Rochester Rhinos 2018 Season in Jeopardy

Rochester Rhinos

The owners of the Rochester Rhinos are calling on the community to offer its financial support, saying it is needed to ensure that the team survives into 2018.  

In an announcement issued on Wednesday, the Rhinos said that the estimated that $1.3 million will be needed to keep the franchise active for 2018. Rhinos owners David and Wendy Dworkin, who took control of the team in 2016, say that a decision on the team’s 2018 status has to be made by November 30 and are calling on businesses and community members to help bring in the necessary funds by that date.

“We are at a crossroads, and need to find a path that will bring sustained success for the Rhinos and all they mean to Rochester,” said David Dworkin in a press statement.  “We want the Rhinos legacy to continue, and doing so means creating a partnership that includes more than just the players, die-hard fans and a few dedicated corporate supporters. New sponsors and the community have to join us – it takes a team to successfully run a team.”

Founded in 1996, the Rhinos were at one point a one of the success stories in professional United States soccer, frequently drawing large crowds to Frontier Field and even pushing for MLS entry at one point in time. However, financial difficulties for the organization have loomed over the last several years. More from The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle:

The Dworkins bought the Rhinos before the 2016 season after City of Rochester officials terminated the city’s agreement with former owner Rob Clark’s Adirondack Sports Group, which owned the team from 2008-15. Unhappy with Clark’s management, the USL worked with the city and took over the Rhinos for several weeks. Finally, the Dworkins were formally introduced in early March as new owners. Despite the optimism of new ownership and coming off a USL championship in 2015, attendance dipped to 3,655 per match in 2016 — ninth in the USL — and the lowest in team history and dropped to 2,031 last season (22nd in the 30-team USL).

A couple from Brighton who met as students at Syracuse University, the Dworkins own several properties around the Rochester area. They hoped their business acumen would help them connect with the corporate community locally but sponsorship has still lagged.

The owners said they lost about $1.5 million in 2016.

According to their announcement, the Rhinos believe that the $1.3 million could be raised through a variety of sources. That includes $600,000 in sales for new season tickets and luxury suites, $160,000 from jersey sponsorships, and $540,000 from a combination of corporate partnerships and a slice of Monroe County hotel room occupancy tax revenues. The city-owned Capelli Sports Stadium has not received a cut of that revenue, which has been distributed to other Rochester-area venues. Decisions on the distribution of that revenue are made by the Monroe County Legislature. Per the Democrat & Chronicle, the county issued a statement on the matter:

County spokesman Jesse L. Sleezer issued this statement in response: “Monroe County has an obligation to support the Rochester Red Wings and does so through Hotel-Motel Tax sharing because the County owns and operates Frontier Field. Capelli Stadium is not owned and operated by Monroe County.

“Monroe County is not prepared to divert taxpayer dollars to the Rhinos that would otherwise be invested in regional tourism assets, including local arts, museums, and parks.”

The Rhinos moved into Capelli Sport Stadium in 2006, when it was still known as PAETEC Park.

Image courtesy Rochester Rhinos.

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