kari Basson, the Kettering City Schools spokeswoman, “however, it became apparent, after one major concert was held in the facility, that this was not something that fit in with the school district’s mission, and the decision was made that no further concerts would be scheduled in the arena.”
Among the issues detailed in Dayton Daily News concert reviews from 2006: “Nobody seems to know where the place is;” the sound quality was good, but not perfect outside the center of the stage; and the seats are bleachers.
Not to mention the cost. “It’s a very expensive proposition to bring concerts in,” Basson told the Dayton Daily News this week.
Still, some national acts have showed as part of larger events. In 2013, the singing group Pentatonix performed at the National A Capella Festival.
The facility was built as part of the school district’s 28-year, $102 million bond issue that voters approved in 2002. The arena seats 3,650 to 4,400 people and was built at a cost of $8.7 million. It features an 8,000 square foot lobby, two full-size basketball courts, four locker rooms, and other amenities.
Kettering city manager Mark Schwieterman estimates the Hoops event generates $1.9 million for the local economy. The event provides a place for would-be NBA and college ball players to show off in front of recruiters. In 2010, University of Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari arranged to land a helicopter at the venue so he could watch Brandon Knight, who today plays for the Phoenix Suns.
The district uses the arena for athletic events, music events, school-wide testing, student assemblies, and physical education classes. Other schools use the facility for basketball games, and the district rents the facility out for tournaments, graduations and Winter Guard competitions.
“The district bills back the organization using the arena for any costs incurred for the events and does charge a slight rental fee,” Basson said, noting the fee is “dependent on the type of organization renting the facility.”
Staff Writer Marc Pendleton contributed reporting.