Locate Finger Lakes Business Journal

Geneva and Newark Teams Represent the Finger Lakes in Prestigious Collegiate Baseball League


Bob Ohmann wants young people to have the same opportunities he had growing up in Lyons, New York.

That is why you’ll find his name behind many of the educational, cultural and recreational assets in Wayne County in the Finger Lakes. And why today, as the owner of the Newark Pilots and Geneva Red Wings, he is helping the nation’s top collegiate athletes realize their dreams of playing or working in the major leagues.

From the stage to the playing field

Ohmann grew up selling popcorn and tickets at the landmark Ohmann Theatre, built in 1915 by his grandfather, Burt. Over the years, it hosted silent movies, vaudeville acts, and even amateur boxing matches. His father, Robert, managed the theater for decades until it was eventually sold in the late 1980s. In 2005, Bob bought the theater and completely restored it, continuing a century-old family legacy.

newak-pilots-logoFive years later, he and his wife, Leslie, founded the Newark Pilots. The team is a charter member of upstate New York’s Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League (PGCBL) and took home the league’s first title in 2011. The summer league’s name comes from its partnership with Perfect Game USA, which bills itself as the largest scouting service in baseball.

geneva-redwings-logoIn 2016, Bob and Leslie bought the Geneva Red Wings and moved the team from the New York Collegiate Baseball League to the PGCBL to provide those players with a better shot at the major leagues. Case in point: 20 players from the Newark Pilots have been MLB Draft picks.

“Collegiate baseball is a good pipeline for the major leagues,” said Ohmann.

Red Wings and Pilots players come from top schools across every coast of the U.S., from California to Texas, to Florida and upstate New York. “That level of talent also contributes to the quality of baseball in our area,” he added.

Home to historic ballparks and hall of famers

The Pilots and Red Wings play at historic ballparks that were the launching pad for future All-Stars and Hall of Famers.

Newark’s Colburn Park dates back to the 1930s. In 1968, the Newark Co-Pilots joined the New York-Penn League and were the first professional baseball team to play at Colburn Park. The park later hosted the minor league Newark Orioles. Famous alumni of the Newark Co-Pilots include National Baseball Hall of Famer Robin Yount, and All-Stars Kevin Base and Doug Jones.

geneva-red-wings-60-years-logoGeneva’s McDonough Park celebrates its 60th anniversary season this year. It opened in 1958 as Shuron Park, the home of the minor league Geneva Redlegs, one of the original teams of the New York-Penn League. National Baseball Hall of Famer Tony Pérez and MLB all-time hits leader Pete Rose made their professional debuts with the Redlegs in 1960.

All-Stars like Jamie Moyer, Bill Madlock, Mike Hargrove and Kent Tekulve also began their careers at McDonough Park. The Geneva Cubs were the last professional team to play there.

“Growing up, Colburn and Shuron were always the places you wanted to play,” said Ohmann. “As a kid, I went to Co-Pilots games at Colburn Park and my dad took me to Shuron Park to watch Pete Rose and all those guys play. That was always a special time.”

Years later, Ohmann saw an opportunity to revive two aging, but legendary, ballparks. He’s a “fixer,” someone who can find the promise beyond the challenge.

“When I look at things, I always want to fix it, because that’s what I do,” he said. “That’s my goal for everything – to make things better.”

Ohmann has invested much of his own money into upgrades and improvements at both the 2,200-seat Colburn Park and 3,000-seat McDonough Park.

“I’ve always thought you have to invest to make things better yourself,” said Ohmann. “Our playing fields are probably the best in the league.”

He credits the village of Newark and city of Geneva for being great partners in maintaining the facilities to provide the best experience possible for players and fans. Their support and responsiveness is unique among communities in the PGCBL, Ohmann noted.

“If I call someone, something happens the next day, and that makes this a really good economic area for teams like this,” he said.

An economic contributor on and off the field

Ohmann said the teams have an important economic impact on the region. Each team’s roster is about 30 players, and he estimates each player spends about $75 per day in the area. The impact is even greater when you consider the team’s spending in housing, busing and other necessities – and money spent at restaurants, shops and tourist attractions by parents and families who travel to the region for games.

What’s also important to Ohmann is the internship opportunities the teams provide. Many of its interns come from area schools like St. John Fisher College. It’s not only a great learning experience about the ins and outs of running a ballpark, but a springboard to a professional career. Last year, for example, a broadcast intern with the Pilots was hired by the New York Yankees.

Giving back and looking forward

As a student at Lyons Central School, Ohmann was a four-sport athlete, playing varsity football and baseball, basketball and tennis. He has invested heavily in initiatives for the Lyons Central School District, including athletic fields and lighting, and team uniforms. He also started the youth football program. In 2005, he was inducted into the school district’s Athletic Hall of Fame.

He was also a major benefactor of the Lyons Community Center which was newly constructed in 2005.

“All these things build pride in the community,” Ohmann said. “I look back on the sports I played in Lyons and it was always a fun place, a special place to grow up. I started giving back because I wanted to help. I guess I always wanted it to look like what I grew up with.”

Ohmann is a former homebuilder and founder of St. Lawrence Homes in Raleigh, NC. While no longer active in that business, in 2006, he and Leslie built a new home in Lyons.

“I think this area, between Geneva and Newark, has a lot of upside to it,” said Ohmann. “I think it’s got promise, there’s no question. I see more vibrancy here now than I’ve seen in years.”

Though Bob is a Yankees fan and Leslie is loyal to the Braves, the two make a great team. Under their leadership, the Geneva Red Wings and Newark Pilots will no doubt soar even higher.

There’s still time to catch an exciting game of collegiate baseball featuring the major league stars of tomorrow. Check out the team websites below for schedule and ticket information.

Geneva Red Wings at McDonough Park

180 Lyceum Street
Geneva, NY 14456

Newark Pilots at Colburn Park

1160 East Union Street
Newark, NY 14513

Krista Gleason is a contributor to the LOCATE FINGER LAKES Business Journal. She is a freelance writer and owner of Gleason Writes in the beautiful Finger Lakes.

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