Representatives of the Rochester Red Wings baseball club and Monroe County government agreed Tuesday on a new lease for Frontier Field after the Red Wings raised the possibility last week of leaving Rochester.
The county sold bonds to build Frontier Field and makes annual debt payments on it. The county proposed that the Red Wings double their annual payments to the county, and the Red Wings balked. Financial details of the lease were not disclosed Tuesday, but the lease will run for 10 years.
The Red Wings have played in Rochester since 1899 and at Frontier Field since 1997.
“The Red Wings are part of the community fabric that is Rochester’s identity. It would be a tragedy to force them out of town,” State Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle, D-Irondequoit, said in a statement Monday. “Not only would it rob thousands of residents of enjoying America’s greatest pastime, it will also put 700 employees out of work, and cost over $9.5 million in economic impact losses.”
This week’s Snap Poll asked readers their views on the Red Wings and their relationship with the county. More than 90 percent said Monroe County should provide the Red Wings with some sort of assistance.
More than 600 respondents participated in this week’s poll, which was conducted Aug. 29 and 30.
How important are the Red Wings to the Rochester economy?
Very important; the county should subsidize them as needed — 32%
Important; the county should provide reasonable assistance — 59%
Not important; the county should not subsidize them at all — 9%
The Frontier Field lease situation stands as yet another vivid example of a government entity attempting to impose an unreasonable financial burden on one of its core entertainment businesses. Meanwhile, the County seems unwilling and unable to curb its own runaway spending. Will the last fed up taxpayer to leave, please turn out the lights?
— Tom Shea, Thomas P Shea Agency Inc.
I live in the Southern Tier, and we attend 4-5 Red Wings games in Rochester each summer. In addition to the money spent on tickets, parking and concessions, we always eat out in Rochester and usually stop and shop at Marketplace Mall or any number of the stores in that area. This year we stayed in a local hotel after a Friday night game so that we could go to City Market on Saturday. We spent all Saturday in the city, eating out two meals and shopping. If the Red Wings were not in Rochester, that money would all be spent in Buffalo going to Bisons games. If the Red Wings were to leave because of an exorbitant rate hike at the stadium, you not only lose lots of sales tax revenue and business from people coming to the game, but what are you going to do with a stadium that sits empty. Last year the city of Niagara Falls raised the rent on the Niagara Power, an NYCBL team, and the team ceased operations as a result. What a stupid move to kill a community favorite, lose the revenue and leave a facility underutilized. Save the Red Wings. Rochester would be poorer without the team.
— Douglas Gaerte
Sports are an important part of the community culture. With the problem of losing young people from our city we can’t ignore this part of the puzzle…
— Wayne Donner, Rush
While the Red wings are important to our economy, they are very important to our community. Isn’t this what government is for — to create a positive environment for the comfort and enjoyment of all? The idea that government can do a better job of managing the team’s finances is laughable.
— Don Waltzer
I suppose it is likely that there are folks who would prefer to sit at home and count their money, and they would not want to subsidize any “unnecessary” expense. But there are those of us who are willing to pay a little bit more to maintain a quality of life and a tradition as storied and integral as the Red Wings are to Rochester. We might even consider this a necessary expense needed to ensure a better way of life. Over the many years, Monroe County has done a good job of maintaining Frontier Field and Naomi Silver, Dan Mason and everyone at Rochester Community Baseball (RCB) continue to run an incredible, first class organization. The economic and social loss of RCB would indeed be a tragedy and is not something we can afford.
— Joe Leone
What does Rochester and Monroe County have going for them? The old Kodak and old Xerox and Bausch & Lomb are gone. Our current claims to fame are empty office buildings, low literacy rates in our city schools, and the possibility of a performing arts center that nobody really seems to want but powers behind the scenes keep pushing. We do have one nice thing…one class act community pastime, the Rochester Red Wings, and now public officials are trying their best to get rid of something that is still good about our community and something that draws the community together in an otherwise dead city. The County has found itself in a mess due to past mismanagement of debt in the county government, and now they want the Red Wings to bail them out. Between Andy and Cheryl and Lovely can’t you people do something right. Andy spends the state’s (our) money on his pet projects. How about a little for community baseball?
