By Scott Halasz
XENIA — Still feeling the sting of Wright State University backing out of hosting the first presidential debate in September, Greene County officials announced Monday that Dayton Hamvention is moving to the county fairgrounds.
The world’s largest amateur radio gathering, Hamvention had been held in Dayton since its inception in 1952 and at Hara Arena in Trotwood since 1964. But Hara officials last week announced the arena would be closing later this month, leaving Hamvention temporarily homeless.
“This trumps, no pun intended, this trumps the debate,” said Kathleen Wright, executive director of the Greene County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. “We are the home now.”
And with the move comes money. Lots of it. Dayton Hamvention has brought an estimated $15-17 million into the regional economy via hotel stays, restaurants, gas stations and local merchants, according to officials. The bulk of that will be staying in Greene County.
“We are so excited to be working with the Dayton Hamvention to bring an event of this caliber to the fairgrounds and expo center,” County Commission President Alan Anderson said. “The collaboration between the Dayton Amateur Radio Association, the agricultural society and the local governments has been inspiring. This is going to be a labor of love.”
The announcement about Hara Arena closing came as a surprise to many. But Hamvention officials had known for a while they would need a new place for more than 25,000 amateur radio operators and their families.
“Hara has been up front with us,” said Hamvention CFO Michael Kalter. “We had a wonderful relationship with the Wampler family. (But) We always have had a contingency plan. We wanted to keep the venue in the region. We’ve been working with Greene County.”
The county was a willing partner.
“We’ve been in contact with people there through the years,” Wright said. “They saw that this is a perfect venue for them.”
It comes at no real cost to the county. Dayton Hamvention has its own crew of nearly 600 volunteers who work to stage the event.
“All of those people are still going to be here,” Wright said. “They’re ready to get busy on it.”
Wright said the entire 38-acre fairgrounds complex will be used, including the campgrounds.
“The Greene County Agricultural Society is absolutely committed to providing a world class experience for the Dayton Hamvention and its attendees, exhibitors, volunteers and staff,” said President Dan Bullen. “We are so appreciative of the opportunity to host the event and the faith placed in us by the Hamvention leadership. This has taken a lot of effort from the people in our office.”