The return of Hobart Arena

The Casting Crows at Hobart in 2009. Photo courtesy of Anthony Weber.

Troy complex hosting top country, Christian and classic rock bands

By Matt Bayman

The Casting Crows at Hobart in 2009. Photo courtesy of Anthony Weber.

The Casting Crows at Hobart in 2009. Photo courtesy of Anthony Weber.

Since 2010, Hobart Arena in Troy has hosted three of the five artists that were nominated for the 2011 Country Music Award’s “New Artist of the Year,” including its winner, The Band Perry.

Along with other country artists, such as Luke Bryan, Kellie Pickler and Thompson Square, the multi-purpose arena has played host to a variety of other entertainers, including Foreigner, REO Speedwagon and ventriloquist Terry Fator, just to name a few. Fans also flock to the arena to see the biggest names in Christian music and some of the best tribute bands on the market.

The recent increase in live entertainment, which began with Fator’s performance in 2008, is a throwback to the arena’s star-studded beginnings in the 1950s. It’s also a trend that seems to have no end in sight and that attracts fans from not only Troy and the Miami Valley, but all over the country and Canada.

Retired Hobart Arena employee Ed Brumbaugh said the arena has had the honor of hosting many legendary entertainers, from Nat King Cole, Gene Autry and Liberace to Victor Borge, Patti Page and Elvis Presley. Roy Rogers was scheduled to perform at the arena in 1950, but 10 inches of snow left the entertainer stranded in Ludlow Falls, a small town about 9 miles west of Troy and the show never took place.

“People would come from miles around to see these performers. When Elvis Presley came here in 1956, it was the biggest show we ever had, and it was really wild.” he said.
Along with entertainers, during the 1950s and beyond, Hobart Arena was a mecca for ice skating and hockey. When the arena opened for business in September of 1950, it hosted 10 sold out performances in a row of “Holiday on Ice.” By 1951, the arena had its own International Hockey League team named the Troy Bruins. This team called Hobart Arena home until 1959 when it relocated to North Carolina. The franchise was followed years later by another hockey team, the Troy Sabres, which played home games at Hobart Arena from 1982 until 1989 before folding. In 2010, a new generation of the Troy Bruins attempted to bring professional hockey back to Troy, but the team ceased operation in January of this year.

“Hockey has just never stuck with the people around here,” Brumbaugh said.

Even professional ice skating is not as prevalent as it was in the arena’s heyday.

“We had very famous and talented skaters that came here year after year. We had Olympic skaters at one point. But it got so that later on, (promoters) would not perform in a building that seated less than 10,000 people,” he said. Because the seating capacity of Hobart Arena is 3,782, Brumbaugh said it became harder to get any big names in skating to perform in Troy.

Today, most of the ice skating at Hobart Arena is public skating. There’s also the Troy Skating Club, which has been in existence since 1951 and is very active in providing lessons and private instruction for skaters. Troy High School’s hockey team also uses the ice.

Although there were many events that took place at Hobart Arena during the 1970s, 80s and 90s, as well as the early part of this decade, Arena Manager Ken Siler said larger venues that were built in Dayton during this time, including Hara Arena and eventually the Nutter Center, made it tough to compete.

“Between 1950 and 1963, Hobart Arena was the only venue in the local market. The nearest places that people went were the Toledo Sports Arena, which has since been torn down and replaced with a newer venue, and the Cincinnati Gardens. Then came Hara Arena and several others,” he said.

Another problem that Hobart Arena faced when attempting to book bigger names in show business was its lack of a liquor license, but thanks to voters in Troy, in 2009 beer sales were allowed and introduced with success.

“This has allowed us to actively pursue and secure events that otherwise wouldn’t work here,” Siler said.

Siler said beer sales are only offered at “appropriate” events. “You’re not going to see beer being served during the circus and other family events, or when Christian bands perform here, but it certainly adds another element to the rock and country shows that people enjoy.”

Before Hobart Arena began actively booking entertainers for other future shows, in 2010 staff members sent out surveys to more than 5,000 people, asking them what they wanted to see at Hobart Arena.

“What we found was that people in the Miami Valley and Troy wanted to see country, Christian and classic rock bands,” Siler said.

Siler said the shows being hosted at the arena in recent years have attracted fans and visitors from far and wide, which was an important goal of the newly invigorated arena.

“We’re bringing this to the Miami Valley, not just Troy, and people are driving here from all over the state, neighboring states and Canada,” he said. “I feel comfortable in saying (the shows and the audiences they bring) have been rewarding to businesses and the local economy. Before and after the shows, people go out to our restaurants and bars, and those who come in from out of town stay at our hotels.”

Or, as Brumbaugh puts it: “I think for years people thought that Hobart Arena was a white elephant, but it’s not so.”

Siler said the arena currently is working to book four to six additional shows for the 2012 lineup. The next big performance will be by Hotel California: The Original Eagles Tribute, which performs on January 13. This will be followed on February 17 by Casting Crowns, featuring special guest Matthew West. When Casting Crowns was at the arena in 2009, they performed to a sold-out crowd.

To purchase tickets for either of these concerts, or to learn more about Hobart Arena and other events taking place there, visit www.hobartarena.com or call (937) 339-2911.

Reach DCP freelance writer Matt Bayman at MattBayman@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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