SoccerSam Fantauzzo: “The league said, ‘Hey, they’re doing everything right. The building’s may be not the ideal size we want for first division soccer at the indoor arena level, but let’s give them the opportunity to grow.’ ” (Photo courtesy of the Lancers)
By Michael Lewis
SoccerSam Fantauzzo could not have been any more succinct about having the Rochester Lancers return to the Major Arena Soccer League.
“I just never thought it was going to happen again,” he said.
After spending a year in MASL2, the Lancers’ application to return to the first division was approved, it was Monday.
It didn’t happen overnight.
“I’ve been working on this for a couple of years,” the Lancers’ patriarch told Andrew Battisti and Joe Sirianni on Soccer is a Kick in the Grass radio show Monday night. “We had to prove the Dome could work. We proved that the Dome could work with the help of our amazing staff. I just thought the building wasn’t work.”
Fantauzzo was referring to the Dome Arena, which the Lancers called home last season. The team sold out every game at the 2,500-seat venue.
“The league said, ‘Hey, they’re doing everything right. The building’s may be not the ideal size we want for first division soccer at the indoor arena level, but let’s give them the opportunity to grow,’ ” he said.
So, the Lancers will have an opportunity grow, probably from some time in November through the end of March or the beginning of April. The MASL schedule is expected to be released soon.
On Monday morning, Fantauzzo met with the venue’s architect and engineer and figured out a way to add 300 seats.
“We’re going to get creative with our sponsorship packages and our groups,” he said on the show. “I think it’s going to be fine. I am so excited. I probably won’t sleep for another couple of weeks.”
Fantauzzo will attend league meetings in Orlando, Fla. from Tuesday through Thursday. “Hopefully everything goes as planned,” he said. “I’m really excited about this.”
The Lancers will change one thing — their season-ticket packages.
The original plan went for $120. That included six arena games and the Lancers and Lady Lancers outdoor games in the National Premier Soccer League and United Women’s Soccer, respectively.
With higher costs and more games (12 home contests) in the MASL, the price will double to $240 as of Oct. 1.
“We had no idea when we announced our season ticket package that we were going to go division one,” Fantauzzo said. “We’re going to play 12 home matches. So, we thought the right thing to do is hold our season ticket prices. So, we are going to hold our prices until the end of this month. Our season ticket package then after that we have to obviously adjust it to meet the demands of what it takes to play at the next level.
“I hope as many people as possible take advantage of this. It’s going to be more like a 50 percent discount for anyone who gets a season ticket by the end of this month. It’s an amazing deal, an amazing offer. It’s an unbelievable price.”
Fantauzzo said he had a meeting with president of soccer operations Ashley Maria King will and director of soccer operations Kayla Klark Kent Moreira.
“We just thought it would be the right thing to do,” he said. “Give everybody two weeks to adjust is the right thing to do.”
The dozen home matches will be held on six weekends, either Friday-Saturday or Friday-Sunday combinations.
“There’s not that many dates available at the Dome Arena because when there’s a show that comes in, the show might last a week to 10 days,” Fantauzzo said. “But there’s also set up and take down, so there wasn’t a whole lot of weekends left.”
Nine weekends were blocked out, Fantauzzo said.
“I don’t think we’re going to have any three-day weekend games,” he added. “Utica had success with Sunday games, which I was always against because of the NFL, but again being that it’s a smaller building, I still think we can sell out every game when we play on Sunday afternoon against the NFL.”
The Lancers are probably going to add at least one other front office staff member.
“We are going to keep it streamlined,” SoccerSam said. “Our pizza company, we compete with the national chains and the biggest supermarket in town with two or three people. I think we can operate soccer the same way. If the Dome sat 7,000 people, a lot of things change. If our goal is to get 3,000 tickets distributed per game, I think we could do with the staff we have and maybe with the addition of maybe one more person. We’ve already interviewed that person, someone that worked for us before, for the Rhinos before and knows the soccer community very well. So, if she takes the job, i think we’ll be settled with our office staff.
“I’m more worried about players and how we compete against teams like Baltimore and Utica and with all the history they have and all the time they’ve put into this.”
Fantauzzo said the two Florida teams have been investing in upgrading their teams in the offseason as well. He noted that former Rochester Rhinos owner and general manager Chris Economides “is putting a fortune into his team and his prep.”
“I’m more worried about that than I am about selling the tickets and getting the right sponsors to make this all work.”
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