February 4, 2008
Rhinos minority owner and former manager, Chris Wilmot, called in at the top of Saturday's Kick This! show. The interview lasted the whole show and got his side of the story out there for all to here.
As should surprise noone, Chris wants Steve Donner out and says that he might be willing to invest in the Rhinos again, but only if there are major management changes within the organization.
My big takeaway points from Saturday's show were the following:
- Chris said that Steve Donner never disclosed all the financial issues that the Rhinos and PAETEC Park were having when Chris invested in the 3 clubs and the stadium. Chris said that if he had known everything, he never would have invested in the operation.
- Chris believes that the additional $4 million from New York State that the City is holding up won't solve all the financial problems with the teams and the stadium. Chris believes that the investment needed to truly right the ship would be in the $15 million neighborhood.
- Chris has been a season ticket holder from day 1 and only wants the best for the Rhinos. And right now, he thinks the best thing will be the current ownership giving way to someone with the ability to pull the team out from the debt that is dragging it down currently and has a plan to make the operation profitable.
After digesting all of this, I'm going to sound like a parrot if you have read Ryan Whirty's Pressbox Powertrip post from Friday evening (and for the record, I didn't read that until today, so all my takes from Saturday morning that sounded like I was reading this post word for wordis merely two great minds thinking alike), but there will be some unique twists I hope:
- The City and Steve Donner are playing a high stakes game of chicken where City Hall wants Steve Donner out and Steve is doing everything within his power to stay in the game.
- If the City's big hold up with releasing the additional $4 million in state funding purely because they want that money to go to purely additional work to the stadium (finishing the suites, finishing the pressbox, moving the ticket office, team offices, and the locker rooms to the Empire Plastics Building, etc.) and Donner wants to pay back bills with a portion of the money, then I think the City is doing the right thing. If the City is merely withholding the money to make things harder on Donner, then I'm not OK with their approach to the situation.
- One question I find myself asking is does Dan Williams want to work with Donner and DuRoss? Many people are assuming that Dan Williams won't want to work with Frank and Steve. However, most of those people likely haven't talked to Dan Williams about that topic, nor do they know if there are clauses in the funding agreement for PAETEC Park that have serious negative reprecussions should Frank and Steve sell their stake in the Rhinos and the stadium.
- It is pretty clear that Dan Williams is Steve Donner's Plan A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. If the City or Donner or the financial mess that is this project scares Williams away, then the 2008 Rhinos season has almost no chance of happening. Also, it will be interesting to see how the game would play out from there as the City would probably take over PAETEC Park, the Rhinos would go bankrupt, and there would likely be a major power struggle over how to get a USL franchise back into PAETEC Park as Donner and DuRoss might still own the USL rights to the Rochester market.
Hopefully we can get Dan Williams on Kick This! on Saturday to get his take on the situation and see where his head is at. Soccertown USA needs a white knight and it looks like Dan Williams is the only person that can fill that role in the timeframe that we have before the May 2nd Rhinos opener.
News & Notes:
- Despite what the headline and photo caption said in yesterday's D&C, Scott Vallow is NOT a former Rhino. It was merely a mistake made by whomever writes the headlines and captions. And from what Jeff has told me over the years, I doubt that person is John Boccacino who wrote the article.
- SBI.net is reporting that Scott Palguta is one of 9 non-roster invitees that have headed to the Home Depot Center for the start of Red Bulls training camp.
- Rhinos rumor of the weekend: Salles will not be the only current member of the NJ Ironmen and former member of the Puerto Rico Islanders to sign with the Rhinos this off season.
- Steven Goff is reporting that Christian Gomez is close to a deal with the Colorado Rapids. Gallardo had better be really good for DC to pass up re-signing Gomez at those dollars, IMO.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, and not necessarily those of the Rochester Rhinos or SoccerSam.com. Feel free to send any comments or complaints to firstname.lastname@example.org. James promises to read (but not to respond) to all of them.