Battle for minor league fans is not unique to Rochester

Nov 17, 2017

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The announced departure of one franchise and the possible loss of another is an indication that Rochester's minor league sports market has been oversaturated.

That's the assessment of Todd Harrison, chair of the sport management department at St. John Fisher College.

"People are very interested in sports and they've been very good followers of the teams that have been here and that demand drove the supply of teams,” he said. “But when you stand back and look, we have had a number of sports franchises. Probably too many for what we could handle as a city our size.”

The Rochester Rattlers professional outdoor lacrosse team announced this week they leaving for Texas and the owners of the Rhinos say they can't field a soccer team next year unless they raise $1.3 million in the next couple of weeks.  David and Wendy Dworkin said game attendance and corporate sponsorships are both lacking.

Harrison says even the NFL and other major sports leagues have to work harder to compete for fan attendance against an expanding array of entertainment options. Some fans opt to stay home and watch the game on their big screen TV rather than pay for a ticket.

Harrison says one answer is expanding the game experience beyond the sport itself. That's something he says the Rochester Red Wings are very good at.

"The other teams have to frame their promotions and their in-game experience to meet a consumer who is interested in a lot of things, not necessarily just the soccer match on the field or the athletic ability it takes to play lacrosse."

Including the Rhinos, Rochester now has five minor league sports franchises.