Rochester Americans Future Still in Question

March 5, 2008 - By

The future of the Rochester Americans needs to be discussed given the recent news of the Rochester Raging Rhino’s and PAETEC Park.

I’ll start by summing up events of recent days and how they’re tied to the Amerks:

PAETEC Park is home of the USL Rochester Raging Rhino’s soccer team.  One of the owners of the Rhino’s is Steve Donner (President & CEO of the Amerks).

The ownership group of the Rhino’s had been trying to court an investor for the team.  They needed someone to take over the loan for the stadium, and invest money into improving it and the team.

On Monday it was announced a deal with Dan Williams (the investor) and the bank h0lding the loan of the park could not be reached, Williams said he was walking away.

On Tuesday some key developments reported by 13 WHAM that can be tied to the Amerks:

1. The city is moving to take over the stadium, perhaps as soon as this week. The city owns the land upon which the stadium is built, and the Rhinos have been in default of their lease.

4. No one knows if a sale of the Rhino’s franchise will happen before the 2008 season, which begins in May.  The city says the current ownership group CANNOT field a team.

5. The city expects the bank to go after the three current owners’ assets. One of the owners, Steve Donner, has a substantial stake in the Amerks. Litigation could affect that franchise, as well.

A bankruptcy filing can’t be far behind for the current Rhino’s ownership group, especially with mention that the bank may attempt to go after assets of current owners.

We’ve been being told for months now by Steve Donner that he was in talks with some investors interested in buying a stake in the Amerks and Knighthawks and paying off debts.

One of the potential road blocks facing Steve Donner is a buyout of Randall Latonas 20 percent share of both the Amerks and Knighthawk franchises.  On February 14th we were told that Donner and Latona had begun discussions and stopped a feud that seemed to be holding everything up.

We may have had a breakthrough; I’m excited, said Donner on February 14th, who predicted completion of a buyout by the end of the month if there are no snags.

It’s March 5th, apparently there have been snags, and with the news of the Rhino’s and PAETEC Park we have even more snags.

Going back in time even further, on May 10, 2007 it was announced that a one year lease agreement for the arena had been reached with the Amerks as well as a commitment to resolve the matter one way or the other by October of 2007.

There was no resolution of any sort in October 2007.

Timelines, promises, and predictions have all come and gone.

Amerks season ticket holders removed a ticket for this Sundays game they were greeted with a reminder saying, “Renew your season tickets today!”  I’m sure the phones started ringing off the hook.

With the debacle of PAETEC Park, and the blunder of the Fast Ferry, the city of Rochester isn’t going to be very willing to negotiate with the Amerks and Knighthawks in Blue Cross Arena under current ownership of Steve Donner and company.

The City of Rochester has previously stated that before they would renew any sort of lease with Blue Cross Arena they wanted to be confident the financial issues of the Amerks and Knighthawks were in order.

On February 19th the State of New York filed a tax warrant against the Rochester Knighthawks lacrosse team, the state says the team owes $27,078.53.

Let’s not forget that a law suit where Randall Latona is suing the Amerks management, including CEO Steve Donner, alleging financial mismanagement is still pending in the court systems and has not been resolved.

I imagine if there really was someone willing to invest in and pay off debts of the Amerks and Knighthawks that it would’ve happened by now.  The longer this drags on the worst it will probably get, similar to what has happened to the Rhino’s.

Here’s the only possible outcome I can see regarding the future of the Rochester Americans franchise: being purchased by the Buffalo Sabres.

The Buffalo Sabres did announce that the affiliation between the two teams was over with, but that was only with current Amerks ownership.  Just like the way Tom Golisano stood by on the sidelines waiting to come in and save the Sabres; I imagine he’s going to do the same for the Amerks.

It’s no secret that the City of Rochester would love to have the Sabres managing Blue Cross Arena and owning the Amerks, it would bring a high level of financial stability.

The topic of which NHL franchise (Sabres, Panthers, or other) is best suited as an affiliate for the Amerks to produce a winning franchise is an entirely different discussion.

No matter what the future has in order for the Amerks and Knighthawks franchises, I really can’t imagine Steve Donner being involved with them in any way.  I hope I’m wrong.  I hope that he is able to pull off a miracle and get the sinking ship afloat, but I just don’t see how that’s possible.  I’ll try making some phone calls on Wednesday, but don’t imagine anyone will answer or return any calls.

Anyone want to pool some money together to buy a lot of mega millions lottery tickets?

Edit: Kevin O basically wrote the same thing on his blog.

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No Comments on “Rochester Americans Future Still in Question”

  1. Shawn says:

    Steve Donner is a criminal. His business dealings seem eerily similar to the Rigas’ in Buffalo. Pathetic ownership and managaemnt!

  2. Daryll says:


  3. Adam says:


  4. Todd Gelineau says:

    I really feel for Rochester — it’s a storied franchise and it would be shame to see something happen to it. We faced minor franchise crisis here in Hartford last summer. The lease agreement between the New York Rangers/Cablevision/Madison Square Garden ran out at the same time the agreement MSG held on Rentschler Field (UConn Football’s new stadium) ran out. The state chose AEG Northlands (i.e. Manchester Monarchs & LA King’s management company) to take over both venues– leaving the WolfPack & MSG on the outside looking in.

    Fortunately, the deal was struck so late that it would have been impossible for AEG Northlands to court a new franchise to come to town (they can’t own a second AHL franchise) and the Rangers needed a place to play the following season.

    In the end– MSG/New York Rangers handle all player/coaching personnel decisions and AEG Northlands handles the rest. The Rangers continue to own the WolfPack but AEG keeps any profit it makes running the building and selling tickets and absorbs any losses that may be sustained. Not a bad deal for the Rangers– could be a feasible alternative for the Amerks/Sabres if the right company like AEG could come forward.

    Todd G.

  5. Fan of the Old Red head says:

    Maybe I have missed any of the following news items that would seem to be a logical event: Has there been a news conference with the Buffalo and Portland publicly announcing their new affiliation? Has Anaheim announced it is no longer working with Portland and where they are going for next year? Has Florida announced a single parent team relationship with Rochester? It has been the norm that theses things are done in early March. It seems to me that as of this moment the situation we really face is the 2008-09 season without a parent club. How can they even suggest someone re-up for season seats with all those questions? Other than Larry Quinn’s insistence otherwise, it sure looks like Anaheim is still in Portland, and Bufffalo has no AHL affiliate and Florida has no AHL affiliate. Could you logically assume if the deals were done there would have been a Press Conference? Is anyone aware if there been any discussion of the AHL stepping in and running the team for a season?

    A final note; it will be most interesting to hear the fan reaction when Donner is introduced on Sunday evening.

  6. Jason says:

    I highly doubt that Golisano will buy the Amerks. First of all if he buys the Amerks he buys the Knighthawks and he is already the owner of the Buffalo Bandits. Seeing as there would be a conflict of interest I don’t see him or the NLL letting this go through.