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Official Review by Andrew Kulyk, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
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.
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You'd think a minor league venue would offer the basics in "ballpark dreck". Not here! There is an array of concession fare that many major facilities would envy. The ice cream stand offers milkshakes and floats; local staples like the Red Osier roast beef sandwich and Zweigle's white hots are on the menu; Papa John's pizza by the slice or a whole pie; Bill Gray's, a casual dining eatery, offers their signature cheeseburger, along with something called a "Great Plate", basically a burger or dog served over a bed of fries and macaroni salad; A specialty stand sells crepes, and carnival items such as fried dough, onion rings and chicken tenders are also available; along with a specialty coffee stand.
The Rattlers average 5,000 fans per opening, close to the MLL average, and with Sahlen's Stadium seating over 13,000, the visitor side of the field is often cordoned off, leaving patrons seated on the home side of the field and the end zones, one being an open plaza area with ground level viewing. They have cheerleaders, and the game itself has more of a football feel to it in terms of action on the sidelines and chanting in the stands.
Let's call the area surrounding Sahlen's Stadium "hardscrabbled". There is a residential neighborhood on one side, and an office/industrial park on the other, a couple corner bodegas and taverns, but hardly the "ballpark village" walkable neighborhood that springs up around many a sporting venue. The iconic Kodak skyscraper and other downtown buildings can be seen off in the distance, making for a nice backdrop to the lacrosse on the field.
There seemed to be a lot of youngsters and a young adult following in the stands. Maybe lacrosse is just a hipster sport or appeals to a certain type of audience. A lot of the players also participate in the Indoor Lacrosse version of the game, and of course Rochester is also the home of the NLL Knighthawks, who play at Blue Cross Arena. Because of the dual lacrosse following, there does seem to be an appreciation of the sport among the fans.
Finding Sahlen's Stadium is a snap. The well-marked signs right off the I-490 and the downtown Inner Loop will take you right to the venue. Interestingly, the stadium is built right atop the tunnel of what was once a subway line here in Rochester. The subway is long gone, and public transportation is not the best option to get one to the game.
Single game tickets run from $15-$25, although promotional events can bring that price down. Parking is available in the stadium lots and surrounding parking lots for $5. Free parking is available on the streets, but keep a wary eye out for the adjoining neighborhoods as far as the safety factor is concerned.
Sahlen's Stadium is also the home for two professional soccer teams - the Raging Rhinos of the USL professional soccer division, and the women's professional team called the Flash.
I also have to give a point for the super electronics in the stadium, including a well positioned video board, and sideline ribbon boards running the length of the home side of the field.
The Rattlers began play back in 2001, won their one and only league championship in 2008, then the team was sold and moved to Toronto for the 2009 season. The community retained the rights to the nickname and colors and the team was returned to Rochester in 2011. They have played in Sahlen's Stadium since the venue opened in 2006.
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