The people's choice in Livingston County... and beyond!
The Red Wing Stadium idea was the very first of Livingston County government's 'big' development ventures. Critics said the whole concept was utterly unrealistic. Advocates said the chance was worth a relatively small gamble of economic development funding.
Today the proposal is seen as the seed for what has become the very successful Crossroads Industrial Development park and general county program for industrial assistance.
The 'Field of Dreams' proposal burst on the scene with a July 23, 1992 headline, "It's Official: County woos Wings." Livingston County economic development forces would attempt to lure the Rochester Red Wings to a new stadium site at Route 390 Exit 10, in the corn field back lot property bordered by Routes 5 & 20 and Route 15.
The county had secured a purchase option on 60 East Avon acres at a future cost of between $10,000 and $15,000 per acre. In a special October 29 report, The Clarion contemplated, "Will they come to the Field of Dreams?" The campaign to lure the Wings was centered around an enthusiastic show of public support for the team. Petition drives were organized, T-shirts were designed and a large impromptu billboard painted on the side of a tractor trailer body appeared along I-390 announcing "the future home of the Red Wings."
On November, a'9th inning rally' in support of the stadium at Avon Central School was attended by hundreds of pennant-waving fans. That week county economic director Pat Rountree presented a 13,359 signature petition to the Red Wing management.
This strong show of public support was in stark contrast to the initial lukewarm reception that the Red Wings management was receiving from Monroe County and Rochester politicians. As the Livingston County proposal gained credibility and was included among the final two sites under consideration, the Rochester leaders were forced to sweeten their offer. On November 26, we reported that a third site in downtown Rochester had joined the competition.
The episode ended as suddenly as it began. On January 21, 1993 The Clarion announced, "The dream is over: Red Wings refuse to migrate." The Red Wings got what they wanted all along: a brand new stadium in downtown Rochester, but Livingston County came out looking like a winner too. The venture had cost Livingston County $10,000, the Town of Avon $5,000, Niagara Mohawk $7,500 and the Livingston County Chamber of Commerce $10,000, but the cost of the favorable publicity to the county was priceless. Total cost of building the stadium would have been $25 million.
Supporters consoled themselves at a February 26 'Stadium Party' at the Avon Inn. Although the effort to land the Wings had failed, Livingston County had served notice that it could play in the big leagues.
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