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Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill being sued over 2021 steel structure collapse

May 14, 2023May 14, 2023

The general contractor for the Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill project is suing the company, its owner, one of its subcontractors, and multiple insurance agencies related to the March 2021 collapse of a steel structure.

Spooky Nook general contractor PCS &Build filed in Butler County Common Pleas Court on Feb. 10, an 11-count civil lawsuit against Champion Mill Land LLC, Spooky Nook owner Sam Beiler, PCS's subcontractor Sofco Erectors Inc., and the insurance companies Intact (Atlantic Specialty Insurance Company) and Old Republic. The general contractor claims they’re owned millions of dollars in costs and damages.

The $165 million Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill development incorporates the former Champion Mill paper plant that shut down in 2012. Several years ago, Beiler announced he would build a second Spooky Nook development, mirroring in many ways the original development in Manheim, Penn.

The Champion Mill Convention Center and Warehouse Hotel, known as Mill 2 on the east side of North B Street, came online in phases starting in mid-2022. The sports complex, known as Mill 1, started to come online in December, and has since hosted a few events that attracted thousands of new visitors to Hamilton.

Spooky Nook officials said they have engaged outside counsel "and intends to vigorously prosecute its claims against PCS &Build." While they have not yet filed any counterclaims to the lawsuit, that is the company's intent.

This civil suit mostly surrounds the catastrophic collapse of what was called Building 500, a field dome that was to be a pre-engineered metal building. On March 26, 2021, strong winds blew through Hamilton, leveling all the steel beams erected. No one was injured in the collapse, but neighbors told the Journal-News then it sounded like a bombing.

PCS claims in their suit that Champion Mill Land LLC, which is the business name operating Spooky Nook, failed on a number of fronts, including to properly insure the project and give written notice about an intent to allegedly purchase noncompliant builder's risk insurance prior to the start of the Spooky Nook project.

When PCS went to file a claim with Intact for the collapse of Building 500, they were told by Intact, the insurer for the overall project, the risk coverage was limited to $250,000. PCS said it should have been the full cost of the collapse, which they claim in the suit exceeded $756,7000.

That's the amount they’re seeking from Sofco and their insurers, Old Republic Insurance and Old Republic Surety.

The lawsuit says that Intact and Champion Mill both indicated the collapse was due to an alleged failure by Sofco. Intact said there was "alleged inadequate lateral bracing implemented by Sofco during steel erection as the cause of the collapse," according to court documents, which also indicate Champion Mill indicated there were "potential lateral-bracing concerns."

Spooky Nook officials said the collapse happened "while under PCS &Build's supervision and control."

"Since that time, Spooky Nook has attempted to work through the timing and cost impacts of that collapse and to negotiate with PCS, related insurance companies, and other relevant parties to resolve their liability for that collapse," according to the company. "Also, since that time, PCS failed and refused to timely complete its work under the terms of its contracts."

Spooky Nook officials said PCS is, through its civil suit, "seeking to recover for its incomplete work, even including the remaining value of the collapsed building ― despite the insurance carrier's conclusion that PCS’ trade contractors caused the collapse by their own faulty workmanship."

But the lawsuit isn't just about the collapse of the building. PCS also claims Spooky Nook "materially breached" its contract by failing to provide an additional timeline for performance, being delinquent on outstanding approved payments, and failing to "timely finance the project."

They specifically claim Beiler refused to pay additional and changed work performed by PCS at his direction. That claim is said to be supported by a project financing letter, but details were filed under seal. PCS alleges that letter increased the guaranteed maximum price for the Mill 1 project to $73 million, which was initially guaranteed not to exceed $69.89 million, according to the lawsuit.

Overall, PCS claims Champion Mill and Beiler owe more than $11.9 million in damages.

Spooky Nook officials said that the Champion Mill and Historic Mill projects "remain funded and prepared to pay all contractors as permitted by the contract and applicable law. Unfortunately, the PCS litigation will inevitably delay this process."

This lawsuit will not impact any day-to-day operations, and officials added that they "have worked hard to remain open and operational, and to make sure that PCS's incomplete work will not affect our guests’ incredible experiences."

About the Author

Michael D. Pitman has been a reporter in southwest Ohio since 1999. He's covered local governments in Warren and Butler counties, as well as state and national issues. He currently covers the cities of Fairfield and Hamilton.