Professional sports team to play home games in Brockport

By on April 6, 2014
TJ Burns of the Rochester Dragons Ultimate Frisbee team. Photograph from team website.

TJ Burns of the Rochester Dragons Ultimate Frisbee team. Photograph from team website.

It’s one of the fastest growing sports in America, but you may never have heard of it – Ultimate Frisbee – sometimes simply called Ultimate – and this spring Rochester’s own professional Ultimate team, the Rochester Dragons, will be  playing their home games at Eunice Kennedy Shriver Stadium at The College at Brockport.

Rochester Dragons General Manager Bill Abbott says Ultimate is a fast-paced football-like game which traces its beginnings to Maplewood, New Jersey in  1968.  Today, more than five million people enjoy the sport playing in professional leagues, at colleges (which play all school year for national rankings in both Division I and III schools), high schools and recreational leagues including the Greater Rochester Area Disc Association or GRADA.

“A game of Ultimate is played by two teams with a flying disc or Frisbee™ on a field with end zones, similar to football,” Abbott recently told members of the Brockport Village Board during one of their regular meetings. “The object of the game is to score by catching a pass in the opponent’s end zone. Ultimate is a transition game in which players move quickly from offense to defense and games are very high scoring.”

He tells the Suburban News and Hamlin-Clarkson Herald that the Dragons started play in 2012 in Buffalo as the Buffalo Hunters. They play in the six team Eastern Division of the American Ultimate Disc League or AUDL. Last year, the team made the move to Rochester, changed its name to the Dragons, and played home games at Webster Schroeder High School.

Rochester_Dragons_Team_LogoAbbott and Dragons coach/player Sean Donnellan say they are excited about the move to Brockport because the college, stadium and the community are key elements to success.

“We needed something bigger that would allow for more community involvement,” Abbott says and adds that playing at the stadium on The College at Brockport campus will be more professional.

The team had a long list of requirements of what it was looking for in a home field: lights, adequate seating, artificial turf, a scoreboard and weekend availability. They found it all in Brockport.

Donnellan, who grew up in nearby Greece and has coached Ultimate at  Spencerport High School, says he’s very excited about the move to Brockport.

“Ultimate Frisbee is underdeveloped on the west side,” he says, “this is going to be a big winner for both of us.”

The 2014 season gets underway April 12 in Philadelphia and Abbott says there are four games on the road before coming to Brockport.

The first home game is May 10 versus Toronto, which will be “College Day”  Abbott’s wife, Laura says, noting students and their families will still be around campus.  The game begins at 6:30 p.m.

Other home games for the 2014 season include: May 25 vs. Washington, DC at 2 p.m.; June 1 vs. Montreal at 2 p.m.; June 14 vs. Philadelphia at 6:30 p.m.; June 22 vs. New York at 2 p.m.; and June 28 vs. Toronto at 6:30 p.m.

The May 25 game will be especially for local public school students, with those bringing an item for the Brockport Food Shelf getting in for free, Laura says.

May 17, the Dragons play the 2014 featured match against New York at Sahlen’s Stadium at 7:05 p.m.

Tickets for the games are available online at www.rochesterdragons.com. Individual game tickets are $5.50 each. Season tickets are available for all six home matches for $21.

Bill and Laura Abbott explain that they got involved in Ultimate when their son began to play. He is now part of the Dragons team and also plays on the SUNY Geneseo team.

They say situating home games in Brockport will help them expand community involvement and create “more of an experience for fans. We know what parents like and we want to make it fun for parents.”

That experience will include food trucks, raffles and trivia at half-time, music and giveaways.

“We want to feed into the popularity of the sport,” Bill says. The couple notes that currently Ultimate is like beach volleyball was before it became an Olympic sport. Ultimate has been recognized by the international governing body which is a first step in becoming an Olympic sport, he adds.

Laura says Ultimate is exciting to watch.  “You would not believe the athletes.” The sport draws “some of the fastest runners.  Many are tall because they have to reach over their competitors’ heads. Their athletic ability will blow you away.”

Bill and Laura say Rochester has a reputation for being the best venue for  watching professional Ultimate.

“We have an announcer for the games,” Bill says, “and after the games, the  players go out to the stands and interact with the fans.” There are four, 12-minute quarters with a 15 minute half-time, Bill adds.

Most of the Dragons players range in age from 20 to 30 years old and are from the Rochester/Buffalo area.

Sean Donnellan says he has a passion for the sport.

“It’s so much fun running around chasing a piece of plastic,” he says with  a grin.  “It’s a great sport to play and is non-contact.”

Bill Abbott says that means that unlike football, which has faced criticism over injuries such as concussions, Ultimate sees very few injuries.

There are some injuries, Donnellan says, but they are mostly, “…self-inflicted,  ‘stupidity’ injuries that happen when you are not being careful.”

He says Ultimate is a great sport for everyone – young, old, men and women. He knows one man who has been playing for 35 years. It’s also a sport which can be played year-round, Bill Abbott adds – he even plays in the snow.

For other information on the Rochester Dragons go towww.rochesterdragons.com.