The preliminary results of feasibility studies conducted by two national firms are showing positive indicators for the proposed redevelopment of the SMART/Champion Paper facility, according to Project Manager Frances Mennone, executive director of the Great Miami Rowing Center.
The Sport Facility Advisory and Ripken Sports, hired by a team put together by developer MB Glick, are wrapping up their comprehensive studies of the core market and the region.
SFA has served a portfolio of more than $4 billion in planned and operational sport initiatives. Ripken Sports, now The Sports Force, is the national leader in amateur and professional sports consulting, planning and programming.
Together the two firms have determined positive feasibility for the proposed project in Butler County.
The project envisions the adaptive reuse of the former factory into an indoor and outdoor multisport complex. Developers intend for the project to encapsulate the unique history of the site, using the former factory as a backdrop.
The development includes a proposed multi-use stadium and a substantial indoor sports arena that could be one of the largest in the United States.
Already existing on the former campus is a rowing center development underway with the Great Miami Rowing Center. GMRC recently engaged a new national management firm Row America to assume programming responsibilities.
“Butler County has seen huge growth and development, with sports participation trends that mirror national growth, providing sporting facilities for a country that hosts an estimated 56 million families that participate in organized sports and non-school youth sports nationwide,” Mennone said. “Facilities like the proposed development in Hamilton could impact positively impact our region.”
Last fall, Mennone told the Cincinnati Business Courier that the property could be home to a number of different sports facilities, such as indoor track and field venues, baseball and soccer fields, volleyball and basketball courts, and tennis courts:
The owners of the Champion Paper facility… want to copy the success of Spooky Nook Sports, the largest indoor sports complex in North America located in Manheim, Pa. This complex was built in an old Armstrong World Industries distribution center that sits on 65 acres. Spooky Nook Sports has 700,000 square feet of indoor space, including a full-sized turf baseball/softball diamond, six cushioned tennis courts and 10 hardwood courts, plus 50 acres of outdoor fields.
The Champion Paper plant sits on 42 acres and includes almost 500,000 square feet of available space. The property was developed by Champion Paper, which became Champion International Paper, between 1894 and 1906. In 2001, Champion sold the plant to Smart Papers, which operated the plant for 11 more years. In March 2012, Smart Papers closed the plant and laid off the entire workforce. Green Reclamation bought Mill 1 in December 2012, and the city of Hamilton owns Mill 2.
A “fit plan” has already been designed, showing what could be built in the existing space, but that plan doesn’t include results from the feasibility firms.
If developed, the new facility would be one of the largest indoor sports complexes in the country. Mennone said the facility would retain the look and feel of a manufacturing plant.
In addition, the property has room for an outdoor baseball stadium as large as 5,000 seats. Mennone said the investors believe the stadium could host an independent or minor league organization.
The sports center would partner with affiliates to include water programming through a waterfront recreational facility at the Great Miami Rowing Center. The nonprofit rowing center is rehabbing an adjacent space and plans to expand to other water-based recreation such as canoeing and kayaking. They also believe the sports complex could connect with a proposed 2.7-mile Hamilton Belt Line bike path, a rail to trail conversion of property owned by CSX.