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Official Review by Nick Bonk, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
If you are familiar with the American Hockey League, you will undoubtedly have heard of the Rochester Americans.
The Amerks, as locals refer to them, are the second oldest active AHL franchise, running from 1956 to present day and have played in downtown Rochester at Blue Cross Arena throughout their entire existence. The city of Rochester and the Americans are in prime location to their NHL affiliate Buffalo Sabres and their ECHL affiliate Elmira Jackals making the Sabres organization one of the best. It's great, especially for fans of these teams, as the longest you would have to drive is three hours to see any of the players, teams, or arenas. The proximity to the entire organization also gives a boost to the fan base as it makes it easy for even a casual fan to enjoy and follow what happens to their players throughout the season.
Opened in 1955 as The Rochester Community War Memorial, the arena has hosted the Americans since their league incorporation in 1956. Being one of the oldest arenas in the league, one could imagine that arena upgrades would be instituted to keep up with league and fan standards. In 1998 after a vast renovation project, the arena would reopen as Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial and has remained that way through the present day.
Rochester is a great minor league sports city. whether it be MiLB, AHL, or various collegiate leagues. Fans find a way to support them all and with The Amerks' close proximity to their affiliates, one can guess that the organization boasts some strong and loyal fans.
The team itself has also done very well for itself in 60+ years. The team boasts 6 Calder Cup championships and many other season awards.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Most of the food found in the arena is what you would typically see in minor league sports. Your nachos, chicken fingers, popcorn, pretzels, and soda are on hand, as well as a variety of beers. However, there is also some hidden gems that are sure to get some attention. If you want unique, be sure to try the roast beef dinner or the hand-made wraps, both of which are excellent!
The beer selections offer both the usual and local flavors. Genesee Brewery is located just a few blocks from the arena so their presence is felt inside. If you are looking for a great meal once inside the arena, try the roast beef dinner with a can of Genesee!
If you look at the stats for the past few seasons, you may notice that the team has had some rough patches. However, this does not stop the fans from pouring in to support their Red, White, and Blue colored team.
The franchise thrives off of its location to its affiliates. You will see many fans sporting Sabres, and even Jackals jerseys while roaming the concourses of Blue Cross Arena. There aren't many places in the AHL where you can pick up and make a day trip to see your hockey organization play at any level.
The arena itself also adds to the overall atmosphere. When the arena was renovated between 1996 and 1998, a lot was done to give this minor league facility a very major league feel. As you approach the main doors for the arena and as you enter into the lobby, you will find yourself immersed in a very large, glass enclosed bi-level lobby. Perhaps the nicest touch to this renovation is you are able to stand inside the arena until one hour before the game. Rochester suffers from being one of the snowiest cities in the United States and with snow comes brutally cold temperatures.
The fact that you are able to stand inside rather than out on the street is a nice touch not seen in many arenas. Once inside the street level portion of the lobby, you will find the Amerks Team Store as well as the Box Office and various plaques and memorials to veterans. Heading up to the concourse level lobby you will find an open area dedicated to the history of the Americans, complete with all of the teams championship banners as well as a Hall of Fame. This area also has some pregame concerts as well.
The first thing you will notice as you walk into the seating bowl is that the arena's scoreboard is off-center. Rather than hanging over center ice, the scoreboard sits over the blue line. This does take some getting used to but once you visit a few times, you won't notice it at all. The 10,664 seat bowl does not have any restricted view of the ice. In some areas, though, the scoreboard is blocked by the structural I-Beams in the ceiling. This is only the case if you sit up high in one of the end zones but the arena found a way to fix that by implementing simple scoreboards on the beams. They won't have video but they do provide scores, shots, and penalties. When originally built, the arena had a permanent stage but during the renovations, this was removed and retrofitted with permanent seats. In this area you will find an old school but always up to date out of town scoreboard.
The fan atmosphere is good. Fans will take part in different cheers led by both fellow fans, as well as when directed to by Moose, the Americans mascot. The Promo Team also does many intermission games and leads in many chants to get the hometown crowd going.
A great thing about having your arena in a center city area like that of Blue Cross Arena is that you are usually in walking distance of many hotels, restaurants, and things to do.
The city itself is located on the shores of Lake Ontario and a ten minute drive from downtown will take you to the beautiful Ontario Beach Park.
