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Will PaeTec bail out? 

The city is committed. The state --- following a tumultuous week where it looked like things might fall apart --- is committed. The Rhinos, certainly, are committed to getting a soccer-specific stadium built in Rochester.

            So is the team still feeling the love from its stadium's namesake, PaeTec Communications?

            The Perinton-based telecommunications company purchased the naming rights to the future stadium for a reported $12.8 million over a 22- to 30- year period. The money, according to Rhinos CEO Steve Donner, kicks in the first operational year of the stadium. PaeTec will pay an annual installment, Donner says, on a graduated scale.

            PaeTec Park is set to be built in the city's Brown Square neighborhood, a short distance from Frontier Field.

            The Rhinos have gotten no money from PaeTec thus far, and some are wondering --- given the state of the economy, the way stadium plans have changed over the years, and the upheaval surrounding the project --- whether PaeTec might opt out of the deal, or at least scale back its commitment.

            "I hear that they might not be solid, but I have no proof," says state Assemblyman David Gantt (D-Rochester). "Things went downhill in the economy and I think they might have gotten hurt by that. But I don't know. I need to make that clear."

            PaeTec CEO Arunas Chesonis declined comment on this story.

            Gantt --- whose reservations about the stadium project nearly cost the project its state funding --- says he is now satisfied that taxpayers are not going to be on the hook for the $22 million PaeTec Park. In a press conference Thursday night, Rochester Mayor Bill Johnson said he has assured Gantt that the Rhinos will not ask for any additional public funding beyond the $15 million state grant secured in 2000.

            "The taxpayers of the city and state will have to put no more dollars into the deal. None. Zero," Gantt says. "The taxpayers are protected."

            The deal for the naming rights to the park, according to The Bonham Group --- a national sports and entertainment marketing firm based in Denver, Colorado --- was in the top 10 minor league facility naming rights deals in the country, by dollar amount, as of June.

            Despite that, Johnson says that if PaeTec were to pull out of the project, it wouldn't be the end of the world. The company's $12.8 million will be spread out over many years, Johnson says, and the little the Rhinos get annually shouldn't jeopardize the project. "I don't see that amount of money throwing the deal off. It's not critical, in my mind."

            Johnson assumes that the Rhinos have a strategy in the event PaeTec pulls out. "It seems to me that there'd be other people willing to step in."

            But as far as he knows, the deal with PaeTec is solid, Johnson says.

            "I've asked him [Rhinos president Frank DuRoss] and he indicated that everything seems to be good at this point in time. They continue to call it 'PaeTec Park.'"

            DuRoss did not return repeated calls for comment.

            Everything PaeTec has said to the Rhinos and in the press indicates they're still on board, Donner says.

            "They just reaffirmed their commitment in the Rochester Business Journal," he says. "I gotta go by their word."

            In the August 29 RBJ, reporter Alexander Soule writes "Arunas Chesonis, chairman and CEO of PaeTec, said his company is sticking by its naming rights agreement for PaeTec Park."

            Soule does not quote Chesonis directly.

            In the same article, Soule writes, "PaeTec pegged its total commitment to the stadium at $12.8 million, and stated that its commitment was transferable with the consent of PaeTec Park's organizers."

            Donner is hopeful a stadium groundbreaking will take place later this month or early October.

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