The City of Rochester and the owners of the Rochester Rhinos soccer team say they've reached a lease agreement.
David and Wendy Dworkin say while the efforts the past two months diverted a significant amount of time from their primary goal of using a one-year hiatus to solidify a foundation for sustained success, they can now shift their focus back to keeping professional soccer in the region, as well as providing a wide array of events at Capelli Sport Stadium this season.
According to an addendum to the lease, dated March 22nd, 2018, the lease calls for the owners to field a team in the 2019 season on or before September 1st, and the Dworkins are to pay $40,000 dollars a year, on top of the annual rent of $50,000 a year, as "a measure of cost sharing during the period of the Rhinos' hiatus."
The city originally was going to evict the team at the end of February, saying that the Dworkins had defaulted on the lease when they said they wouldn’t be fielding a team this year.
The parties met in Judge David Doyle’s chambers on Wednesday, and both parties said progress toward a new agreement was made.
The group met again Thursday and announced an agreement has been reached.
David Dworkin says whether the Rhinos, who are not fielding a team this year, can come back next year, is really up to the people who go to the games and support the franchise.
“This is a community asset and it’s not the David and Wendy show, or the Rhinos front office show, it’s a community show, and if the community wants to get behind this team and is supportive of it, the team stays. And if it doesn’t, it doesn’t deserve to stay here because the asset can’t remain if it doesn’t have the support.”
Wendy Dworkin says the legal wrangling over the lease has put them behind schedule somewhat.
"Unfortunately all of this has kind of diverted our attention away from the marketing and the reachouts, definitely took time, energy and resources away from what we were doing and now we're prepared to pivot and go back and we have certitude going forward.”
The city also released a statement saying the agreement allows the Rhinos to continue to operate Capelli Sport Stadium until September 1st.
If at that point they have not agreed in writing to field a team for 2019, they will vacate the stadium.
The city says the lease addendum also includes a number of concessions to reimburse taxpayers.
Mayor Lovely Warren said “The Dworkins will pay their full rent, and also pay the City an additional $40,000 along with a surcharge on adult beverage sales to ease the burden on taxpayers, and a portion of the proceeds if they decide to sell the team.” Warren says the city's primary goal has been to protect city taxpayers and their $600,000 investment in the stadium."
The agreement also calls for a surcharge on alcohol sales.
The Dworkins have already announced there will be soccer matches this year involving some other USL teams, as well as other events, like the Little Italy Festival.