Rochester, NY – Despite a temperature of zero and a wind chill of 15 below, local officials and soccer fans gathered at Oak and Smith Streets in Rochester Thursday to break ground for the city's long-delayed soccer stadium.
PaeTec Park will become home to the Rochester Raging Rhinos soccer team in April of 2005, or possibly sooner if construction goes smoothly. Team officals hope a stadium of their own will make Rochester a candidate for a Major League Soccer expansion team.
It took four years of effort by team officials and government leaders who backed the project to work through a host of barriers to reach this groundbreaking. Team President Frank DuRoss says it was the enthusiasm of Rochester soccer fans that kept him going through all of it.
Among local political leaders at the groundbreaking was Rochester Assemblyman David Gantt. Gantt's reservations about the project were resolved when DuRoss guaranteed a share of the jobs at the new stadium would go to residents of the Brown Square neighborhood where the project is being built.
The Rochester Rhinos ended up working closely with community groups in developing the stadium project. DuRoss says job fairs will be scheduled for residents of the west-side Rochester neighborhood. He says he welcomes Gantt's scrutiny.
PaeTec Park will start out as a 22-million dollar stadium that seats 12-thousand-500 people. It will be expandable to 17-thousand seats. PaeTec will be about half a mile north of Frontier Field, where the Rhinos now share space with the Rochester Red Wings baseball team.
Construction is being funded in part by a 15-million dollar state grant, with most of the rest from private sources. The project is expected to create 350 construction jobs, and officials hope it will generate substantial new economic development in a depressed area of Rochester.
Final obstacles cleared up just this week included an agreement to move the Empire Precision Plastics factory to free up land for the stadium, and an agreement from the state that the 19 acre site can be used, even though artifacts from the original Erie Canal were found there.
At ceremonies prior to Thursday's groundbreaking, PaeTec Communications President Arounis Chesonis handed over a check to the Rochester Rhinos for the stadium naming rights. PaeTec will pay just over two million dollars over the next seven years.
The PaeTec naming rights deal was scaled down since Chesonis originally bought them in 1999. Chesonis says that's because the project itself was scaled down, and because more of his company's business is now out of the Rochester area.