A legacy of memories at Hara Arena

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

After six decades of entertainment Hara Arena will hold its last event this weekend.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Hara Arena suffered extensive damage when tornadoes devastated the Dayton region on Monday, May 27, 2019.

The Trotwood event center located on Shiloh Springs Road closed its doors in August 2016 after 60 years of sports, shows and conventions. The building will be demolished.

Here is a look back at Hara Arena and its significance to Dayton’s history.

An aerial view of the damage to Hara Arena following the Memorial Day tornadoes in 2019.

Hara Arena: The beginnings

When shovels dug into the Trotwood ground in 1963 to expand the Wampler Ballarena, the new facility needed a name.

Brothers Harold and Ralph Wampler came up with a simple solution: Take the first two letters of their first names. Since, Hara has been a household name in the region (and, in its heyday, the entire entertainment industry).

Adding onto the dance hall built in 1956, the facility grew into a six-building complex that served as a convention, exposition and sports center on Shiloh Springs Road in Trotwood. When it opened in 1964, a whole new world of entertainment opened to the community.

“It is a shame we have had to go to Cincinnati and Troy to enjoy the facilities these boys are putting up here,” said Harry Kiefaber, a Montgomery County commissioner, at the groundbreaking.

Mick Jagger (left) performs in front of a small crowd with the Rolling Stones Nov. 13, 1964 in this photograph from Hara Arena. PHOTO COURTESY OF HARA ARENA.



The end of an era

After more than six decades of business, the iconic venue closed its doors in August 2016 after 60 years of sports, shows and conventions.

Announcement of the closure inspired recollections across the region. Thousands have sung along with a favorite band, cheered for their team and commemorated special events at Hara Arena.

The Grateful Dead, Nirvana, James Brown, Aretha Franklin and Donny Osmond are among the musical greats who have entertained local crowds.

Two performances by the Rolling Stones in the 1960s and a sold-out Prince concert in 1983 have added to local music lore.

Thousands have glided across the ice at Winterland skate and cheered for the Dayton Gems as the team competed in what is now the oldest hockey arena in the area.

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This early aerial photo from the 1960s shows Hara Arena in its heyday. PHOTO COURTESY OF HARA ARENA.



Wayne Gretzky, nicknamed “The Great One,” took to the ice for the first time as a professional hockey player at Hara Arena. He was just 17 and a member of the Indianapolis Racers when his team took on the Cincinnati Stingers in 1978. Later that season, he joined the NHL.

More than 3,000 strangers came together in 1969 and gave thanks at the first Beerman Thanksgiving dinner, which went on to become an annual event for the community.

Thousands of amateur ham radio operators from around the world have inundated the complex each year since 1964 for Hamvention, the world’s largest amateur radio gathering, according to the Dayton Hamvention website.

Name it, and Hara has most likely held it.

Karen Wampler looks through tickets at Hara Arena in this archive photo from 1983. DAYTON DAILY NEWS ARCHIVE

For decades the community has attended cat shows, presidential visits, Toughman contests and proms at the arena. Home improvement shows, football games, llama competitions, book sales and bridal shows drew folks through the doors.

As its closure was announced, memories flooded in.

“For our 50-year anniversary, we had people send in their favorite Hara memories. I assumed the stories would center around sold-out concerts or larger-than-life events like the Ringling Brothers Circus or pro wrestling,” said Karen Wampler, Hara’s marketing director and daughter-in-law of one of the founders, in a statement.

“But they were mostly sweet stories of a first kiss at a Winterland skate, a first love at a high school prom, a father-daughter dance at a wedding reception, a multi-generational annual shopping tradition at the Gift Show or the life-changing guidance of a hockey coach. Those memories will be Hara’s legacy.”

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