Well, the results are in and on first blush, they certainly aren’t pretty. Last September, city council authorized the city to bid the Hobart Arena renovation project and the best guess price tag at the time stood at a cool $7.3 million. Now that the contractors have had a chance to review the plans, get inside the building and cost the project out, the renovations are now expected to cost more in the neighborhood of $9.65 million. That is quite a jump in the price and like most things in life, the project isn’t going to get any cheaper the longer the community waits. If you have read this column before, you know that I am a huge fan of Hobart Arena; it’s really a piece of community history. And perhaps it comes as no surprise that I would support the additional funding to make the renovations a reality.
In my mind, the reality is that the arena, perhaps more than any other community asset, makes this community unique. There has been lots of discussion in the community about making the Great Miami River more visitor friendly, and while there is some truth to that, there are a lot of communities along the river than are making efforts to reinvigorate the river. Redevelopment plans are in the works in Piqua and Troy. Dayton is continually making improvements to their Riverscape concept and Miamisburg has been reinventing their downtown riverfront for years as well.
A lot can be said for community pools as well. The Troy Aquatic Park was build a few years ago as a response to two major drivers; attendance at the old pool was waning and a rash of other communities were building new pools as well. The city made the investment and has provided our community with a fine community pool. The zero-depth pool makes it easier for younger kids and toddlers to enjoy and the playground-type feature in the middle of the pool is family favorite as well. However, it seems that over the last couple of years, attendance just hasn’t been as strong as anticipated.
Perhaps this is due to the weather, which I imagine is always a concern for those running such facilities. But, furthermore, perhaps it’s because there is market flooded with public swimming facilities. Public options in Huber Heights and Tipp City provide unique water recreation opportunities. In addition, private facilities such as Great Wolf Lodge, while a bit further away, provide water recreation as well. When it comes to spending dollars for water recreation, there are no shortage of places to go.
Which is what makes Hobart Arena so unique, and by extension, special. There is no community around that can boast of such a unique facility. Sure there might be some rinks in the Dayton Metro area, but either they seem too large or too small. Hobart is just the right size. On top of that, it has such a unique history that no other facility of its size can really compare.
There is no doubt, that spending upwards of $10 million is a huge sum of money. But, we are investing those dollars in something that makes this community especially unique. It is something that communities are size and even larger, only wish they had. And furthermore, it’s not like communities the size of Troy are going to be building arenas anytime soon. The market is perfect for Troy to take advantage of this historic facility.
However, the only way we can help improve the success of the arena is to make sure we have other unique assets that can help the entire district. I can still imagine a high quality hotel placed at corner of Adams and Main Streets, which will undoubtedly help improve the capacity of the arena.
We are really living in times in which our city can make some great improvements to attract new dollars into the community and one of the ways to do that is through the promotion and development of tourism. Having unique assets that draw people into a community is a proven strategy to accomplish that goal.
As a community we have made great strides in bringing back Hobart Arena to where it was just a few short years ago, let’s not stop now.
William “Bill” Lutz is executive director of The New Path Inc. He can be reached at [email protected]