Hara Arena: Dayton Time Machine

by Sharon Tjaden-Glass

When I walked into Hara Arena to set up my booth for the National Holiday Gift Show, I wondered how it was possible that a place like this still exists.

You don’t have to look far to find glaring examples of how badly this place needs to be renovated.

From the graffiti-ed ceiling…

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To the flat-out gaping holes over the bathroom stall…


To the electric (occasionally cobwebbed) 1970s chandeliers…

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To the concessions stand that makes me want to roller-skate up to the window and ask for some nachos…

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To the decorations that look like that scene in The Wedding Singer (the one where Adam Sandler totally loses it)…

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This place just flat-out makes me sad. Has it ever been renovated since it opened in 1964? Highly doubtful.

You don’t need a time machine to go back to the 60s. You just need to come to Hara. I dare say that many of the shoppers have aged along with the building.


At first, you kind of wonder if everyone is blind to how decrepit this place is. But it’s amazing how much a well-designed booth can distract customers from the reality of being surrounded by a crumbling ceiling and dirty, water-stained walls (or are they stained with nicotine? I guess that’s possible too, considering how old this place is).

I don’t have much of a personal history with Hara Arena. My parents didn’t really take us to any public events when I was growing up in the 1980s in Dayton. (It could be been a financial issue, but I think it’s more likely that they just didn’t want to spend their energy corralling five kids in public. Grocery shopping with us was bad enough.)

Because I’ve never seen how awesome this place once was, I’m more likely to see how awful this place is today.

Hara was once a hot spot, the place where people came to watch a number of sports team (Dayton Jets, Dayton Gems, Dayton Bombers, etc) until they all left for different, hotter venues. In some respects, Hara seems to be a tale of a tragic love story. Once the hottest, coolest little number in town, perhaps Hara developed an undeserved sense of importance, born mostly out of the lack of competition of any other venues in town. Like a vain lover, perhaps Hara thought it didn’t need to change. If people thought that other places were cooler or more attractive, well then, fine. Go there.

I know how awesome I am… Hara may have thought.

But it’s not a secret that this place is struggling. Recent financial cutbacks have decreased their full-time staff to just 12 people.

Perhaps that’s why it took so long for the staff to turn off the blaring, crackling white noise over the loudspeaker (I think it was supposed to be Joy to the World? But who could tell?). Perhaps they had laid off the person who knew how to work the sound system.

So I guess renovations are out of the question.

But it makes you wonder how long this place will remain open.

In the meantime, I just feel sorry for this place.