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Muckdogs owner eager to strengthen 'marriage' with city by long-term contract

By Joanne Beck
robbie nichols muckdogs
Batavia Muckdogs owner Robbie Nichols, his wife Nellie and General Manager Marc Witt sit in the audience during a City Council meeting as they wait for the city leaders to discuss an updated contract for Dwyer Stadium Monday evening at City Hall.
Photo by Joanne Beck

These past two years may have seemed like a honeymoon phase for Batavia Muckdogs owner Robbie Nichols and the City of Batavia, but he and his CAN-USA Sports team are ready to take it to the next level, he says.

“You know, we've had great success here in Batavia with the Muckdogs and all the different things that take place at the Dwyer Stadium. And we're willing to make a long commitment to the city. And I think the city's willing to make a long commitment to us,” Nichols said after getting the City Council’s nod of approval for a lease renewal Monday evening. “It's been a great marriage. And we've really enjoyed working with the city. And I think they enjoy working with us. So we're ready to make a long-term commitment.”

Nichols, aka CAN-USA Sports, took over the lease for Dwyer Stadium in January 2021 and operated for three seasons as part of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League. 

Due to the success at the stadium — which features local favorite Batavia Muckdogs, live concerts, a dance team, high school baseball, festivals, and kid-friendly events, including the upcoming blow-out for Halloween, a trick-or-treat night — city leaders offered a longer contract this time around.

Beginning in April, there will be a rent payment of $7,500, which will increase to $10,000 in 2025. Then in 2026, the rent is to increase to $11,500, along with a capital payment of $5,000. Rent and a capital payment will gradually increase from there for a total rent of $17,758 and a capital payment of $9,900 on April 1, 2040.

Capital payments will be placed in a reserve fund for use on facility improvements, per agreement between the landlord and tenant for projects of more than $25,000. 

Part of the lease includes targeted capital improvement program projects, including painting and installing new flooring in the home and visiting team locker rooms; replacing home and visiting team locker room signage; installing new and upgrading sound equipment; repairing and or replacing outfield fencing; redesigning Dwyer Stadium landscaping and repairing or replacing home and visiting team bullpen areas.

City Manager Rachael Tabelski recommended that the council move a resolution forward for a vote to approve the updated lease agreement. Nichols has pledged “to make aesthetic improvements at the stadium and to pay rent in each of those years as listed in the contract and capital fees,” she said. The extension is in three terms of five years each.+

“I just want to say thank you for all you've done out there. I mean, I see signs all over the place, fireworks, Fourth of July, you're really doing a great job,” Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. said. “Thank you very much. Are we in consensus?”

Council members gave an unofficial thumbs up, with the official vote to come during the next business meeting on Oct. 10. 

Nichols, his wife Nellie, and General Manager Marc Witt patiently sat through the entire meeting to get that good news since the agenda item was near the end. As per their usual, the Nichols and Witt were dressed in red and white Muckdogs gear, representing the team they have fully come to embrace as part of the Batavia community.

There have been many different events at the stadium, from various types of musical groups and entertainers to the latest annual Halloween fest, which last year drew a line of ghosts and goblins that wrapped around the corner. The Batavian had heard that the stadium might host a future Italian festival and asked Robbie if there was any truth to that.

“There's a rumor going around that we're looking at that. So we're always looking. We've always said it's the city's building, you know, the citizen’s building. Whatever we can do there that attracts more people, we’d love to do,” he said. “We definitely want more events and different events, and we're open to a lot of different things. We've already had a lot of different things there. The Halloween event has had huge success, and so whatever we can think of, we'll try it.”

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