Jill Rizzo: “More than anything I make sure that the game is happening on time.” (Photo courtesy of the Lancers)
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Fans might not necessarily notice her, but Jill Rizzo plays a vital role for the Rochester Lancers as the team’s traffic cop at games.
As the TV director, Rizzo makes sure everything is running smoothly at the Dome Arena for the Major Arena Soccer League team’s games.
“More than anything I make sure that the game is happening on time,” she said. “I co-ordinate the PA announcements, the things that go on the scoreboard, promotions that are on the field, all the PA reads that Rocky [Perrotta] reads. I put it all together, making sure that it all runs on time smoothly, the way it is supposed to happen.”
Rizzo will be among 20 individuals who will be inducted into the Wall of Fame at halftime of the Lancers’ game against the Baltimore Blast at the Dome Arena on Friday at 7 p.m.
“I was surprised,” Rizzo said of her honor. “I only work game nights for the team, so I was surprised when they had me on the list. I felt appreciated. after working in sports for so long. I’m honored. I would only be doing this for Sam [Fantauzzo, team owner] because he has been so good to me for so long since we worked together at the Rhinos.”
While the general public doesn’t realize it, a lot of planning and homework goes into making sure everything does run smoothly. Sports teams cannot afford to have a glitch or two.
“It even goes along with the lighting in the building, communicating with them what kind of lights are needed on the field at the right time,” Rizzo said. “And the same with the TV. When we’re on break on the field, I need to coordinate with the tv guys when they’re on break.”
When the Lancers score, the lights atop the Dome Arena flash in the team’s colors — blue and gold.
“It’s pretty,” Rizzo said. “That’s one of my favorite parts of the Arena. When we score, the lights change. They rotate yellow and blue and they flash on and off, between yellow and blue. When we play, they’re just white. When we’re on break, when there’s a promotion on the field, it’s yellow and blue. And when we score, it’s flashing yellow and blue. It goes along with our goal music.”
In fact, the lights at the Dome Arena are among Rizzo’s most memorable Lancers moments.
“I really can’t find one game, but I really do love the new facility that they’re in, with the lights,” she said. “It looks more homey. It looks great. It was just a good time. It was a party. With the Blue Cross Arena, it was big. If we didn’t have a sellout crowd, it’s a lot harder at the Blue Cross Arena than at the Dome. I like the dome. It’s just a better fit for the Lancers.”
Rizzo has similar responsibilities with the outdoor Lancers (National Premier Soccer League) and Lady Lancers (United Women’s Soccer), but there is no scoreboard to worry about.
She got her start in soccer with the Rhinos. As Rizzo put it, “I started at the bottom, just answering phones.” But she worked her way up the ladder quite quickly.
Then she started helping out with game day production, ran it and moved into sponsorships, taking care of the team’s sponsors and making sure they got what they were need. Rizzo worked for the Rhinos for seven years.
Rizzo grew up in Orchard Park, N.Y., down the street from New Era Field, home of the Buffalo Bills. Her parents had season tickets for the Bills. Rizzo attended St. John Fisher College and started interning with the Amerks and Nighthawks before working on game nights. Then came the gigs with the Rhinos and Razorbacks.
“It was fun for me,” she said. “Just doing game nights is good for me because I do have kids. I do have a fulltime job. It gave me something to do out of the house on the weekends.”
On Friday night, Rizzo and her family, including husband Sam and sons (Nolan, 9 1/2-years-old) and Carson (8), will have some more fun, attending the induction ceremonies.
When Rizzo isn’t coordinating things for the Lancers, she has a fulltime job. She has worked for Heartland Payment Systems for 10 1/2 years and is the relationship manager for payment processing.
Tickets are still available for Friday night’s game at RLancers.com and can be purchased at the Dome Arena on game day. The Lancers also will host the St. Louis Ambush in another Major Arena Soccer League game on Saturday, Feb. 1 at 7 p.m.