Contract negotiations stall; future unknown for Red Wings at Frontier Field
Rochester, N.Y. - Contract negotiations are still at bat between Monroe County and the Rochester Red Wings. In two weeks, the team will wrap up its 2017 season, but it could be the last time the team plays at Frontier Field.
"It wouldn't be Rochester without it," said Red Wings fan Marc Robinson.
The team's 20-year lease expires at the end of the baseball season, and negotiation talks are in limbo.
"We're certainly working towards a common goal of ensuring that a deal is struck that protects the taxpayers here in the County of Monroe," said County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo. "Ensures that baseball continues to be viable and successful here in the county."
When reached by 13WHAM on Friday, the president and CEO of the Rochester Community Baseball Inc., Naomi Silver described negotiations as being at a dire point. The group also owns the Red Wings franchise.
"The county appears to have dug in their heels and we're nearing a serious situation for our fans, our 35 full-time employees, 715 seasonal workers, & the future of baseball in our community. The county's proposal is not something our team or the fans can afford and I'm really hoping they will see the light and recognize we're paying all that we can pay."
The Red Wings pay about one-million dollars per year to lease Frontier Field. Over the last five years, the Red Wings have reported an annual pre-tax revenue stream of $91,000.
Former Monroe County Legislator and Finance Director Paul Haney says there have been problems from the start.
"The fault goes back to when Bob King was County Executive and he just made promises that were just unattainable," Haney said. "Under the lease, what [the Red Wings] have been able to pay has not been enough for the County to pay off the debt of the stadium."
In the end, Haney says financial shortcomings have cost taxpayers $32 million over the years and now county leaders are trying to make up the debt.
Brighton Securities Chairman George Conboy has been following the deal closely and says fans may have to pay up to keep the Red Wings in Rochester.
"Where is that money going to come from?" Conboy said. "It'll come from people who buy a ticket, buy a hot dog, buy a beer. You've got two poker players, each with a weak hand, pretending that they have a royal flush. Neither of them do."
13WHAM has also learned that Monroe County has submitted a request to review the Red Wings financial books and management records.
"Monroe County has been informed that the International League has no objection to our review of RCB's books and records and we now await RCB's cooperation in this matter," said Monroe County Communications Director Brett Walsh. "Our negotiation team presented RCB with a lease agreement that would fairly compensate the County for the rental of the stadium. RCB has informed us that they would not be able to accept the proposal because of financial issues. For the County to justify a lease which would, in effect, continue to subsidize both the operations of RCB and the losses of the Batavia Muckdogs, we must better understand its true financial picture."
In response to the county's statement Silver told 13WHAM:
"Monroe County is aware that the money spent in Batavia is a loan, and is not taken out of our operation. We have offered a look at our books with two conditions: that they sign a confidentiality agreement and that they would only look for anything we may have misstated, or to assure themselves that we have accurately stated our already audited financials. The county refused & has expressed a desire to see if we're generating all the revenue we should. As far as I'm concerned, they have no way of evaluating such a thing, so we just can't allow it."