Bill Denman and Family (Inducted in 2014)
It all started with Bill Sr. making a call to the Western New York Sports Committee for details on how to get the project off the ground. The organization looked it over, signed off on the idea, and things started rolling. Bill enrolled the help of fellow promoter Dave Robinson, who would become a partner and also provide necessary equipment such as the starting gate. If you’ve ever been to Frozen Ocean, the most obvious thing when you pull in, besides the rolling hills of the surrounding area, is the early-model Suzuki, also donated by Dave, which proudly adorns the entrance to the facility. “It was probably in perfect working condition when we put it up there,” remarks Bill Sr. with a nostalgic smile.
The entire track was designed by his son, Bill Denman Jr. Drawing on his own experience as a racer, he put all his efforts into designing a track that would be challenging enough for experienced riders, forgiving for beginners, and most importantly, fun for racers and spectators alike. Constantly searching for obstacles that would best suit the riders, he would watch televised races, visit other tracks, talk to the riders, and draw on his personal knowledge of tracks around the country. He was constantly on the lookout for any ideas that would set Frozen Ocean apart and give riders a taste of obstacles from national caliber tracks. From the jump, the Denman's sought to create a track that would surpass expectations and leave riders and fans craving for more. “I would go to other tracks and see what was working, and what I thought I could do better”, remarks Bill Sr. That quest for perfection meant that the facility would forever be evolving and improving upon itself.
In March of 1987 they began to carve the track out of the rich, loamy hillside. Already possessing the necessary machinery, and with the help of family and friends, the undertaking was completed in short order. The original track was rigorously tested by Bill Jr. and local pro-rider, Chris Coleman. Bill Sr. remembers Chris going out and riding the track until he was out of gas, refilling, and then doing it all over again. After a few modest changes, the pair deemed the track ready for racing. At the same time, tremendous work was also being done to upgrade the facility itself. Bill’s other son, Dave, brought in nearly two thousand tons of gravel and dirt from the farm, in addition to purchasing eighteen-hundred tons of gravel, to construct the driveways, parking lots, and building sites. Bill Sr. constantly strived to be a leader in the motocross community, and his track would be the first in the district to offer flush-toilet facilities. A large pavilion, also a first in the district, was soon to follow which would serve as a rider sign-up area, concession stand, and a refuge from the heat of the summer sun.
In 1991 Bill Jr. meticulously planned and built another track on the property, which was to be raced on Saturday night. The new track was shorter, and with less elevation changes, more reminiscent of a Supercross track. In fact, the Denman's even called their new racing enterprise “Supercross”. However, a debate with the AMA forced them to change it to Arenacross, which it remained until in 2004 it again changed names to “Night Motocross” when the track was expanded and made more rider-friendly. The changes were well received by riders and fans alike, and the Saturday-night events quickly became a staple of their racing promotion. Frozen Ocean also featured four-wheeler racing and a successful go-kart track until insurance issues, and the strain of racing Friday, Saturday, and Sunday got to be too much to safely continue, and both programs were scrapped.
Since its first race in April of 1987, Frozen Ocean has continuously been evolving into one of the premier racing facilities in the state. Some recent amenities include a complete irrigation and watering system that covers both tracks, announcer’s towers complete with a state of the art sound system that covers the entire facility, concrete starting pads, more flush toilets in the pit area, a professional lighting system for the Night MX track, and a 22-foot concession trailer with a 4-foot grill that can be towed from track to track. In 2009, a new fully-wired ticket booth was built, and also a display board near the sign-up area which will feature the pictures and names of past race winners.
If you ever talk to Mr. Denman and his wife, it is obvious that throughout the years, motocross has been the driving force in the Denman family. “It all goes back to family.” Bill Sr. proudly states. “It’s taken a lot of our life.” Mrs. Denman adds, “What I love most is when the young kids get trophies bigger than they are. It’s nice to see that.”
To this day, Bill Sr. spends countless hours making sure everything is in perfect working order so that racers and fans can enjoy themselves without having to worry about the condition of the facility. Ever the humble man, he insists that the best payback he’s received for all his efforts is the praise of the riders and spectators. When asked what his best moment at the track was, he was silent for a minute and then said simply, “I’ve made an awful lot of good friends.”