Thomas Stadium to host wrestling fundraiser Aug. 1
NILES — Historic Thomas Stadium at the corner of Silverbrook and M-51 has a rich tradition when it comes to youth baseball and wrestling.
One tradition will hopefully aid the other when HCW Insurgence comes to the historic stadium at 3 p.m. Aug. 1 to help raise funds to repair the facility.
Former Niles Mayor Russ Thomas originally had the idea to build a softball stadium in 1946. Thomas was a local restauranteur, promotor and entrepreneur, who believed that by building a stadium, the city could attract a professional softball league.
The city selected the property next to Silverbrook Cemetery, and Thomas bought the rights to the world championship softball team previously sponsored by Bendix Corporation out of South Bend, Indiana.
Thomas’ plan included spending $15,000 to $20,000 for dressing rooms, bleachers, showers, restrooms, fencing and lighting. After five years, Thomas agreed to give the facility to the city of Niles in payment for the lease and including all improvements.
Professional softball never really caught on in the area after World War II. Niles officially took ownership of Thomas Stadium in 1951.
Since that time, the stadium has been the home of youth baseball. Besides baseball, the facility hosted donkey basketball games, wrestling, boxing exhibitions and even ice skating.
In 1970, the Greater Niles Babe Ruth League was incorporated, and Thomas Stadium became its home and one of the top baseball facilities in the Midwest.
League officials were able to bring some of the biggest tournaments that the organization offered to the city, including the 13-year-old World Series in 1983, the 14-15-year-old World Series in 1984, the Ohio Valley Regional in 1986 and the 16-18-year-old World Series in 1990.
Thomas Stadium, since its final usage by Babe Ruth, has slowly fallen into disrepair.
Greater Niles Baseball/Thomas Stadium is now seeking to raise at least $10,000 for repairs to the facility, including the bleachers, playing surface, concession stand, restrooms and press box.
A GoFundMe page has been established and has currently raised $2,381.
Recently, Dakota Jackson, the creator of the GoFundMe page and secretary for the Greater Niles Baseball and the president of the Thomas Stadium Adult Baseball league, announced that wrestling would return to the stadium.
Tickets for HCW Insurgence start at $10 per person and are now on sale. All proceeds from ticket sales will to the restoration project, according to John Rosetto, president of HWC.
Rosetto said he learned about Thomas Stadium through his father, who played baseball there as a youngster.
“He keeps in touch with everything that basically has to do with Niles,” he said. “He had mentioned that they were looking to do a renovation project. So, it kind of started from there because it is near and dear to my father’s heart. That is what kind of piqued my interest.”
Rosetto said he was also impressed with the history behind the stadium and its ties to wrestling.
“So, anything that my organization can try to do to help ensure that a community monument stays in place is something we felt we had to jump on,” he said. “We are happy to bring wrestling back to the stadium. We present a really family-oriented show. It is clean family fun. To put smiles on people’s faces is awesome, and if it helps out the community, that is an even bigger thing for us than anything.”
Rosetto said that HCW launched in January 2018.
“We are fairly new to the area,” he said. “We formulated our plans and what we wanted to do. We had our first show in June of 2018 and have been off and running from there. We have a show every three months, usually in Mishawaka. So, we are always looking to expand our reach a bit. We have been doing that through on-demand on YouTube with our HCW Insurgence television show that we are producing. This show will be on there and we are working with Amazon Prime to have it put there too.”
The event will be filmed live for HCW’s Insurgence YouTube program. Rosetto said that two shows are taped at each live event for the program.
There will be an HCW World Heavyweight Champion match featuring champion Travis Southern with Tanner Lockewood and a HCW National Champion match featuring champion Isaiah Moore.
Fans can also expect to see:
- HCW The All-American Hero Chris Owens
- HCW The Rat Pack led by Aaron Johns
- Tony Thunder
- Diesl Tracz
- Roger Lanier
- Steven Drochner
- Jayden Quick
- Theo Storm
There will also be the long-awaited return to HCW by The Celtic Nightmare and DW Kelley, while Solomon Stone will be making his HCW debut.
For more information, or to follow HCW, go to its website at hcwsports.com.