By Michael Lewis
At the present time, it doesn’t appear the Rochester Lancers will have an indoor season team this winter.
Lancers owner Soccer Sam Fantauzzo said on his Saturday radio show Kick This! that find a suitable arena to play in Major Arena Soccer League 2 would be very difficult.
“It doesn’t look really good right now for the Rochester Lancers coming back to indoor soccer this upcoming season,” he said on the show.
Fantauzzo and the Lancers had been talking with Blue Cross Arena officials about playing in the downtown facility during the 2018-19 season, but that did not pan out. He said he received an email Friday.
SMG, which had operated the facility for years, was ousted by the City of Rochester in June and Pegula Sports and Entertainment has taken over responsibilities. PSE owns the Rochester Americans, who have always played at the venue, and Buffalo Sabres hockey teams.
“I got a very nice email yesterday thanking me for the meetings that we had and the time we spent together,” Fantauzzo said. “But unfortunately, at this time, because of not having the proper lease in place, the Amerks that is, with the City of Rochester, and not understanding all the different events that may be coming in — things that are popping up because SMG left the building — I think, without a lot of notice [good playing dates won’t be available]. So, there wasn’t time to shear jobs or train people taking over. We cannot play at the Blue Cross Arena this upcoming season.”
The Lancers have one more possibility — the Dome Arena in suburban Henrietta, N.Y., a venue at which the team considered calling home last season. However, the facility did not have enough seats and other amenities for a proper fan experience. Perhaps things have changed in the past year.
Fantauzzo said that he has a Wednesday meeting scheduled with Dome officials “to see if they are willing to put the money to invest into the Dome Arena to make it feel like a professional stadium. But if that doesn’t work out, there is not another option.”
The Lancers owner indicated he wasn’t going to compromise just to have a soccer team. There must be minimum standards, such as a video scoreboard with replays, he said.
“I’m telling you if there is not a video scoreboard with replays, if doesn’t feel nicer than the Blue Cross Arena, the same thing is going to happen to the Rhinos [when they went] from Frontier Field to the new soccer stadium,” he said. “You’re going to lose your fan base and never they’re never going to come back. I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to put our fans through that. I don’t want our fans to go backwards. I want to go forward.”
The Rhinos, who went on hiatus for the 2018 United Soccer League season due to financial concerns, plan to return to play in USL Division III for the 2020 season at another venue, presumably in the suburbs.
Fantauzzo said in his original talks with Dome officials that they said they were going to invest into the facility before deciding to use it for concerts.
“That’s where their focus has been,” he said. “But maybe the concerts aren’t going like they’re planned. I’m hoping to have an understanding on Wednesday. So, by next week’s show I’ll know by sure if we’re going to come back.”
The Lancers competed in the Major Indoor Soccer League and MASL from 2011-2015 before shutting down due to high workman’s compensation costs.