Rhinos Leaving Marina Auto Stadium, Shifting to USL DIII

Marina Auto Stadium

The Rochester Rhinos are shifting from USL to USL DIII, and in the process abandoning Marina Auto Stadium, once pitched as a future MLS stadium, in favor of a new stadium somewhere else in Monroe County.

The move won’t happen until the 2020 season, leaving the USL DIII at the current level (six committed teams, four potential more).The Rhinos will be vacating Marina Auto Stadium (shown above) by the end of the year and basically start from scratch, on the lookout for a new home and entering a new league.

“After careful consideration and discussions with a number of our stadium partners and the United Soccer League, and after assessing the totality of our last three years as a tenant of the City of Rochester, we have determined that it is time for the Rochester Rhinos to move on from this venue,” said Rochester Rhinos Co-Owners David and Wendy Dworkin.

Remember: the Dworkins fought hard to keep the lease at Marina Auto Stadium, scheduling neutral-field USL matches in order to fulfill the specifics of the lease. After all that work to keep the lease, the Dworkins now say they’re seeking a new venue. But if you were working to establish pro soccer in Rochester, wouldn’t you begin at Marina Auto Stadium? More from their statement:

“Along with our decision to vacate the stadium, we have also determined that fielding the Rhinos in our current Division II league is not sustainable locally at this time. While we are disappointed that the Rhinos will no longer be playing in Division II; we remain committed to keeping professional soccer in our community and building upon its rich history in this region. To that end, the USL has approved our inclusion in USL Division III, subject to a suitable stadium plan, along with community and business support….

“We have preliminarily identified several possible sites within Monroe County where a new multi-purpose stadium could be constructed. While we are still in the very early stages, our next step in this process will be to study the operational and financial feasibility of our plans, which includes discussions with potential stakeholders who can share a multi-use facility to further drive local economic benefit. We recently shared our plans with county officials and look forward to future discussions on this exciting project.”

There will be opposition, mainly from the folks who pushed from state funding of Marina Auto Stadium. From the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle:

Once envisioned to help propel the Rhinos to Major League Soccer, the stadium also was a major investment in a challenged part of the city. Assemblyman David Gantt, D-Rochester, who pushed for the location just north of downtown, called the Rhinos’ exit “a crying shame,” saying it was “unfortunate we have to get here,” but that he would not support state funding to build yet another stadium elsewhere.

More than $20 million in state funding went into the stadium, which opened in 2006….

For the neighborhood, which is seeing new housing investment and, thus, new residents, it’s a step backward, said Scott Benjamin, president and CEO of the Charles Settlement House, and an active neighborhood leader who arrived with the stadium opening. There has been noticeably less activity at the venue this summer, he said, still neighbors were hopeful for the team’s return. Now the concern is that it doesn’t become “just a great abandoned space.”

From the City of Rochester:

“Today’s decision by the soccer team’s management to cease operation at the stadium will pave the way for the City to move forward at that facility. This past year in limbo with the stadium management has resulted in significant taxpayer investment to cover expenses with very little use of the facility for the community.  Until the soccer team made its decision, out of good faith, we have not been able to engage other interested parties in discussions about the future reuse of this public facility and we are now able to begin those discussions with protection of our taxpayers as a paramount factor.”

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August Publications