Dayton Hamvention® General Chairman Jim Tiderman, N8IDS, is downplaying talk arising from an October 2 television news report and a more extensive and detailed October 3 Dayton Daily News article, that Hamvention might move from Hara Arena as early as next year. Tiderman characterized the reports “all speculation and rumor.”
“In light of the Cox Media (Channel 7) television interview and the ensuing Dayton Daily News article, I, as General Chairman of the 2015-2016 Dayton Hamvention, want to assure all interested parties that the Dayton Hamvention is fully committed to the 2016 Dayton Hamvention at Hara Arena and Exposition Center, Tiderman stressed in a statement. “We still keep an open mind to alternate plans, in case they become necessary. All successful businesses need to do that, and Hamvention is no different in that respect.” The Dayton Amateur Radio Association (DARA) sponsors Hamvention.
The media reports said Dayton area officials have been working together to keep Hamvention in the Dayton area, if not at Hara Arena in Trotwood, where it has been held since 1964. Dayton TV station WHIO reported on October 2 that the Dayton/Montgomery County Convention and Visitors Bureau has been in discussion with the City of Dayton on a plan to ensure that the world’s largest Amateur Radio gathering at least remains in Montgomery County, should Hamvention have to find another venue because of Hara Arena’s financial problems. According to Bureau President and CEO Jacquelyn Powell, this isn’t the first year that officials have considered “Plan B options,” the WHIO and Dayton Daily News reports indicated.
According to the media reports, representatives of the City of Dayton, Montgomery County, Dayton Convention Center, and the Convention and Visitors Bureau will meet this month to review options for Hamvention organizers in the event a move from Hara Arena becomes necessary. Various alternative venues in the Dayton area are reported to have been considered, including the Dayton Convention Center and the Dayton Airport Expo Center, and the Dayton Daily News report said Tiderman has toured both facilities. Also raised was the possibility of holding the indoor exposition and the outdoor flea market at separate locations in the area, and ferrying visitors back and forth with shuttle buses.
The Dayton Daily News account said word of Hamvention’s possible move from Hara Arena stemmed from a July e-mail from Karen Wampler, director of Marketing for Hara Arena, which the newspaper obtained through a public records request. The Wampler family owns the 165,000 square foot, six-building complex.
“We have shared the fate of the Trotwood/VenuWorks/Hara acquisition proposal with the [Hamvention] Chairperson and select board members of Hamvention,” Wampler wrote in the e-mail, according to the newspaper report. “While we have kept them informed throughout the process, they are reeling. They have much to lose with Hara’s closing and, like us, believed we were close to stabilizing Hara for future growth, rather than ending her nearly 60-year run.”
Since last year, the Wampler family has been working with VenuWorks, which specializes in restoring event venues, to rejuvenate the deteriorating facility. Karen Wampler acknowledged last winter that Hara was facing financial challenges, flagging revenues, and competition from other Dayton area venues and was exploring “a new ownership model.” By the time Hamvention 2015 took place last may, “Sneak Peak” posters in Hara Arena were advertising “Renovations in 2016” and portraying conceptual sketches of what a refurbished Hara might look like.
The newspaper account said that VenuWorks had recommended that the City of Trotwood purchase Hara Arena, but the Trotwood officials turned down the idea. That plan was focus of Wampler’s July e-mail, the Dayton Daily News article said. Wampler subsequently told the newspaper that Hara Arena is in better condition than it was when she drafted her July e-mail and that the event complex will not close anytime soon.
Hamvention puts millions of dollars into the local economy each year. Last May, the show attracted some 25,000 visitors. Dayton Hamvention 2016 will take place May 20, 21, and 22.
Tiderman told the Dayton Daily News that “something catastrophic” would have to happen to cause Hamvention to move from Hara Arena.