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On June 3, 2013 Spooky Nook Sports opened its doors to the public for the first time. Ten years later, The Nook has had a significant impact on the Lancaster community in more ways than one. From that opening day, to becoming an iconic destination for athletes, families, and sports enthusiasts alike, Spooky Nook Sports has transformed the regional landscape of sports tourism.
Owner and Founder of Spooky Nook Sports, Sam Beiler, spent most of his professional career with Auntie Anne's. Starting there in his early 20's, he spent 21 years within the organization. Eventually, Beiler purchased the company and became Chairman and CEO in 2005. Five years later in 2010, he made the decision to sell the company to FOCUS Brands, the leading developer of global, multi-channel food service brands. While he didn't know in that moment what the future would hold, retirement was a serious consideration.
In this newly founded free time, Beiler could often be found in attendance at his daughter's travel volleyball games. Throughout this experience, he couldn't help but notice the areas of opportunity in the world of youth sports. The gyms they traveled to often had no more than 2 or 3 courts. This meant that for a larger-scale tournament, they were traveling around to multiple locations sometimes several times a day. Beiler also couldn't help but notice the worn state of these facilities and the lack of staff available (and willing) to help customers. Eventually, the idea was born to open a brand new 10 court facility that prioritized the guest experience. Anyone who has been to The Nook's 14-acre building knows that reality got a little bit bigger than Beiler originally thought.
- March 2013 - Spooky Nook hosts a volleyball tournament for MLK Weekend prior to the business even being fully open.
- June 3, 2013 - Spooky Nook opens its doors to the general public and is officially operational.
- 2015 - The Warehouse Hotel and Forklift & Palate Restaurant opens inside of the complex. The Hotel offers 135 rooms to both weekend tournament guests, as well as weekday transient traffic.
- November 2016 - Spooky Nook reaches the milestone of 1 million annual visitors for the first time.
- April 2018 - Spooky Nook purchases the former LANCO Field House, which is 5 miles from the main property in Manheim. This serves as additional space and overflow surfaces to help expand The Nook's capacities, as well as hosting Nook Gymnastics.
- October 24, 2018 - Hamilton, OH City Council voted unanimously 7-0 in favor of the development agreements with Spooky Nook Sports. A ceremonial groundbreaking took place on Thursday, October 25.
- May 19, 2022 - Champion Mill Conference Center, the region’s second-largest convention space, hosts its first major event.
In an economic impact study completed by Tourism Economics in 2017, there was an estimated $87.1 million of economic impact on Lancaster County from Spooky Nook Sports. It was estimated that Nook Sports revenue and off-site ancillary spending will result in a total direct impact of $54.7 million. This direct spending will ultimately support:
Lancaster County Impact in 2017:
• $87.1 million in total business sales;
• $28.4 million in total labor income;
• 1,346 total jobs
It's important to note that in 2017, Spooky Nook was seeing 1.2 million visitors on an annual basis. In 2022, that number was nearly 1.5 million. That's a 25% in just 5 years. Based on the numbers from that study as well as the increase in traffic since then, it is estimated that Spooky Nook has created over 13,000 jobs (direct, indirect, and induced) and generated $379 million in hotel revenue (as of June 2023) for the surrounding area.
Using the $87.1 million number for spending in Lancaster, it can be estimated that over the course of all 10 years, that number is nearly 1 billion dollars.
From Discover Lancaster's President and CEO, Edward Harris, during his reflection on 10 years of Nook operations:
“Sports tourism throughout Lancaster County continues to increase, and Spooky Nook Sports is a huge part of that growth and our rising regional & national profile in this important visitor segment.
It’s only fitting that as we celebrate Spooky Nook’s 10th anniversary, we do so in continuing appreciation for their leadership in helping to pull our destination through and out of the recent pandemic, as sports tourism was one of the first types of travel to bounce back in the summer of 2020 and has been going strong ever since.
The Spooky Nook team runs a first-class operation and the venue is a great partner for our entire tourism industry, so we’re very lucky to have them in Lancaster County and look forward to additional collaboration in further improving our sports travel landscape.
Moreover, Spooky Nook is a fabulous, multi-purpose, and certainly unique meetings/conventions/events (M/C/E) property, so the combined effect it has in both sports and M/C/E hosting – from the recent Tyrant Wrestling Duals with an estimated economic impact (EEI) of nearly $1 million to next year’s AQS QuiltWeek and its EEI of just over $2 million – essentially doubles its overall value to our destination.”
From Lisa Riggs, President of Economic Development Company of Lancaster County:
"Spooky Nook Sports has made a significant impact on Lancaster County’s economy in its ten years, including showcasing an extraordinarily creative re-use to an existing building.
