‘Timeline was tight’ for new expo center ahead of Hamvention

Amateur radio enthusiasts who attend the annual Hamvention, held for the first time last spring at the Greene County Fairgrounds, will have to wait for a new exposition center that was to be built in time for this year’s event.

County officials have closed the bidding process for the $1.9 million project to build a u-shaped expo center that was to be completed by May.

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One contractor submitted a bid — Greater Dayton Construction LTD., and their proposal would have cost in the range of $2.1 to $2.2 million, slightly higher than the county’s estimate.

The company was not going to be able to guarantee to have the building ready before Hamvention, May 18-20, said County Administrator Brandon Huddleson.

“We plan to go back out for bids this summer and have the building in place late this year,” Huddleson said.

Hamvention, hosted by the Dayton Amateur Radio Association since 1952, is billed as the world’s largest amateur radio gathering. The event had been held at Hara Arena for many years, but the arena closed, and organizers moved the event to the Greene County Fairgrounds.

The event is estimated to have a local economic impact of about $17 million for hotels, restaurants, gas stations and retailers.

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“Hamvention has a three-year contract with the agricultural society for use of the fairgrounds and expo center,” Huddleson said. “They had a very successful event in 2017 and we will continue to work with them in an effort to secure the event long-term.”

Despite not having the new expo center, Ron Cramer, Dayton Hamvention chairman, said he expects they’ll have another good year at the fairgrounds.

“Of course, we would love to have the new building available this year,” Cramer said. “The timeline was tight and with construction materials backlogged, the building will not be completed in time.”

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An additional 7,500-square foot building will be available for the event this year. It is one of two buildings that is currently being vacated by Fairgrounds Furniture, after the fair board chose to terminate the lease for the long-standing Xenia business. The furniture store has until April to clear out its inventory and relocate.

The architectural design of the proposed expo center shows the u-shaped building will have a main entrance in the center and two exhibition halls as wings, providing a total of 16,800 square feet of exhibition space. Office space, a conference room, restrooms and other components add another 3,000 square feet of space, according to the county’s plans.

The building is expected to attract more events to the fairgrounds and the county is expected to create a new position to market the venue and bring in more events.

As for Hamvention’s future, Cramer said they are not looking to relocate anytime soon.

“We anticipate a long-term commitment to Greene County,” he said.

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