— Michael Higgins
The County has been losing millions of dollars by keeping the Red Wings here. It is time to stop throwing good money after bad and face reality…Rochester will lose yet another gem and more jobs because of our unsustainable economic environment and insanely high taxes. The last one out of Rochester should be sure to turn the lights off…we cannot go on like this.
— Betsy Luss
It is important, and the County could provide support other than a taxpayer subsidy. Government subsidy, at the expense of the taxpayer, is the root of the cause for the economic decline in NY. The Red Wings management should consider selling stock, as they did with the original stadium. My family purchased stock to help build the stadium then, why not now to bring in new investors to pay off the debt?
— Vicki Vetere
Rochester is one of the absolutely poorest places in the entire United States. What is this ballfield doing for my fellow poor Rochester citizens? If people want sports, they should support them, NOT the taxpayers. This is a quaint old tradition that the Silver family has been holding on to for decades. How many City of Rochester residents regularly attend these games? And how much do City taxpayers — like me — have to shell out to keep this in the City? I suggest you build a new ball field in Victor, next to the Mall and let Ontario County pay for it all. Ditto of all the rest of the sports that do nothing for the City of Rochester, too. This is just another all white, privileged activity. It belongs in the suburbs.
— Eve Elzenga, Bellevue Drive Neighborhood Association
Rochester has seen the decline of Eastman Kodak, Xerox, & B&L, and survive. These were just companies and were subject to the economic ups and downs of industrialism. The Red Wings are a brand of Rochester. They generate a common bond to all Rochesterians across all socio-economic groups. Also, the amount of economic dollars that the club generates to the region cannot be measured. Monroe County leadership needs to quit pinching pennies, while the dollars flow by.
— Tony Schmitt, Fairport
Any business who would pay double the rent should be out of business. There isn’t a CEO or board of directors on earth who would ever be that stupid. If people can pay $4.75 for cotton candy that is a lot of tax revenue just on one item. Losing them could be as bad as businesses leaving the state because of the taxes we pay. The increased rent would be a drop in the bucket compared to the economic impact if they left.
— Daniel Mossien
Doubling the rent overnight is not a viable business proposal… agreeing to some kind of step-up over time would potentially accomplish the goals of both organizations. Let’s remember, some rent is better than zero rent — whether the Wings move, or are forced into an untenable business model by too high a cost structure.
— Dave Vanable, Honeoye Falls
I think asking how important it is to the economy is the wrong question…I suspect the revenue doesn’t necessarily make a huge difference. The bigger question, as shown by Assemblyman Morelle’s response, is how much are the Wings a part of our identity or culture, and in that respect, I would say quite so!
— Scott Ireland
I love the Red Wings, and having grown up in NYC, perhaps I value them more than some people whose lives have been spent in Rochester. In NYC, tickets to the Mets and Yankees cost a small fortune. As a result, going to a baseball game is something that is rarely, if ever, accessible to most ordinary people. Many NYC kids have never seen a professional baseball game live, and if they have, it was only on some very rare and special occasion. Moreover, the stadiums are huge. So if you are lucky enough to go, you’re apt to be sitting so far from the field that following that little white ball is nearly impossible. I’ve been in Rochester since 1979, so I’ve experienced the Red Wings in both Silver Stadium and Frontier Field. In both venues, you can affordably sit close enough to the field so that players have faces and you can relate to them as real people. That never happens at Yankee Stadium or Citi Field, or at Shea Stadium in the past. Here the players are friendly to the kids, toss them stray balls, sign autographs. Mets and Yankees don’t do that. Once upon a time I got to throw the first pitch at Silver Stadium, and years later my son was a bat boy one night at Frontier Field. Neither of us will ever forget those experiences. Here we have fireworks and RPO concerts and fun giveaways throughout the season, and a feeling of community that our baseball team provides. It’s a great, affordable, common denominator for our community, welcoming a broad-based cross-section of Rochesterians from the City and the surrounding Suburbs to sit side by side and cheer for our home team together. How can we not be proud of that resource, and want to keep supporting it generously and responsibly, so that our team can continue to thrive?
— Jocelyn Goldberg-Schaible,
President, Rochester Research Group