Push to Bring National Soccer Hall of Fame to Rochester
A local group is bidding to make Rochester the new home of the National Soccer Hall of Fame. The museum has been looking for a new location since it closed its door in Oneonta back 2010. Rochester's rich soccer history could be the key to bringing the hall to the Flower City.
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For the last year and a half, Charlie Schiano and Al Schneider have been working on a plan to bring the National Soccer Hall of Fame to Rochester.
Schiano is a former owner of the original Rochester Lancers of the North American Soccer League. Schneider is CEO of the New York Sports Congress and recently submitted a bid to bring the 2024 Olympic Games to Western New York.
The two men say they need local elected officials at the city, county, state and federal levels to get on board to make this work.
"There's two issues. One, to put together a proposal that the United States Soccer Association will accept, and two, to show a plan to sustain it. I think it's sustainable because of the great interest in soccer in this locality," said Schiano.
The Hall of Fame in Oneonta was averaging just 17,000 visitors annually. It was found to be unsustainable during the recession and closed for good in early 2010.
Schiano believes the rich soccer tradition here gives Rochester a leg up over other cities that are also interested in the Hall. It's a history that dates back to before his Lancers won the NASL Championship.
"Rochester is a very ethnic, we have ethnic roots, and Rochester's in love with soccer because of those ethnic roots. I just think it would be ideal not only for the future, but to highlight the history that we have and the roll that Rochester played in the development of soccer in the U.S.," Schneider said.
Rochester's rich soccer tradition continues today as the Rhinos are still the only non-MLS team to win the U.S. Open Cup Championship. Rochester was dubbed "Soccer Town USA" as the Rhinos dominated the A-League in the 1990s. They played in five finals, winning three championships in their first six years of existence.
Abby Wambach's success with the National Women's Team has made Rochester known internationally. These are all factors for the selection committee to consider.
"The NASL in the final days wouldn't have existed without Rochester standing tall, so we know how that went, and you currently have a great team with the Rhinos and of course it's the home of Abby," said Hank Steinbrecher, former secretary general of U.S. Soccer. "I used to coach college soccer and Rochester was one of the areas that I really hit hard because you have some really good young ball players there."
Schiano and Schneider are working on a proposal they plan to present when the selection committee meets in June.