Austin Ice Bats
|Austin Ice Bats|
|Founded||1996 (In the WPHL)|
|Home arena||Chaparral Ice|
|Colors||blue, white, yellow|
|Head coach||Brent Hughes|
|Affiliates||Minnesota Wild (NHL)
Houston Aeros (AHL)
|1996–2008||Austin Ice Bats|
The Austin Ice Bats was a professional minor-league ice hockey team based in Austin, Texas, United States. They played in Austin from 1996 to 2008. Affiliated with the Central Hockey League, the team was named in honor of the Mexican Free-tailed Bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) which nest under the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge in the city. Their affiliates were the NHL's Minnesota Wild and the AHL's Houston Aeros. The team's last head coach was former NHL player Brent Hughes.
The team was established in 1996 and played home games in Luedecke Arena at the Travis County Exposition Center, a multi-purpose building which was furnished with skating ice and dubbed the "Bat Cave" for the games. The team was original affiliated with the Western Professional Hockey League. The Ice Bats joined several other WPHL teams in a merger with the CHL in 2001.
In May 2008, the team announced it was leaving Austin due to lack of fan support at Chaparral Ice. Anticipated competition with the announced AHL Texas Stars has also been cited as a factor. It is unknown where the team intends to relocate to, though apparently an unsuccessful attempt was made to relocate to Ford Arena in Beaumont, Texas for the 2008-09 season.
On February 15, 2006, the Ice Bats announced they would vacate the Travis County Exposition Center and relocate to Chaparral Ice, near Austin's northeast border with neighboring Pflugerville. The Ice Bats cited scheduling conflicts at the Expo Center as the main reason for the move. Chaparral Ice proved to be an unsuccessful venue and seated only 500 fans.
The team had several announcers over the years. The first was Mark "Space Wrangler" Martello, followed by Glen "Sharky" Norman and Brian Rea. Bob Fonseca was the first PA announcer. Philip Billnitzer covered the Bats for the Austin-American during the inaugural season and continued to cover them for CitySearch.com for two more seasons.