Rhinos owners discuss franchise future

ROCHESTER, NY (WROC-TV) - Rochester Rhinos owners Wendy and David Dworkin discussed the future of the franchise Tuesday during News 8 at Sunrise.

In mid November the Dworkins announced without an infusion of $1.3 million in funding by the end of the month, the team could not operate for the upcoming 2018 season. At the time the Dworkins called upon fans to buy season tickets, local corporations to step up with sponsorships, and the City of Rochester to share hotel tax revenue to reach their funding needs.

Tuesday morning Wendy Dworkin said with about 48 hours left before a November 30 deadline, there's still work to be done. "We have made progress but unfortunately we are not at our goal. So if we were to take a snapshot in time as of today we would be short of our goal, but we have made progress."

Over the last couple of weeks, the team's fans have stepped up. "We've had a good uptick in season tickets from where we've had it from last year," said David Dworkin. "Corporate support certainly is not where we want it to be by any chance, but we're still hopeful, as Wendy said, to get there. And then we're still searching for our jersey sponsor."

With so much competition for entertainment dollars, the Rhinos have struggled to fill their stadium for home games. Wendy Dworkin addressed the prospect of decreasing interest in the team. "I think we're still assessing that. I'm still surprised with all of the publicity we've received in the past couple of weeks that there's a good segment in the population that's not aware of where and when we are playing, so obviously we have some more marketing to do. I think that the brand didn't receive attention, for whatever reason, for a long enough period of time that it is an uphill battle to be relevant and get the support there. We do have a segment of rabid, wonderful fans that are ardent supporters. Our sponsorship has definitely increased from when we took over the team, just not as quickly and in the numbers that we need to be sustainable."

David Dworkin said if the Rhinos do not attain their funding target by the deadline the team will not play games in 2018. "We would basically take a year off. We've talked to the league. The league has assured us that you can take a year off. We would be in what's called good standing, so I would still be on the Board of Governors. We would still vote on issues. We just wouldn't field a team in 2018 and then we would have to reassess what happens after 2018."

In 1999 the Rhinos became the last non-MLS team to win the U.S. Open Cup. The future of that Rochester legacy hangs in the balance this week. "We are definitely at the eleventh hour, so unless something dramatic does happen to push us over the line, and something happens where I think that we are sustainable, we would not be playing in 2018," said Wendy Dworkin.

There is still time to support the Rhinos funding needs. Fans can sign up for season tickets on the team's website, click here.


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