Its doors will soon be closed but the endless memories formed from within the complex will continue forever.
For me it’s where I attended my first live pro wrestling event, sometime in the mid-eighties, when Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant were the industries top names. Like many others, it’s also where I was introduced to concerts, as I went to see Petra with my church youth group. Almost everyone who has lived in Dayton at some point over the last 60 plus years has a memory of Hara Arena. The news that the Dayton Hara Arena & Exhibition Center will be closing after holding its final event on August 27 leaves its visitors with only a catalog of memories.
Though many memories of going to Hara remain fresh, such as when I first saw a Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, the building itself had become very rundown. Hara showed the signs of its decades of hosting heavy metal concerts, hockey games, rodeos, pro wrestling and almost anything else you could ever imagine. Before the non-smoking law, the concourse area around the area would be so filled with smoke it would be like walking through fog (I cough just thinking about it) and that smell doesn’t just go away with Lysol. My last visit to the arena was in February 2011 for a Dayton Gems hockey game and I didn’t know if the seat was going to hold me through the whole three quarters, of course that didn’t stop me from eating a soft pretzel.
Everyone from The Grateful Dead to Prince, as well as Johnny Cash, Michael Jackson, and countless other musicians who are still alive headlined Hara Arena. The list includes The Rolling Stones, Ozzy Osborne, KISS, Van Halen, and Alice Cooper.
Hockey also has a long history in Hara, beginning with the Gems back in the sixties. Several other hockey teams have since come and gone, such as the Jets, Bombers, Ice Bandits, Gems (again), Demonz and Demolition. An interesting fact about Hara, is it’s where Wayne Gretzky played his first professional hockey game as a member of the visiting team.
For forty years the Hamvention has been held at Hara, as has the Bill Goodman’s Gun & Knife Show, which I hope finds a new home just so I can hear the promotional song on the commercials. Also in the eighties I remember going to the Carl Casper Car Show where I got the autograph of a Playboy Playmate, and I guess there were probably some cars there too. In addition, Hara was home to the local segment of the MDA telethon and hosted a series of events such as the Dayton Library Book Sale.
The closing is the result of a twenty year family/legal battle over the ownership of Hara Arena. Its doors will soon be closed but the endless memories formed from within the complex will continue forever.
A post on the Hara Arena facebook page today said it perfectly:
To all those who have taken time to post or share their Hara memories with us, thank you. Your reaction to Hara's closing has been both humbling and heartbreaking. We knew what Hara meant to us, we just didn't realize what it meant to so many of you. It's been an incredible 60-year run. Thanks for the memories, Miami Valley. They will be Hara's lasting legacy.
The Wampler Family
Mike Woody is a life long resident of Dayton, and has a passion for writing, which is good because he doesn't excel at much of anything else, except eating.