Perhaps one of the most talked about pregame spots in the AHL is Dinosaur Bar-B-Que located a mere block from the arena. The unique atmosphere of an old train station plus the food and drink make this an incredible spot on your trip to the city. It may also help your credibility when you are featured on various food shows over the years. You also have the High Falls section of Rochester, which is located just a few blocks from downtown, and is home to a footbridge that crosses the Genesee River. Here you will also find the Genesee Brewery which is also home to a restaurant that has some very underrated food choices.
Hotels are easy to find both downtown and around the city. Many hotels are only a block or two away from the arena, which offers you an easy walk to the games without having to worry about parking.
Despite having some bad seasons as of late, fan support in Rochester remains strong and loyal. With its close proximity to Buffalo and Elmira it is not uncommon to meet people from these cities as well as your die hard Americans fans. The day of game ticket prices are also very reasonable. With tickets ranging from $14-$28 it is not difficult to draw at least 50% capacity or more on most nights and with the many giveaways during the season you will usually see a very high energy and passionate crowd. Also, having your team around for 60+ years will give the team a very knowledgeable fan base that is very welcoming to both fellow fans as well as first time visitors.
The city is located in western New York, just off of the New York State Thruway (Interstate 90) and finding the arena is a fairly simple task from here as there are many signs that will point you in the right direction. Parking in downtown is what you should expect from a city. There are many metered spaces as well as garages and hotels, all of which can be used for parking at or near the arena.
Most of your tickets will range about $14-$28 and parking is decently priced. If you get to the arena early enough, you may be able to get away with free meter parking too! The great thing about minor league sports is that you can see professional level sports for almost nothing and here is a great example. The concession prices are very fair and if you are looking for team merchandise, the Amerks Team Store is one of the best in the AHL. There is something for everyone at Blue Cross Arena and an Americans game makes a great night out for friends and families without spending a large amount of money.
The team takes the ice for warmups to "Real American," which you may remember as the famous theme song for wrestler Hulk Hogan.
Another extra point for one of the catchiest goal songs in hockey, "Spark' by Fitz and the Tantrums.
The history of the organization on display all over the arena is worth an extra point.
A final extra point is awarded for the great Memorial Hall in remembrance to all those who served our country.
One of the best things about Minor League Hockey are the old arenas scattered around the league. You can feel the history when you walk the halls and concourses of some of these buildings and Rochester is one of these places. The welcoming fans and reasonable ticket prices add up to a great experience for all. The history alone is worth a trip to a great city with a huge hockey past. If you are a traveling sports fan, Rochester should be on your list!
Member Review by puckhound2469
The American Hockey League (AHL) has a long history, all the way back to 1936. While no teams remain from that inaugural season, a few have been around for a long time and the Rochester Americans are among them. Since 1956, the Rochester Americans have been members of the AHL, playing their games in the same building for all 55 years of their existence.
Call it anything you want, but the Blue Cross Arena at War Memorial remains to many just "The War Memorial". Even after a renovation, the building still exudes the charm of a time long ago with great features no longer found in modern arenas.
It also helps that after several years of estrangement, the Americans and NHL's Buffalo Sabres are back as partners and the result makes seeing a game at the War Memorial so much better. Being just 80 miles apart, it is a natural relationship that serves the region and hockey fans well.
Member Review by profan9 on Jan 04, 2013
Rochester, New York is the prototypical American minor-league city. They boast no franchises in the four major sports, yet host a plethora of second-tier franchises, and have done so for a very long time.
A great example of this is the Rochester Americans.
The Amerks are the 2nd longest running team in the AHL, and boast a history that dates, uninterrupted, back to 1956. That is second only to the Hershey Bears. The Amerks enjoy one of the best affiliations in sports. The Amerks are affiliated with the Buffalo Sabres. They are owned by Terry Pegula who also owns the Sabres and Buffalo Bandits of the NLL. Located a mere hour's drive from the First Niagara Center, the Amerks have that unique, yet vital situation, where the fan base of Rochester is also genuinely interested in what is happening with the parent club. In their time in the AHL, the Amerks have amassed a great deal of success, culminating in 6 Calder Cup championships.
Although an institution in Rochester since 1955, The War Memorial has undergone renovations that bring it up to league standards, and there is very little evidence that the arena is as old as it is. Owned by the City of Rochester, the War Memorial re-opened after renovations in 1998 with a naming rights deal that was signed with Blue Cross.
An outing to see the Amerks is a solid evening of entertainment, especially for the AHL. Rochester is doing it their way ... the American way.
99 Court St
Rochester, NY 14604
120 E. Main St.
Rochester, NY 14604