Doug Miller: “If there’s two different organizations that are struggling that are in polar-opposites sports that can package something together to where you get a matinee and an evening opportunity to go to a game, that cross marketing, may be the killer punch.” (FrontRowSoccer.com Photo)
By Michael Lewis
The Rochester Lancers will know this week whether they will be able to play in the Major Arena Soccer League this season.
The league has extended the indoor team’s deadline to find a venue after allowing it to rejoin the league.
After striking out with the Dome Arena in suburban Henrietta, N.Y. and the Gene Polisseni Center on the campus of Rochester Institute of Technology, the Lancers are hoping to hammer out an 11th-hour deal with the downtown Blue Cross Arena, team co-owner Doug Miller said Saturday.
“The league has extended us again and again to try and find the venue,” Miller said on the radio show. “By Thursday, Friday of this week, we have to get the lease to the league and hopefully make the announcement live on the Kick This! show that the Lancers are coming back to play indoor.”
The big sticking point with the 10,664-seat BCA has been playing dates. After you slot in the Rochester Americans (hockey), the Razorsharks (basketball) and Knighthawks (lacrosse), there are few, if any, viable weekend dates for the Lancers. The BCA also has some hold dates for potential concerts.
Talking on the Word on the Street radio show along with co-Lancers owner Soccer Sam Fantauzzo, Miller indicated he was willing to work out a compromise to have the indoor team return for the 2017-17 MASL season.
Miller has come up with a creative solution in which the arena would give the team two of those hold dates and the soccer club would hold doubleheaders with some of the other teams at the venue, while accepting some weekday dates.
BCA general manager Jeff Calkins has provided the team with 13 dates, some weekdays, some on NFL Sundays.
“If he can give us one or two of those hold dates — it’s 20 percent chance it’s going to happen – I think then we can move forward and bring the Lancers back for indoor,” Miller said.
The Lancers had matinee-evening doubleheaders at the BCA with the Amerks and Nighthawks in their first three years before the other two teams wanted the building for the entire day for the 2014-15 season, Fantauzzo said.
“If there’s two different organizations that are struggling that are in polar-opposites sports that can package something together to where you get a matinee and an evening opportunity to go to a game, that cross marketing, may be the killer punch,” Miller said. “People are trying to reinvent the wheel. Again, instead of reinventing, partner. The organizations may cross-market the audiences.”
The Lancers have promoted themselves as a family sport and Miller said it would be difficult to entice their audience on come on workdays and school nights on a consistent basis.
“It comes down to the dates regarding having good prime-time dates throughout the season,” he said. “Part of making the Lancers successful is ticket revenue and getting butts in the seats. As you can see, sports teams in Rochester have a difficult time sometimes doing that.
“How do we get people in the seats selling season tickets and do people want to come on a Tuesday night and watch a game or on a Monday night when they can be watching so You Think You Can Dance?”
Miller also gave some insight into why the Lancers cannot play at RIT. While it is state-of-the-art and a beautiful facility, there was one major glitch. At the north end of the arena, there was a 1o-slope behind one of the ice hockey goals for an ice dam. They would have to cut out a huge section to even up the playing field for indoor soccer.
“Something that was ultimate promising for that period of time, I was like, ahhhhh. The dagger kind of hit,” Miller said. “Deflated was an understatement.”
If a deal cannot be worked out with the BCA for this season, Miller was hopeful that the Lancers could return for the 2018-19 MASL campaign.
“I would like to think so,” he said. “It’s up the league to come back and say, ‘Well, we’re now going back on another hiatus. ‘ “
The Lancers went dormant after the 2014-15 season.
“I think we had tremendous momentum this summer,” Miller said. “There’s a lot of traction that we can build on.”
He was referring to the Lancers’ outdoor team that performed in the National Premier Soccer League from May through June this year. The indoor team already has 13 of those players committed to playing indoor this winter.
The team’s goal is to have 1,500 season-ticket holders and sell another 2,500-general admission per game.
“I don’t think that’s a lot to ask of a community that’s a million people,” Miller said.
One thing was certain — Miller won’t be back as a player-coach. He will remain on the bench if the Lancers return.
“Right now, my plan is to coach and try and give these younger players the details,” he said. “y generation was the 90s or 2000s. Again, I am almost a half century. It’s time for the Michael Cunninghams, the Austin Gerbers, the Jake Schlinders, those guys to have their run at this.”
Those three players performed for the NPSL Lancers this year.