While attracting recreational teams to elite athletes is what it may be most known for, this significant investment also is credited with spurring additional hotel and hospitality-related investments along the 283 corridor and helping to fortify demand for family-oriented entertainment and restaurants throughout Lancaster County."
From Theresa K. Miller, Vice President of Hotels for Dommel’s Hotel Management:
"The essence of being part of a host community to a massive venue like Spooky Nook Sports is a tremendous responsibility, and a remarkable opportunity for our businesses. The year-round economic impact of major events at the Nook append revenues generated, county tax dollars collected, and gainful employment of so many people across Lancaster County.
The indirect effects of guest-spend throughout the county in restaurants, attractions, and retail link the sports industry at the Nook and Lancaster County’s economic development. This certainly has been the case for the last ten years with Spooky Nook Sports – they are a noteworthy economic asset for Lancaster County!"
The following are experiences shared by some of the team members at Spooky Nook who are celebrating their 10 year work anniversary alongside The Nook.
Q: What do you enjoy or look forward to about working for this company that has kept you with it for such a long time? Is there a particular event, success story, or customer experience that stands out to you as a testament to the impact this business has had on the community?
- "I enjoy working those in our office and not having the same things to do daily. I book space daily, but there are always specific needs to work around and figure out. It’s a giant puzzle and I enjoy being a large part of putting it together" - Eric R.
- "My coworkers are my second family and we all share a passion for the Nook and its success. On weekends when I am out running errands, shopping or eating and I see all the out of state teams and their families that are in Lancaster county for the tournament is truly amazing to see. The number of people that come through the complex let alone our community is astronomical." - Danielle W.
- "Spooky Nook gave me an opportunity to begin building a career. I have really appreciated the opportunity to learn from so many great minds in my ten years and to work with others who genuinely strive for the success of the business. Working in a culture where you know the person next to you won’t let you fail is extremely rewarding both personally and professionally." - Kyle B.
- "Spooky Nook is such a unique business that does a wide variety of events on a daily basis. There’s never a dull moment while working at the Nook and it’s very cool to see the types of events and groups that come through the doors. I also wouldn’t be able to work at the same place for 10 years if I wasn’t surrounded by amazing people. I’ve worked with incredible people at the Nook and I wouldn’t be the person I am today without those relationships." - Katelyn M.
- "For me, the most rewarding experience is seeing kids who started out as campers become team members or join an academy team. The end of every camp season always felt like such a success, to know we safely took care of a lot of peoples kids and gave them a great experience." - Staci C.
Q: What lessons have you learned along the way that you would want to share with your 2013 self, of what lessons would you share with a new employee if they started today?
- "Be open to options and willing to adjust and change on the fly. Saying no is sometimes easy, but being able to look deeper at a situation and see what we can do has led to our growth as a facility and able to help other tournament organizations grow larger with us." - Eric R.
- "If I could tell myself in 2013 that all the long hours and hard work was going to pay off and to keep going, I would. Anyone that has been apart of a start up knows how much blood, sweat and tears goes into making a business successful. We have had our growing pains to say the least but we have become a well oiled machine." - Danielle W.
- "Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone and don’t let failure stop you. Every difficult moment builds character. Find a network of people who challenge you and help you grow, professionally and personally." - Katelyn M.
- "Failure is a part of growth – never fear failure as you push forward. I have had many ideas fail along the way but consistently attempting to push forward in new areas has allowed me to be successful in the long run." - Kyle B.
- "Share your ideas, even if they seem like common sense. Use your Outlook calendar, it is your best friend and you WILL NOT remember everything people say to you. It’s okay to say you don’t know. Boundaries will become your other best friend. Communicate everything, most issues are caused by a lack of it." - Staci C.
From The Nook's inception as idea for a 10-court volleyball facility to its realization as the largest indoor sports complex in North America, this remarkable facility has left an indelible mark on the sports landscape in our community. It has become a testament to the power of innovation, entrepreneurship, and the unwavering support of passionate sports community.
As we look forward to the next chapter in the Spooky Nook Sports story, we extend our heartfelt gratitude to the athletes, coaches, families, and guests all of kind who have made this decade an unforgettable one. Together, we have witnessed moments of triumph and inspired the next generation of athletes to push beyond their limits.
As Spooky Nook Sports continues to evolve, we embrace the endless possibilities that lie ahead. Here's to another ten years of sports, growth, and memories that will continue to shape the legacy of Spooky Nook Sports and the community who has so vehemently supported us.
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