On Your Marc: 5/17/16

Some moments at Hara

By Marc Katz

I can spin a funny story about this now. but in 1996 it wasn’t so funny.

That’s when management of Hara Arena, the Dayton Bombers and my then bosses at the Dayton Daily News all yelled at me from different directions for the same reason.

It was the day Bud Gingher and Arnie Johnson decided to move their East Coast Hockey League Bombers from Hara Arena to Wright State’s Nutter Center. It wasn’t so funny? It wasn’t funny at all.

Say what you will about Hara Arena, all dated and homemade, it’s still standing and in use as it has been for more than 50 years. Then and now, it had and has the best sight-lines for sports, especially hockey.

Sure, the Dayton Gems hockey team is gone. So are the Bombers. So are the Ice Bandits and so many others. Sadly, so are Gingher and Johnson and then Hara general manager Johnny Walker.

Meanwhile, Hara remains in business. More than 400 amateur hockey games were played at the Hara complex last year on two ice sheets. Marketing Director Karen Wampler said 113 other events were held as well. This weekend, the annual Hamvention takes place, and when you see the turnout for that, it’s no wonder Wampler thinks the area would be great for the Montgomery County Fairgrounds, which is looking to move from its near downtown site.

The Hara complex is six buildings sitting in the middle of a potholed and well used parking lot.

But back to my original story.

Gingher’s team had played a Hara for five years, although he often talked about moving it. The only logical place to move in town was the Nutter Center, which had room for, but not the equipment for ice.

I told Gingher I wouldn’t write about it until he was serious enough to move. Then, one day, he was.

His relationship with Johnny Walker deteriorated to the point they didn’t much talk any more. The suggestion he put his money into a partnership with Hara to modernize the place didn’t interest him and he didn’t want to be in Trotwood, where he felt he had no customers.

He also wanted to be closer to a freeway.

One game-day morning, Gingher called me at home, wanting to meet at a nearby restaurant because he felt the Hara telephones were bugged.

Seriously.

I went. He and Johnson wanted to announce that night they were moving the team the next season. I told them I’d have to get Walker’s reaction.

Their plan was to tell Walker between periods, after the television guys left, since Walker was an old TV guy and figured they’d favor him. I was told I should talk to him after that.

Leary of that plan, I called my boss, who said it would be okay.

Ironically, it was that week the DDN and WHIO TV (owned by the same company, as they are today) entered into a new initiative. All DDN weather reports would carry a picture of the WHIO weather person in exchange for WHIO “teasing” one of the next day’s DDN stories the night before.

That made some of us at the DDN a little uneasy as we considered ourselves in competition with the TV station, but we were assured no one at the TV station would look over our stories and call the principles involved.

No one saw the future as jumbled as it is now.

This was a new, untried relationship. Not everyone knew all the guidelines. Someone at WHIO called Walker. He didn’t know anything about the story, but realized I had to be involved.

He began yelling at me the moment I arrived for the game that night at Hara. Then Bud and Arnie called me over and yelled at me as well, since I had promised to keep the story quiet until later in the evening.

I found out later what happened. The night was even more complicated because the Bombers were supposed to send a letter stating their intentions to Walker after the first period, when I was to get Walker’s reaction, but they mistakenly sent an empty envelope, giving Walker more time to berate me in his office until the real message came.

This was also after the second period, since the TV guys stayed late.

I got my quotes and got out of there. The next day, I confronted the DDN managing editor asking how this could happen.

He berated me for questioning what he thought was a good deal, saying if I didn’t like it, I could leave.

I didn’t like it, but I stayed. I never much cared for him, though.

The Bombers stayed a few seasons at the Nutter Center, which is mainly used for Wright State men’s and women’s basketball games, graduations and concerts.

There was a reference there to being a hockey mom when Sarah Palin showed up as a vice-presidential nominee, and who knows if a hockey fight will break out when Donald Trump visits for a presidential debate in September?

I’m not sure Hara has anything booked that night. My guess is there will be something.

Columbus-born Marc Katz had a 44-year newspaper career, 41 of those years covering sports, 40 of them at the Dayton Daily News. He now blogs at katzcopsnsports.com. Reach Dayton City Paper sports writer Marc Katz at MarcKatz@daytoncitypaper.com.

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Marc Katz
Columbus-born Marc Katz had a 44-year newspaper career, 41 of those years covering sports, 40 of them at the Dayton Daily News. He now blogs at KatzCopsNSports.com. Reach Dayton City Paper sports writer Marc Katz at MarcKatz@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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