Tag Archives: Hara Arena

From the Heart: Why we are saddened by the loss of the Hara Arena

Last fall I had the opportunity to visit the Hara Arena when it was empty. Before that date, I had been to the Hara on 11 occasions, each May from 2005 through 2015. Each time it was full of happiness and life and RF energy. Sure, it was ugly, but it was a happy place. When I visited last fall and drove around the empty parking lots, it was more than ugly.

It was lonely.

It was longing for an event to make it come alive again!  It was longing for the days that Wayne Gretzky played his first professional hockey game on the Hara ice.  It was longing for the days when the Rolling Stones and Grateful Dead and AC/DC and The Who would rock the arena.  It was longing for the days where high schools would hold their proms and people would have their wedding receptions in the Ball Arena.  Nowadays it had to settle for gun and knife shows or the occasional toy show.  But once a year, ol’ Hara got to host a three day Hamvention where the place would really shine.  OK, so it would shine like a polished turd, but it still would shine.

Each May at the Dayton Hamvention, people from all over the world, representing all seven continents, come together at the Hara Arena and celebrate their individual interests in one of the most varied of hobbies–Amateur Radio. The flea markets are full of antique radio equipment, the estates of silent keys, and equipment being sold so that the seller can buy new equipment. Inside the arena the manufacturers come to show off their new, fancy radios, and other vendors sell everything from RF connectors, LEDs and Arduino boards, to cheap imported wire strippers and super glue. The meeting rooms are packed to the gills with the forums, where the hams come to learn something new.

And the whole thing happens in an arena and conference center that probably shouldn’t exist anymore. And, after the Comic Book and Toy Show on August 27th, it will cease to exist at all. At least as anything but an empty shell.

Some of the regular attendees love the place and think it has character. Some hate the place and come anyway and complain about it. And some refuse to come to Hamvention at all because it is a dump.

And it is. By all stretches of the imagination, it is a dump. There is not a white ceiling tile in the place. Each year a different plumbing fixture fails and is not repaired or replaced. The audio system in the main arena failed last year. The electrical system is scary. An attached outbuilding became unattached two years ago. And who could forget the day the main sewer line erupted in the flea market. The health department should have shut us down that day, but they didn’t and we made the best of it.

If it was so bad, then why did attendance rise every year from 2008 (17,253) through 2015 (25,621)? 2015 was a 48% increase over 2008. And although the attendance dropped by a few hundred from 2015 to 2016, it was only by about one or two percent.

I think I know the answer.

The Hara Arena is like the crusty uncle that nobody in the family really talks to all year, but he comes to the family reunion every year and tells the best stories and dirty jokes. You’ve heard all of the jokes and stories before, and they get tiresome at times, but for some reason you look forward to hearing them. And you miss them a little bit after the reunion is over.

And we just found out that our Uncle Hara is going into Hospice and won’t be around at the reunion next year.  And instead of us thinking about how we will never hear his stories and dirty jokes again, we are thinking about how we will never again be able to walk the dark and dingy halls under the Arena stands.

We will never be able to walk up the ramp in Audio Alley again.

We will never again get to wait at the big roll up door for the inside exhibits to open at 9:00 AM.

We will never again tromp through the mud to get to a Rumpke port-o-potty.

We will never again be able to navigate our way through the exhibit halls using the stains on the wall and the ceiling.

We will never again sit in the arena in the tiny seats and strain our ears during the final prize drawings.

We will never again have the internal argument about either buying the $8 bus pass or paying $20 for the nearby private parking.

We will never again purchase a cheap ham sandwich on a bun, or a slice of Hara pizza.  We may not even get cheesecake on a stick!

Next year, we will be in snazzy new digs.  We’ll probably have real concession stands and maybe even restrictions on outside food (or drink!).  The facilities will definitely more modern and better lit.  The plumbing will work.  I’m sure the paint will be relatively fresh.  By every tangible standard, our experience will be a hundred times better.  As we were all overwhelmed at out first Hamvention at Hara, we will all get to be overwhelmed again as we learn once again to navigate our way through.  “Where’s Gordon West?”  “Where’s Bob Heil?”  “I need PowerPoles but can’t find Quicksilver.”

