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Rochester Red Wings Locked in Lease Dispute

Rochester Red Wings

The Rochester Red Wings (Class AAA; International League) and Monroe County are having issues in their negotiations on a Frontier Field lease, prompting concerns from team and league officials. 

In the coming weeks, the Red Wings’ lease for Frontier Field will come to an end, and the club is having problems in extending that agreement with Monroe County. The club’s lease will expire when all games for 2017 (including postseason) have concluded, and there is nothing in place for 2018. Though negotiations have reportedly been unfolding since January, the two sides still differ on several issues.

International League president Randy Mobley and Rochester Community Baseball Inc. president and CEO Naomi Silver are expressing frustration with the negotiations, with Mobley describing the discussions as putting the Red Wings in an “unfortunate time crunch.’’ Monroe County is taking over as Frontier Field landlord, a role that had been served by the location development corporation Greater Rochester Outdoor Sports Facility Corporation, and is looking to eliminate debt related to the ballpark.

The Red Wings have been working under a “in lieu of rent’’ agreement, in which certain revenue sources–including suite rentals, parking, and naming rights –go to the county. Silver says that the Red Wings, whose annual payment is between $900,000 and $1.1 million, want to begin paying a flat rent, but that the county is asking to evaluate the team’s business operations. More from The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle:

RCB is responsible for booking non-baseball events at Frontier Field, and is paid $75,000 a year to do so. But a portion of all non-baseball event concessions and rental fees also go to the LDC. The team also pays for ongoing daily maintenance.

While the Red Wings would prefer control of more of these revenue sources and to pay the county a flat rent that would be slightly more than they are generating now, Silver said the county wants to double what they have been generating.

County officials declined comment.

She said the county has requested to audit their financial records (much of it is available in the team’s annual report to shareholders) and also has requested time to evaluate their entire business operation to see if it is running as “efficiently’’ as it can.

Asked about the claim, [County spokesman Brett] Walsh responded via text message Friday: “The county is seeking access to the financial records of Rochester Community Baseball in order to best represent taxpayers’ interest(s) …. The published financial statements lack the depth necessary.”

The Red Wings have a player development contract with the Minnesota Twins, their parent club since 2003, that runs through 2018. Via vice president and chief baseball officer Derek Falvey, the Twins say that they are closely watching the situation and are hoping that the matter can be resolved. More from The Democrat & Chronicle:

“The Twins, as an organization, are much steeped in tradition and history and passion,” Falvey said. “Our ownership goes back generations, so we certainly recognize as an organization how important it is to have that stability and loyalty moving forward. That’s something we want to be a part of.”

He added that the Twins aren’t actively involved in the negotiations, but said Rochester Community Baseball has the best interests of the parent club in mind.

“We’re all hopeful this gets resolved here in the short term,” Falvey said. “I’m hopeful on both sides that we come to a great resolution.

The Red Wings have played at Frontier Field since 1997. They are expected to continue discussions with the county on Monday.

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