Playing host to more than 50,000 people at ball games, plus youth, high school and college baseball games, dance clinics, concerts, a fundraising awareness walk, challenger sports activities, and an epic Halloween trick-or-treat event gave Batavia Muckdogs owner Robbie Nichols plenty to brag about Monday.
But then he saved the best for last, he said. Nichols and General Manager Marc Witt announced that a World Championship ice racing event was just confirmed for early next spring. But no ice skates are involved.
“We’re working with the arena with Matty Gray. And I think that he’s done a great job from what we’ve seen. We’ve been over there a bunch of times, working with him, trying to bring more business and people to the arena,” Nichols said. “And we were gonna announce today that on Friday, March 31, is going to be something Batavia has never seen before. We are bringing the World Championship XIIR, which is Extreme International Ice racing. So we’re bringing motorcycles on ice, these motorcyclists go 60 miles per hour, and they’ll be in the arena. And they go all around the country to big arenas, and we’re gonna bring it here to Batavia on March 31.”
What did it take to get this world event here? As Witt sort of shook his head at the thought, Nichols said it wasn’t easy.
“It takes a lot. They’re coming from all across the world. So Scotland, England … some of these racers, their Speedway bikes, they go zero to 60 miles per hour with no breaks. They have studded tires. So there’ll be Speedway bikes,” Nichols said. “There’ll be a quad-riding class. So there are people around here that race on ice. They’ll be invited to come out and race too we’ll have a go-kart series. So it’s going to be really neat.”
There will be more public announcements about the event and “very limited” tickets, he said. There are an estimated 450 to 500 people that can fit into the arena, he said, and he fully expects the venue to be “packed and sold out.” Tickets are likely to go on sale just before Christmas, he said.
Being classified as a world championship, this event next year means more than just a unique happening for Batavia. It also signals a potential uptick for the city’s economy due to people traveling from all points of the globe and staying and eating locally.
Speaking of numbers, Dwyer Stadium hosted 50,000 people for Muckdogs games this season, which made for a total of 84,000 visitors to the Bank Street park. There were more than 40 high school games, challenger division baseball, 30 youth baseball games, a showdown game between the city police and fire departments, an Alzheimer’s walk kick-off, use of the field in September and October by Geneseo State College, and the Zac Brown and Margaritaville concerts.
Costumed visitors swelled from last year’s 500 trick-or-treaters and 2,000 families to this past Saturday’s 2,100 trick-or-treaters and 5,000 families for the annual spooky fun festivities with vendors and free candy.
“It was a zoo,” Witt said.
Staffers had to go out and buy more candy — some $500 more — to feed the masses that formed a line all the way down Denio Street and wrapping its way along State Street toward Batavia High School.
The Dwyer to-do list includes additional netting to ensure that spectators aren’t hit by foul balls and a party deck, and several items have already been completed, such as painting locker rooms, power washing, adding a new bullpen to the vision team area, new cooking appliances, the addition of 30 tables and 100 chairs in the main office, and even the finer details of updating toilet paper rolls and paper holders in the men’s and women’s restrooms.
With a track record of hosting 120 events this season, averaging 20 events per month from April to October, including 22 picnics, Dwyer Stadium “has something going on,” Nichols said. He and the staff have set a goal to have something going on every single day, he said.
Events weren’t just about drawing crowds to the stadium, but also about team participation in parades and Nichols’ favorite event, Challenger Division Baseball. Staff and team players work alongside people with various disabilities to enjoy a real game as participants.
“This is our favorite event. We take a day out when we play with the challenger divisions, we have a real game,” he said. “They’re the stars of the show.”
Season ticket holders have risen from 100 to more than 500 since taking over operations as owner in 2021, he said. Nichols, who is also the owner of CAN-USA Sports since 2012, is well prepared for next season with the Muckdogs, having 30 players in place already for a championship next season, he said.
He is looking to extend his lease with the city, after two years down and three to go. He and Witt thanked council members and management for “trusting CAN-USA Sports.”
Councilman Bob Bialkowski encouraged them to “keep up the good work” while member John Canale suggested that the enterprise “is your baby.”
“You’ve created that; we’re very grateful for what you’ve done,” Canale said.
A modest Nichols said it wasn’t about him and Witt.
“It’s the community that makes it possible, “ he said.
Top Photo: Batavia Muckdogs General Manager Marc Witt, left, and owner Robbie Nichols present a recap of this year at Dwyer Stadium in Batavia (by Joanne Beck); photos of the Halloween trick-or-treat event this past Saturday, including Robbie and wife Nellie, above. Photos by Howard Owens.