It definitely won’t be the same.  And it will be a major undertaking for the talented folks at the Dayton Amateur Radio Association.  They will need to rearrange the flea market and inside exhibits — something that hasn’t been necessary in 52 years.  They will need to deal with new contracts for the facilities.  They may even need to negotiate with trade unions to allow the exhibitors to set up on their own.  And I guarantee that it will take a few years to make everybody reasonably happy.  And I know that there will be hiccups next year.  We all need to remember that we need to support the Hamvention folks 100%.  They are all volunteers and do it for the love of giving us a place to go each May to celebrate our mutual interests.

Some have wondered why the Hamvention has been held in a deteriorating dump for so long.  It’s because the Hamvention has grown into the Hara Arena.  It just fits.  Moving it elsewhere will demand substantial changes to the experience for both attendees and the vendors.  And I think that that is what we are all most curious and anxious about right now, as we await the final announcement of the new location.

But curiosity and anxiousness aren’t all that we are dealing with.  We are mourning the impending loss of Uncle Hara.  And we are saddened that we will never have any more Hara experiences to pass on.

To the Wampler family: I am sure that your feeling about the loss of your business are hundreds of times stronger than ours.  I’m sorry that the infighting in your family has taken this toll on all of you.  I know you tried.  We will all miss you and your efforts to give us the best experience that you could.  Thank you for 53 great Hamventions!

To my friends at the Dayton Amateur Radio Association:  We know that big changes are coming and we know that decisions will need to be made.  We all have high hopes and we all know that you will get it done.  Don’t be discouraged by those who choose to complain and whine, but please listen to those who thoughtfully make suggestions and provide constructive criticism.  And most of all, thanks!  Thanks for providing us this wonderful convention each year and thanks for having a contingency plan and thanks for committing to bringing us a 2017 Hamvention!

Rest in Peace, Hara.  We’ll miss you.


(Published from DFW, Texas)

In The News: Hara Arena to close it’s doors, Hamvention moving to undisclosed location

The other day WDTN News in Dayton, Ohio reported that the Dayton Demolition hockey team would be taking a year off, cancelling their 2016-2017 season “due to arena availability and lack of lead up time.”  This caused the collective ears to perk up in the ham radio community, being that our annual convention is held at the same location, the Hara Arena.  We were hoping that it may have been due to a failure of the ice equipment at the arena, maybe something like a catastrophic Zamboni incident.  Alas, the other shoe dropped today, as the following announcement was made on the Hamvention website:

The Dayton Amateur Radio Association (DARA) regrets to inform our many vendors, visitors and stakeholders that, unfortunately, HARA has announced the closing of their facility.  We have begun execution of our contingency plan to move Hamvention® 2017 to a new home.

DARA and Hamvention® have enjoyed many successful years working together with HARA Arena and we wish the Wampler family the best.

DARA and Hamvention® have been working on a contingency plan in the event HARA would become unavailable. We have spent many hours over the last few years evaluating possible locations and have found one in the area we believe will be a great new home! Due to logistics and timing issues, we will make a formal announcement introducing our new partner. This information will be coming soon. We all believe this new venue will be a spectacular place to hold our beloved event. Please rest assured we will have the event on the same weekend and, since it will be in the region, the current accommodations and outside events already planned for Hamvention® 2017 should not be affected.

We look forward to your continued support as we move to a new future with The Dayton Hamvention®.


Ron Cramer
General Chairman
Dayton Hamvention 2017

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Hamfest Review: Dayton Hamvention 2015

Some of the members of our Hamvention group - Joe K0NEB, Bill AD8BC, Bob KA9MDP, Kristen KB3OQV, Gregg N8ONW, and Brad W8PAL -- in the flea market at Hamvention 2015

Some of the members of our Hamvention group – Joe KØNEB, Bill AD8BC, Bob KA9MDP, Kristen KB3OQV, Gregg N8ONW, and Brad W8PAL — in the flea market at Hamvention 2015 (Photo Credit: N5KH (I think))

