Will Hara Arena still be open
when it's time for the 2016 Dayton Hamvention®? That is the basic question
being faced by the Dayton Amateur Radio Association (DARA), the owners of Hara
Arena and local government officials, all of whom want to be sure the world's
largest ham radio gathering remains where it has been since 1964. Last year,
according to news reports, the Hamvention was responsible for contributing $8.5
million to the region's economy.
There have been rumors for years
that the arena was about to close, but an announcement at the end of the 2015
show promised improvements at the half-century old exhibition center in time
for the 2016 event. However, news reports in early October cast new doubts on
the arena's ongoing viability.
The reports - first on WHIO-TV
and then in the Dayton Daily News - centered on a July e-mail sent by Hara
Marketing Director Karen Wampler to the city manager and a city councilman in
Trotwood, the municipality in which Hara Arena is actually located. A
consultant hired by Hara recommended this summer that the city purchase the
venue, but Trotwood officials felt such a move would be too risky, according to
the reports. A Dayton Daily News article in late 2014 reported that Hara
owed more than $300,000 in back taxes, but was working with local authorities
to pay down that balance.
Wampler's e-mail, which the TV
station and newspaper (both owned by Cox Media Ohio) received through a public
records request, informed the local officials that they had briefed the
Hamvention's chairman and select board members on the arena's status and said
"they are reeling" after being told that the venue might be forced to
close. "They … like us, believed we were close to stabilizing Hara for
future growth, rather than ending her nearly 60-year run," Wampler wrote,
adding that "(t)here may be one last chance to add Hamvention investment
dollars to the proposal before their Board puts all its resources into
relocating their event - most likely out of Montgomery County - in 2016."
She told the Daily News in
an interview for the October 3 article that the arena is now in much better shape than
it had been in July, when that e-mail was written, and that there are no
current plans to close.
Hamvention General Chairman Jim Tiderman, N8IDS, shared Wampler's current optimism in a statement issued after
the news reports ran. He said DARA "is fully committed to (holding) the
2016 Dayton Hamvention at Hara Arena and Exposition Center … on May 20, 21, 22,
2016," and told the newspaper that "We do not have any plans
whatsoever for relocating."
Tiderman dismissed other reports
as "speculation," but added that DARA is "still (keeping) an
open mind to alternate plans in case they become necessary." The news
articles had reported that Hamvention officials had met with the
Dayton/Montgomery County Convention and Visitors Bureau and others to examine
other possible venues within the Dayton area in the event that Hara was no
longer an option.
Bottom line: As of early
October, Hara Arena remains open and intends to host the Hamvention next May;
and DARA will hold the 2016 Hamvention at Hara as long as the facility is still
open. However, uncertainty continues and contingency plans are being considered
in case a move is necessary.