The Rochester Rhinos will no longer call Marina Auto Stadium home and could see a new multi-purpose stadium within Monroe County.
The announcement came Wednesday from Rochester Stadium Operations, the company that operates the stadium and the Rhinos soccer team. Wendy and David Dworkin, co-owners of the Rhinos, said they made the decision after discussions with stadium partners, the USL, and looking at the last three years as a tenant of the City of Rochester.
The Dworkins say this decision will give the team its best chance to still play locally.
“I think like anything, the sports industry has changed and the needs of the facility has changed, and we need to modernize and grow with those changes,” said Wendy Dworkin.
The Dworkins decided in November 2017 that they would be taking a hiatus for the 2018 USL season after they failed to raise the necessary funds to stay in business.
“We can now plant our flag where we want to plant it,” said David Dworkin.
They say they’ve been in touch with Monroe County during the search for a new location. The Dworkins say they want to new venue to be a multi-purpose facility, which David says needs to be, “a destination.”
On Wednesday, the Rhinos were approved to join USL Division III by the 2020 season. The team is currently a Division II team; Division III is a step down, but more cost-efficient to run, according to the Dworkins.
“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,” the Dworkins said.
Meanwhile, some fans, especially those who live near Marina Auto Stadium, are heartbroken to hear the team won’t be returning.
“I wish they’d work a deal out so they could stay, because that’s big for the community,” said Abdul Sufi, who says he’s been a fan since childhood. “This right here is a beautiful field. It’s a professional type of atmosphere.”
His friend, Abdirizak Isak, says leaving the stadium without a professional team is disappointing.
“Like a waste. It’s just there for no reason,” said Isak.
Both said they hope the city can find new usage for the facility, and keep people coming to the stadium for big events.
“For them to put that much time and money in, they got to use it for something,” said Sufi. “They’re not using it to the full capacity, that’s for sure.”
The Rhinos also announced that the Junior Rhinos teams will continue to play in 2019.
“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,” said James Smith, Director of Communications & Special Events. “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.”
Monroe County spokesman Jesse Sleezer tells 13WHAM, “Rhinos ownership recently informed the County that they are considering alternative locations within our region for a new stadium. That is the extent of the County’s involvement.” — WHAM 13