By Jim Bucher

What is it about a place that conjures up so many memories?

As a born-and-raised Daytonian, it’s always tough to see a piece of your personal past disappear.

Too many times I’ve reported on the demise of a local company. It seems never-ending.

So, you can imagine the heartbreak this past Friday with the news of Hara Arena & Exhibition Center closing its doors.

As family matriarch, spokesperson, and marketing director, Karen Wampler says, “With heavy hearts, the Wampler family announces that Hara will be hosting its last event on Aug. 27, 2016. The iconic venue brought sports, concerts, entertainment, and special interest shows to the Miami Valley for 60 years, but ultimately could not overcome an internal legal battle that has spanned the last two decades.”

It was a slow and painful death, but as my pops would always say, “Life goes on.”

First, a little background.

In the 1940s, the land where Hara now sits was the Wampler family fruit orchard. In 1943, the Red Barn was built on Wolf Road as a fruit and vegetable stand for Wampler Farms.

Harold Wampler Sr. and his wife Myrtle enjoyed dancing, so they built a hardwood floor on the loft of the Red Barn and created an exclusive dance venue, the Cedar Loft Club.

Harold soon began to rent out the Red Barn. Demand exceeded supply, so he began a tradition that his sons and their sons would follow: build to meet a demand.

Right across Shiloh Springs Road, he began what is now today’s Hara Complex with the Ballarena, constructed in 1956. Dancing was at the height of its popularity, and it wasn’t long before more room was needed. Harold’s two sons, Harold Jr. and Ralph, seized the opportunity and added the Silver Arena in 1959.

Noticing that the Dayton area did not have a place to host the Shrine Circus, the Wamplers responded to a need in 1964 and built the 5,500-seat Hara Arena, which ushered in an era of entertainment the Dayton area had never seen before.

The name Hara was taken from the first two letters of Harold and Ralph’s names.

“We’re thankful their birth order wasn’t reversed,” Wampler says. “Otherwise, we’d be welcoming people to Raha Arena. Nowhere else but Raha!” From those humble fancy-feet beginnings, Hara was the place to see and
be seen.

The Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, The Who, the Grateful Dead, Prince, Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley, Kid Rock, and Godsmack to name but a few.

Dayton was suddenly a market where ice shows, car shows, circuses, rodeos, monster truck challenges, and, who can forget the hottest ticket in town, Dayton Gems Hockey stopped.

“It’s been a long goodbye that began with the passing of one of Hara’s founders, Harold Wampler, 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,” Wampler adds.

The loss will come in the form of $36 million in annual economic impact: youth, men’s, and professional hockey programs, and the hundreds of events that called Hara home this past year.

Hara was one of the few family-owned venues of its kind. The Wamplers, with the help of national venue management company, VenuWorks, tried relentlessly for years to change that to a public/private ownership structure to clear Hara’s debt, lighten its tax burden, and place it on a more sustainable path, but
were unsuccessful.

My heart goes out to my friends, the Wamplers, and the City of Trotwood that has had its fair share of economic ills for some time now.

When I recently asked for Hara stories on Facebook, the memories flowed like water on the arena floor before it freezes.

Mark says, “It’s funny – you had to dump your bottles before you entered a concert, but the pot flowed.” Speaking of, Janet got her first contact high at an AC/DC concert.

Bill “Seg” Dennison, a radio personality at Cincinnati’s 700 WLW, calls it “The Hockey Barn of Bedlam.” Terry saw The Beach Boys. Mellissa experienced a Bomber’s game – and also met her future husband there.

“Very few places leave me with a sense of awe like Hara,” Danny shares.

For now, we have a few more weeks to attend the remaining events and walk through the facility for a final memory.

Hats off, Hara. You will certainly be missed.


(Not in a “cheers” sort of way.)


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Jim Bucher
For over 25 years, Jim Bucher has been a regionally known and loved local television icon. “Buch’s” followers describe him as trustworthy, fun, the guy next door, a friend and role model. You can promote your business with Buch and grab your customer’s attention! Reach DCP freelance writer Jim Bucher at

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