Another Hamvention has come and gone!  This was my 11th Dayton Hamvention, my first having been in 2005.  I decided after my first that this would be an annual thing for me and so far this goal has been met.  And so far I haven’t been disappointed.  This was also a special year for me because my Bob KA9MDP, my “Elmer” from 25 years ago, was able to attend, along with a few of my other friends from Dallas–Will N5KH, James N5BKL, Max N5BSA, Ken N2VIP, and Dhiren K5FPP.  I saw a bunch of other friends from Michigan and Indiana as well.  It was a great time and, as always, it went by quickly. Read more

Editorial: How To Sound Intelligent when Complaining about Hamvention

Hamvention 2015 officially ended this past Sunday at 1:00 PM EDT. (watch my blog for a hamfest review in a few days).  In my opinion, it was a great show.  There were only seven to nine (depending on who you ask) open vendor booths inside, the outdoor vendors and attendees looked to be about on par with last year.  There was no poop volcano, the stands didn’t collapse during the closing ceremonies, ceiling tiles didn’t fall on people (although some had fallen in the year since Hamvention 2014, so that was a distinct possibility). There was, of course, the unfortunate audio problems during the prize draw (the fault of which may have either been the DARA microphone/cable or the Hara Arena sound infrastructure.  I’d guess the latter.)  There were reports of some thefts from the flea market vendors but that happens every year.  Most aggravating were the reports of cars getting broken into that were parked in the big yard at the private residence across Basore Rd.  Anyway, come Sunday evening, the flood of complaints began (as they do every year) on the Hamvention Facebook page, followed by the rash of half-assed suggestions.  So I, your humble host, posted “AD8BC’s guide to successful and intelligent Hamvention complaining.”  Thought it should be posted here for easy reference: Read more

Editorial: Does DARA have Hamvention contingency plans if Hara Arena closes its doors?

It is difficult for any one of us to think about the Dayton Hamvention being held anywhere other than the Hara Arena.  After all, the Hara has been the home of Hamvention since 1964. Those of us die-hards that attend the Hamvention each May have a love-hate relationship with the place. We love the fact that it hasn’t collapsed on thousands of fellow hams.  We hate the fact that the plumbing is woefully inadequate, as demonstrated during the “Great Poopocalypse of 2011“:

1932225_10202841152127170_319204476_nThe above video also demonstrates the quality of the asphalt parking lot.  It hasn’t seen a new coat of asphalt in decades.  Luckily, there were enough potholes to contain the million or so gallons of liquid caca.  Inside the building isn’t much better — water stains on the walls and ceiling tiles, dim lighting, wet bathroom floors… I have editorialized about this a few times in the past.  I had a good write-up in the qrz.com forums in 2012, and also on my old personal blog in 2009.

So we all know how bad the place is.  It’s probably not going to get any better, and the point was driven home this week when WDTN TV-2 News in Dayton did a small piece on how the Hara Arena is struggling to keep the doors open.

Let’s be honest here.  For all of it’s faults, the Hara Arena isn’t really a bad place.  The family-owned complex has been struggling for some time, but much of it is because it has faced stiff competition from convention centers and arenas that are subsidized by the taxpayers or by large universities (like Wright State University’s Nutter Center). Read more

In the News: Trouble in Mecca? Dayton Hamvention Venue Hara Arena in Financial Trouble

My my my.  What a surprise!  WDTN TV-2 News in Dayton says that the crumbling Hara Arena (home of the Dayton Hamvention for over 50 years) is finally facing financial problems.

I’m not being fair here.  Yes the place is a dump.  There is not a white ceiling tile in the place.  The parking lot asphalt has not been resurfaced since the Roman empire.  But they have some good excuses.  Mainly, since it is a privately owned facility, it is difficult to compete with other venues that receive tax subsidies.

Hara’s Director of Marketing says it is tough for Hara to compete with venues like the Nutter Center, but they’re keeping a positive attitude.

Hara generated $34-million into the community through 239 events last year.

“As taxpayers, we’re competing against facilities that are subsidized by tax dollars and because of that we are struggling to compete. The primary challenges are that we need renovation dollars and the ownership model needs to be changed,” said Karen Wampler, Director of Marketing at Hara Arena.

Wampler told 2 NEWS they are working with a company called Venuworks that specializes in restoring event venues.

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