After more than 60 years in business, the Dayton Hara Arena & Exhibition Center on Saturay will open its doors to the public one last time.
The arena will host its last events Saturday before shutting down the business permanently. The family-owned arena was forced to shut down after an internal, 20-year legal battle sent the financial livelihood of the business into turmoil, family members said.
The arena’s problems started when founder Harold Wampler died in 1996. His unresolved estate — under which Hara is co-owned — launched a 20-year family and legal battle that drained Hara of the resources for much-needed renovations and reorganization, according to the family.
Karen Wampler, Hara’s marketing director, said the venue is allowing people to access the main arena areas from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. The open house will allow people to say goodbye to the memories created at the iconic venue.
“We had a number of requests from people who very much wanted to go into the main area and sit in their old seats,” she said. “It’ll be an open house, but there is no formal program.”
Pam Luke of Sugarcreek Twp. said she worked at the arena for at least eight years in concessions and ushering patrons to their seats. She will go back one last time to say goodbye to the sections she ushered.
“I’m going to try and make it over there,” she said. “I want to get a picture by my sections that I used to work in. There’s been so many memories there.”
Kevin Contardo of Nashville, Tenn., worked as director of marketing and as assistant manager of Hara for about four years. He said he was disappointed he wouldn’t be able to say “goodbye to the legendary arena.”
“It’s a very nostalgic place,” he said. “It was great for me personally and professionally. They were wonderful people to work for.”
Three other events will take place Saturday— including an estate sale, a summer party and a comic book and collectibles show. The “Summer Jam” will be hosted in Hara’s ball arena starting at 9 p.m. Saturday, and requires a ticket for entry.
While an estate auction goes on in the east hall, a comic book and toy show will be set up in the silver arena from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Jim Broughton, of Jim & Dan Promotions, has displayed comic books, toys and other collectibles at the arena for about two years.
He said it was bittersweet to do one last show before the arena closed.
“Sadly, we’re expecting a bigger crowd just because it’s closing,” he said. “We will continue doing shows. As much as we hated it go, everything will still work out.”
Broughton said he’s always had a positive experience with the Wampler family, and he knows they’ll treat him right for their last show. The promotions team will move their next show on Dec. 4 to Wright State University.
“We decided to go to the student union,” he said. “It seems like a nice facility and it’s a good location.”
Other businesses and shows have also had to book alternative locations following the closure of Hara. Dayton Hamvention, the world’s largest amateur radio enthusiasts event, will move to the Greene County Fairgrounds & Event Center next year after the arena’s closure was finalized.
Wampler said the future of the building is still unclear.
“It’s been a long struggle, and sometimes we wondered what it was for,” Wampler said. “Right now, we’re focused on wrapping up these events for the weekend. Some of the future is out of our control so we’re waiting to hear. There is a little bit of uncertainty of what the future will hold for his building.
She said the response of people wanting to share their memories of Hara has been overwhelming. Saturday is there chance to reminisce just once more.
“They want a little piece of Hara to take with them,” she said.
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