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Urban Explorers’ Video Reveals Largely Unseen Side of Hara Arena


Reminiscent of underwater footage from a TV documentary about the discovery of a long-lost vessel, a recently posted YouTube video that takes a deep dive into the innards of former Hamvention® venue Hara Arena has been attracting notice within the Amateur Radio community. The narrated video probe was posted on December 22 by Once Occupied, an urban exploration group that originated in Dayton, Ohio. It’s not the first video of the derelict Hara Arena since it closed — and since anything thought to be of value inside was auctioned off. The IRS put the Hara Arena complex itself on the auction block last August to satisfy a tax lien, but no successful bidder was ever announced.

It’s not clear whether the three-person Once Occupied expedition had permission to be inside Hara Arena nor how the individuals, who do not identify themselves, gained entry to the building complex. Among the more fascinating revelations was how much equipment, event paraphernalia, and just plain debris remain inside the 165,000-square foot Hara complex, which included an apartment.

“This is creepy and surreal, but I couldn’t turn it off and had to watch the whole thing,” allowed Pete Varounis, NL7XM, the QCWA’s official call sign historian, who shared the video with his colleagues on the QCWA board of directors. “You will recognize entire areas that teemed with activity during every Hamvention,” he continued. “It looks like raw footage from Chernobyl after the Russian nuclear disaster.”

The urban explorers were a bit more mundane. “The facilities include a bar pub, ballroom, conference center, ice rink, and four exhibition halls. This place is huge!” the narrative posted with the more than 20-minute video clip related. As the Once Occupied team noted, Hara Arena over the years played host to sports teams and top entertainers — including Elton John and the Rolling Stones — as well as to Hamvention. Hara’s shutdown in 2016 in part forced Hamvention’s move to its current venue at the Greene County Fairgrounds and Expo Center in Xenia.

A lot of this particular video covers parts of Hara Arena never seen by Hamventioneers — including catwalks, tunnels, and behind-the-scenes rooms and facilities such as offices, kitchen areas, and storerooms, some of which still contained unopened goods and supplies. File cabinets still store paper files, and abandoned computer and other equipment is scattered about. At least one box the group encountered contained new T shirts for a sports team that once made its home at Hara Arena. Some areas of the building’s interior seem to have been hit by a tornado. The explorers do not appear to take anything from Hara Arena or disturb what remained behind.

“Our passion is exploring abandoned places. We explore because we love adventure and the thrill of the hunt,” Once Occupied says on its Facebook page. “Documenting our journeys through digital media allows us to share the stories of the past.” The group warns that such urban exploration is not without risk and “not for everyone.”



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