Rochester Rhinos' owner: 'We are at a crossroads'

A day after the departure of the club's veteran coach, Bob Lilley, the Rochester Rhinos' owners announced they need to raise $1.3 million in ticket sales, the sale of stadium suites and sponsorships to stay in business.

“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 Rochester real-estate attorney David Dworkin, the team’s co-owner, in a 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.”

The Rhinos set Nov. 30 as the date when a decision on the 2018 season must be reached.

Declining support. The announcement is not a surprise. The Rhinos averaged just 2,031 fans a game, the second lowest, above only Charlotte, among the USL's independent teams. Nine independent teams averaged at least 5,000 fans a game. Seven MLS second teams average less than 2,000 fans a game.

At the start of the season, Dworkin, who with his wife Wendy bought the Rhinos in 2016, said the club's current situation was an unsustainable business model. They lost a reported $1.7 million with an average attendance of 3,655.

Before 2016, the Rhinos never averaged under 5,000 fans a game in their 20 seasons. They averaged a season-high of 11,628 in 1999 when they played in the USL A-League and won the Open Cup. They moved into their new soccer stadium in 2006.

Revenue sources. The Rhinos are seeking $1.3 million they need from:

-- Jersey sponsorships;
-- Season-tickets sales;
-- Suites sales; and
-- New corporate sponsorships.

Hotel tax. The Rhinos are also seeking a share of Monroe County Hotel Room Occupancy Tax revenues. One of Dworkin's beefs has been that other area facilities -- Blue Cross Arena, Rochester Riverside Convention Center and Frontier Field -- receive revenues from the hotel tax -- $8.1 million in 2017 -- but the Rhinos' Capelli Sport Stadium hasn't.

3 comments about "Rochester Rhinos' owner: 'We are at a crossroads'".
  1. R2 Dad, November 16, 2017 at 12:35 a.m.

    Too bad USSF has sold their soul to SUM. First thing I'd like the new USSF president to do is cancel the SUM contract. Why is SUM integrating Liga MX into the american fabric? The only answer is money, and that's not good enough. Why are we giving Liga MX more access to the american market? It's like admission MLS can't serve Mexican-Americans, and we're financing a direct competitor to MLS.....wut? F that--I want a media company to facilitate the integration of our soccer leagues into one big viewership offering. Where is USL? Where is NASL? Oh, that's right, Garber and Sunil only care about MLS. No TV option for the Rhinos, or Cosmos, or any lower level league. I can watch Bundesliga 2 on my laptop, but not the Rhinos? Sunil, you've been failing American soccer and you need to go!

  2. George Gorecki, November 16, 2017 at 8:28 a.m.

    It's actually pretty to watch the Rhinos on TV/online:

  3. R2 Dad replied, November 16, 2017 at 11:04 a.m.

    Thanks for the link, but how would I know that? After a couple of minutes on their site, there is this link showing radio and cable contacts: but nothing there about streaming. There are videos on Youtube claiming that Rhino matches are streamed and they appear as replays. Compare this to the Fox offering that is $12 per month: I can watch live events and/or replays of Bundesliga 1 and 2, rugby, UEFA champions league and Copa Libratores all from one site. US U team world cup matches, etc etc.  Why can't I get something like this for American soccer? You would think this would be a no-brainer, that USSF would be the first to package this together to trumpet american soccer. Nope. We are undeserving.

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