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Rochester Rhinos cancel 2018 season after missing goal

December 01, 2017 12:06 AM

The Rochester Rhinos' 2018 season will not happen after the team missed its financial goals, officials announced Thursday.

Earlier this month, Rhinos leaders announced the team would need to raise $1.3 million to make the 2018 season happen. Thursday was the deadline to raise that money, but in a statement, the team announced it would take a one-year hiatus.

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The team hoped to raise the funds with ticket sales, sponsorships and a cut of the Hotel Occupancy Tax. But, the city and county made it clear last week they wouldn't divert any funds from the hotel tax to Capelli Sports Stadium -- where the Rhinos play.

In the statement Thursday the Rhinos owner said, "We will continue to work diligently with supporters, the regional business community and government leaders to solidify a foundation for sustained success, including placing Capelli Sport Stadium on equal footing with other facilities in Monroe County and the City of Rochester."

As part of the hotel tax, the county sends $1.7 million to the city. The city splits that money up for the Blue Cross Arena and the convention center. Speaking with News10NBC, a city spokesperson told News10NBC giving the Rhinos a cut didn't make any sense.

"What you're asking me is if you change those dollars, and divert dollars to another facility, it would leave a gap of funding in the other facilities," said James Smith, director of communications. "All you're doing is robbing Peter to pay Paul."

"On behalf of the county taxpayers, we're not going to divert any more hotel-motel tax from the arts, and tourism at this point," Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo also told News10NBC.

In its statement, the Rhinos said there is a chance that, after 2018, the team could be moved. Officials wrote, "While that is not our intent, we cannot rule that out. The Rhinos are one of the most respected and storied professional soccer franchises in the United States, and multiple cities are eager to establish their own teams."

Capelli Sports Stadium will still host some USL regular season games next year, the Rhinos say. The Junior Rhinos youth soccer program will also continue and the stadium will host events like concerts and festivals in 2018.

Fans who purchased season tickets in the fundraising bid will get refunds starting December 5.

“We want to sincerely thank our fans, sponsors, players, coaches and staff for their unwavering enthusiasm, and their attempts to rally others,” said Rhinos co-owner David Dworkin in the statement.

In response, a city spokesperson said Thursday evening:

“The City of Rochester remains supportive of our professional soccer team,” said James Smith, Director of the City’s Communications and Special Events Bureau. “While understandable, the decision by the owners of the Rochester Rhinos to suspend play next year is, nonetheless, disappointing on many levels.  Rochester has a long history of professional soccer and today’s announcement is clearly a disappointment for our region’s soccer community and fans.  Obviously this decision also calls into question the future of the soccer stadium itself and how that will impact the neighborhoods that surround it.
 
“Since the City inherited this facility, it has been a budgetary challenge.  Nonetheless, Rochester has invested significant funds into the ongoing maintenance, operation and capital needs of the facility – having spent nearly $1.6 million over the past two years alone.
 
“While it is disappointing that the Rhinos were not able to attract additional community support for their business model, it is not feasible or appropriate for City government to subsidize the team’s operation given the already large public investment being made in the facility.
 
“With the decision to suspend team operations next year, City officials will need to meet with the Rhinos management to discuss how their decision fits within the existing lease agreement.”

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