The Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial in Rochester, New York, is the home of the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League. The Rocheser Americans are todayīs second oldest continuous franchise in the AHL right behind the Hershey Bears and serve as a farm-team to the NHLīs Buffalo Sabres. Originally the team was a farm-team of the Montreal Canadiens, the connection with the NHLīs most historious franchise also led to the name "Americans" for the team in Rochester. The Montreal Canadiens also served as the opponents when the Amerks hit the ice for the very first time on the 25th of September 1956. The first league home-game was played on the 14th of October 1956 in front of 6.303 fans against the Clevelend Barons and ended in a 2:2 draw. Today the Amerks share the arena with the Knighthawks, an indoor lacrosse team and the Brigade, an arena football team. Basketball can only be found with some high school tournaments or exceptionally well drawing regular season games.
In addition to those sporting-events many other events take place at the arena as well, wether itīs concerts or various family shows. Rodeos could also be found in the building until the early 90īs when the Amerksī ice was hurriedly put down for a night hockey game following an afternoon rodeo. A lot of dirt and dung got mixed into the ice and rodeo-fans have been waiting for the next rodeo at the Blue Cross Arena ever since. During an Aerosmith concert some years ago patrons where also treated to a premature icing of the floor in preperation for the next nightīs Amerks game. As many of the concertgoers were somewhat impaired and didnīt bring their skates those on the floor were more or less flying all over the place. Somehow a bra made it into the ice as well, whenever a player states that the ice is just about the same everywhere this canīt be said about Rochester...
In 1880 Kimbal Tobacco Factory opened on the present site of the arena, and after it was closed in 1905 a company named Cluet Peabody & Co. took over the building in order to manufacture collars and shirts. In 1924 the porperty changed hands again when George Eastman bought it and left it to the University of Rochester for municipal purposes. After taking over control of the building itīs the University who turns over the building to the city of Rochester which uses it as a City Hall annexe and public library. Following World War II plans for a grand Civic Center Arena as a war memorial come up and a committee begins studying the possibilities for constructing and financing such a facility. In 1951 the Kimbal Tobacco Factory is demolished and the construction of the War Memorial begins on the former factory-site. The original costs for the construction of the new arena in Rochester were estimated at 2.5 million dollars, when the building opened itīs doors 10 years after first plans went public in 1955 it had costed three times that much; a total of 7.5 million dollars.
Roughly 40 years later, in 1996, ground breaking for a 41 million dollar renovation/expansion took place. 25 Luxury suites replaced the old VIP-seats, concession stands were increased by 60% to a new total of 60 points of sale at four food-courts, additional restrooms were added, a fully functional banquet and meeting rooms and a lager seating capacity with individual seats going right to the ice were also part of the renovation of the War Memorial. The maximum capacity for hockey-games was increased to 11.200 from 7.250 prior to the renovations.
In 1998 the arena was renamed when the city of Rochester sold the naming rights of the
building to the Blues Cross insurance company amid some protests from the local community
and many veterans. "Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial" became the new
official name of the arena which, just as with most compromises, left almost every
involved stakeholder unhappy; wether itīs Blue Cross or the war veterans for whose honor
the arena was originally build. Although the arena continued to function throughout the
renovations the Blues Cross Arena at the War Memorial officially reopened to the public
during a formal ribbon cutting ceremony on the 19th of September 1998. Even today many
signs of the buildingīs long history can still be found: the ice-making facilities and
all the lighting and electronics above the ice are almost 50 years older than the
renovated parts of the arena, especially the seating bowl, and the acoustics are pretty
bad near the ice. In 2003 the old icemaking facilities will be replaced and a new
scoreboard will be installed; even though the renovations were officially ended in 1998
the Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial will stay a construction site for quiet a while
Tipps for visitors
The arena of the Rochester Americans is right downtown and near paid parking. If youīre early or just very lucky you can also try to find some public parking with parking meters that are free after 6 p.m. and on weekends in the area.
Tickets are usually selling at very reasonable prices between 12 and 17 US-dollars (2002) and by comparison to the NHL you get a very exciting and competitive hockey-game for a very affordable price. Most young future-NHL-players can be found around the AHL and the level of play is probably compareable with that of the top european leagues (where you can see many former NHL-players skate into retirement).
Games always draw pretty good crowds for AHL-standardīs when the Rochester Americans hit the ice in Rochester. Especially games against old rivals such as the Hershey Bears, the oldest continuous franchise in the AHL, or especially the Syracuse Crunch, who are located only 85 miles away, draw capacity crowds. Many longtime fans of the Rochester Americans will still remember a playoff game between their Amerks and the Hershey Bears in 1987 which was played at the old Buffalo Memorial Auditorium in Buffalo, as the War Memorial was unavailable due to a circus in town. During the warmups and prior to the presence of any official on the ice a gigantic fight, led by Andy Ristau, the "goon" of the Amerks at that time, broke out. Even though there was no official winner in the fight the Amerks went on to win the game and to win the championship, the Calder Trophy, that season.
Tickets can be bought at the box-office which is opened from 10 am to 6 pm throughout the week or until the first intermission on event days. On weekends it only opens on event days at 12 pm. You can also obtain your tickets online at Ticketmaster (http://www.ticketmaster.com).
Seating chart of the arena
Directions to the Blue Cross Arena
390 North to 490 East. 490 to Plymouth Avenue Exit. Turn Right at Plymouth Avenue to Broad Street. Left at Broad Street and the Blue Cross Arena is two blocks ahead at the corner of Broad and Exchange Streets.
From Buffalo and points West:
I-90 East to Exit 47 (Leroy). 490 East to Plymouth Avenue Exit. Turn Right at Plymouth Avenue to Broad Street. Left at Broad Street and the Blue Cross Arena is two blocks ahead at the corner of Broad and Exchange Streets.
From Syracuse and points East
I-90 West to Exit 45 (Victor). 490 West to Clinton Avenue Exit. Turn Left at Clinton Avenue to Court Street. Follow Court Street and the Blue Cross Arena is two blocks ahead at the corner of Broad and Exchange Streets.
Links to the team
official homepage of the team:
official homepage of the arena: