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Official Review by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Even after over a decade of play, Major League Lacrosse is still struggling to keep some franchises afloat. Case in point is the Rochester Rattlers.
The Rattlers began their original incarnation in 2001. After a few up and down seasons, the Rattlers play on the field hit its apex and the Rattlers won the 2008 Steinfeld Cup as the champions of Major League Lacrosse. The community of Rochester was promptly informed that their lacrosse team was sold and would be moving to Toronto. The former Rattlers would actually move on to win the Steinfeld Cup in 2009 also.
All was not lost for lacrosse fans in Western New York. It was announced that Rob Clark had purchased the Chicago Machine and they would relocate to Rochester to revive the Rattlers franchise in 2011. Rob Clark's ownership would be short-lived, and the Rattlers would be handed over to the league and remain run by Major League Lacrosse into the 2014 season. Success on the field has found the Rattlers again as the 2014 season sees a return to the Steinfeld Cup Final. Unfortunately, not many lacrosse fans have graced the seats at Sahlen's Stadium to see the team play.
The city-owned, soccer-specific Sahlen's Stadium has been the home to both incarnations of the Rattlers. The stadium has been part of the Rochester sporting scene since 2006 also hosting the Rochester Rhinos soccer team. The stadium has been known by other names, but the current naming rights are held by Sahlen's of Buffalo, a meat packaging company known mostly for their hot dogs.
Major League Lacrosse can be a great time, but the question must be asked, without a solid ownership group, and with so few fans, how long will the Rattlers remain in Rochester this time?
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".
The biggest surprise in attending a Rattlers game is the vast selection of concessions at Sahlen's Stadium. Other than the beer stand at the southeast end of the stadium, under the videoboard, there are five main concession stands. Under the stands on the southwest side of the stadium you will find the local pizza stand as well as Western New York staple Red Osier. There you will have no choice but to get the Western New York staple Beef on Weck.
On the northwest end of the stadium, you will find the Abbot's Ice Cream / Bill Gray's stand. This stand features ice cream, milkshakes and other dairy treats. The Bill Gray's side features "the World's Greatest Cheeseburger," both red and white hot dogs, fries, grilled chicken, sausage, chili, and nachos.
On the northeast side of the stadium you will find Cuppy's Coffee and Fried Dough. Cuppy's Coffee features smoothies, pretzels, popcorn and a variety of specialty coffees. Fried Dough features a huge variety of carnival fare and more. Pulled pork, nachos, gyros, fries, mozzarella sticks and cinnamon almonds can all be found on the menu along with funnel cakes and the must-try deep-fried Oreos.
The concession prices are surprisingly decent which would include $4 beer at the southeast end of the stadium. The beer selection is fairly limited with Coors Light, Miller Lite and Molson Canadian being available throughout the stadium. Pepsi products are also the soda of choice.
Sahlen's Stadium is a basic open-air stadium which is undoubtedly first and foremost the home of the Rochester Rhinos soccer team. There are little to no markings or signage that indicates that the Rattlers even play in the stadium. Considering that the Rattlers have even won a league championship, it is disappointing that there is no banner or flag that commemorates that accomplishment.
Sahlen's Stadium has a basic horseshoe configuration with a combination of plastic seats and benches with backs. The southwest side of the stadium features an upper deck with luxury boxes in between the first and second level. The majority of the stadium, including the seats, features the Rhinos green and yellow. The artificial turf field has only soccer and lacrosse markings and does not have the distracting football yardlines that can be found in many other stadiums that feature MLL lacrosse.
There is a scoreboard and videoboard at the open end of the horseshoe, in the southeast end. The videoboard is one of the poorest quality items that I have ever seen in sports, with many spots on the board that are not functioning properly. There is an outdoor fireplace and gazebo seating area at the southeast end which is unique and placed by local suppliers.
Overall, the atmosphere at Sahlen's Stadium is pretty bare bones and does not do much to entice the viewer.
Sahlen's Stadium is located just outside the inner loop of downtown Rochester, a few blocks northwest of Frontier Field, home of the Rochester Red Wings. The surrounding neighborhood is fairly urban with mostly housing in the immediate area. There are a few eating establishments that are within walking distance of the stadium that you may consider. Roncone's Tavern & Sicilian Restaurant, Rocky's Restaurant, and Flat Iron Cafe are all fairly close to the stadium.
If you are looking for something really good, you should head to downtown Rochester and partake in the Dinosaur BBQ experience. The food is absolutely fantastic. It is VERY popular so make sure you get there early. If you are planning a bigger day in Rochester, then check out the Museum of Play which is a great attraction for all ages and includes the National Toy Hall of Fame and an old-school video game arcade.
The lack of fan support in Rochester makes the future of the Rattlers very questionable. The Rattlers have averaged just over 1,300 fans in the 2014 season. Just two years previous, the Rattlers were averaging over 3,000 fans per game, which is probably where the team would need to be to remain viable. What makes this even worse is that the 2014 season sees the Rattlers as a first place team, with great results on the field. The Rattlers only have fans on one side of the stadium and with a capacity of well over 13,000, the stadium remains pretty quiet throughout the game. The fans need to come out and support this team to make this a better endeavor for a travelling fan.
Getting to Sahlen's Stadium is not a problem at all. It is located north of I-490 and is only a few blocks from Frontier Field. There is parking on site, as well as some surrounding lots. There are some bus stops that can be found on West Broad Street and Smith Street if local transit is your thing. Inside the stadium, the washroom facilities are more than adequate and the concourses provide plenty of space for the very sparse crowd.
Tickets for the Rattlers can be found for as little as $15. With the small attendance at Rattlers games there is little need to pay for more expensive tickets. It is easy to move from the benches to the seats if that is your desire. The price for parking is a nominal $5 to $7. Combine that with concession prices that are pretty good and you have the formula for family entertainment at a low price. Although MLL lacrosse is an exciting sporting event on the field, the lack of atmosphere and fan support leave the customer with a feeling that something is missing.
An extra mark for the resiliency of the Rattlers Front Office staff and the team for trucking on in light of a tough atmosphere.
An extra mark for Rochester's iconic Kodak building downtown, which can be seen from many seats in the stadium.
The Rochester Rattlers, with a little better fan support, could be a great night of family fun. Hopefully, the city of Rochester, the Rattlers and MLL get another shot at bringing the attendance up so that the team can remain in Western New York.
Follow all of Dave's sporting adventures on Twitter @profan9
Member Review by akulyk on Jul 13, 2012
Sports fans in Rochester, New York sure have to be devoted to minor league sports – This is the home of seven different franchises playing in various minor league circuits, all competing for fans’ attention and support. And all seven teams are housed in three different venues that are all less than two miles apart from each other. The Rochester Rattlers, one of the flagship franchises in the Major Lacrosse League (MLL), are one of those teams. They play at Sahlen’s Stadium, a soccer friendly venue just on the fringe of downtown Rochester.
232 Lyell Ave
Rochester, NY 14608
190 Jay St
Rochester, NY 14608
561 State St
Rochester, NY 14608
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