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Hotel of Terror owner Sterling Mathis may relocate the attraction to his nearby Dungeons of Doom property. 
SBJ file 
Hotel of Terror owner Sterling Mathis may relocate the attraction to his nearby Dungeons of Doom property. 

Rezoning may pave way for relocation of Hotel of Terror 

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Last edited 8:12 a.m., Feb. 16, 2024 [Editor’s note: City of Springfield officials said the main goal of obtaining the Hotel of Terror building is to pave the way for updates to the Main Street bridge. Officials also said its Renew Jordan Creek project would not extend to the proposed relocation of the attraction, while the owner contents it will be the “front door” of the development. The story has been updated.]

A rezoning measure taken up by Springfield City Council Feb. 12 would pave the way for the relocation of the Hotel of Terror haunted attraction. 

Council heard first reading of the measure to rezone 1 acre at 701 W. Wall St. to a city center district from its current designation of heavy manufacturing.  

The city proposed the zoning change, which would allow the Dungeons of Doom haunted attraction – housed in a former grain mill – to expand so that it can incorporate the Hotel of Terror, a haunted hotel attraction located at 334 N. Main Ave. 

The city attempted to take over the Hotel of Terror building by invoking eminent domain a year ago this month, but by May, owner Sterling Mathis had obtained enough petition signatures to put a referendum on the ballot to stop the city’s efforts. 

The city wants to take over the property to replace the Main Avenue bridge that is located in front of the Hotel of Terror, according to city officials. As Springfield Business Journal previously reported, the bridge is in poor condition. It is located in the area of the City Utilities bus transit center at 211 N. Main Ave, and in its current condition it is not rated to accommodate vehicles weighing more than 10 tons, including city buses and fire trucks. 

The hotel is also positioned at the western end of the Renew Jordan Creek project area, and the creek runs through box culverts located by the building’s base. 

Mathis told Springfield Business Journal that he and the city remain far apart in their negotiations, even though he said the city had recently doubled its offer for his property to $500,000. According to Greene County assessor records, the 8,900-square-foot Hotel of Terror building has an appraised value of $150,800. It’s a figure that Mathis has said fails to take into consideration the value of a 45-year-old seasonal business and the difficulty of moving custom built-in features. 

Renew Jordan Creek is a city project that aims to restore Jordan Creek, a buried waterway that runs through Springfield, by eliminating box culverts and modifying the existing floodplain areas. In concert with the daylighting of the creek, plans call for parklike living and working areas to be established along the creek banks. 

The zoning measure solves a parking problem Dungeons of Doom would face if it were to take in the Hotel of Terror attraction. The city center zoning designation does not require off-street parking and would accommodate both the commercial amusement and other possible mixed-use developments, according to a report by Senior City Planner Daniel Neal. 

Mathis told SBJ that under the current heavy manufacturing zoning, he must provide one parking space for every third person of occupancy, so to accommodate the 140 people the building is rated for, he would need 47 parking spaces.  

“I don’t have enough land to do that many parking spaces,” he said. 

Mathis said the city handled the rezoning request, which he said he suggested based on how parking is achieved by bars and restaurants downtown. 

“We’re very close to downtown, and the park is going to continue to move this way and be right in front of this building,” he said. 

He said his vision is to move everything currently on the first floor of Dungeons of Doom up one floor to allow the whole first floor to be retail. 

“If they do this park and continue it on to the west from Main Avenue, we’re going to be on the front row of that,” he said. “It’s a great place for ice cream shops, trinket stores, whatever – if they do what they say.” 

Mathis repeated a refrain from previous comments to the media, noting he does not want to be a barrier to the city’s plans. 

“I’m trying to work with them as much as I possibly can,” he said. “I’m not trying to hold up their park over there, but I don’t want to be bankrupt, either.” 

While he has room in the Dungeons of Doom building to accommodate the contents of the Hotel of Terror, he noted they are very different attractions. 

“The Hotel of Terror is tight –  claustrophobic. That’s the draw,” he said. “You have to disorient people. You have to make them get out of their comfort zone – then you can scare them.” 

He said the city wants him to make all of his ceilings 7.5 feet tall and wide enough for a wheelchair. 

“If you walk into a room big enough for two wheelchairs to get through, people who can run are going to run, and you can’t scare them when they run,” he said. “We’ve just got to be able to make this work to where everybody wins.” 

Mathis said he continues to work with the city, and he called the proposed zoning change a step in the right direction. 

“A lot more of this area should be zoned that way, too, to open it up for more retail and bring some life back to this area,” he said. 

When asked how much he is seeking in a deal with the city, Mathis said by the city’s own estimate, it will cost at least $2 million to recreate his Hotel of Terror inside the other building, so that figure comes close. 

He said he is concerned the city will try to invoke eminent domain again in the future. 

“I told them if they do that, I will never leave this location – I will stay here forever,” he said. “But if they work with me, I’ll work with them.” 

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