Blue Cross Arena – Rochester Americans
Photos by Meg Minard, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.14
Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial 1 War Memorial Square Rochester, NY 14614
Year Opened: 1955
Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial in Rochester, NY is just about the perfect place to watch minor league hockey. It’s got a great fan base, superb ushers and staff, good hockey, lots of banners, and a memorial to our war veterans.
The Rochester Americans, known locally as the Amerks, are the AHL (American Hockey League) affiliate of the nearby Buffalo Sabres. The AHL is similar to the AAA minor league level in baseball. The team began to play in 1956. They have played in the Calder Cup finals 16 times, winning six, most recently in 1996. The Amerks are the second-oldest AHL franchise behind the Hershey Bears.
The team has always played at Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial, which opened in 1956. Old-time Rochester residents still simply call the venue the War Memorial, while newer Rochesterians call it Blue Cross Arena. The NLL (National Lacrosse League) Knighthawks make the arena their home, and it also hosts concerts, Disney on Ice, and other forms of entertainment.
Food & Beverage 4
Plenty of food and lots of beer are available for purchase. The main concession stands are in alcoves off of the concourse. These alcoves do a nice job of minimizing the already crowded, narrow concourses. Expect lines at concessions between periods.
Offerings include The Market Grab & Go where you can get cans of beer and chips. Caraglio’s Pizza sells pizza slices for $6.50 - $7. The alcoves have Fingers & Fries – chicken baskets and buckets and sandwiches ranging from $10.50 - $20 and Burgers & Dogs – burgers, veggie burgers, red and white hot dogs, and baskets with fries for $6 - $13.75. One alcove has tables and chairs to sit and eat; otherwise, you’ll have to carry your food to your seat.
Roc City Dips ice cream is very popular with various servings (floats, sundaes, cones, or dishes) and flavors from $5 - $8. Other snacks at concession stands include peanuts, candy, funnel cake, and pretzels ($5 - $9).
Soft drinks are Pepsi products, water, and Gatorade ($4 - $5.50). Beers run $11 for a large domestic draft and $12 for a large craft draft. Local Rohrbach Brewery sells five of its brews at the arena. If you like IPAs, A Different Animal is a good choice at $12/$12.75 in a can. Genesee Brewing and Labatt each have counters on the concourse. Genesee provides a $2 happy hour pre-game every Friday.
Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial provides a superb game day experience while also honoring our military veterans. Banners of all the military branches hang in the huge, bright entrance lobby, which is surrounded by two-story glass windows. The box office is inside the lobby and opens at 11 am.
The arena’s seating sections are two levels of blue cushioned seats with a walkway between the two levels. The seats are average width and have average legroom. Suites are above the second level with a few over one goal end. The first level rows go up to letter Q. Two corners have spots with a few high-top tables and chairs where fans can perch and watch the game.
A perfect-sized crisp, clear video board shows time, period, SOG, goals, and penalty times. No closed captioning or name of the player on penalty is displayed. The visiting team’s goals and assists can’t be heard and are not on the video board. That’s disappointing for those who keep scoring. Oddly, the video board is over the blue line; not the red line (center ice). It turns out that it needs to rise into the ceiling for concerts, and that section of the ceiling is the only structurally sound place to store it.
Blue Cross Arena Scoreboard over Blue Line, Photo by Meg Minard, Stadium Journey
Lots of banners hang from the rafters; all six Calder Cup championships, division and conference championships, and four retired numbers. Most of these same banners hang in the lobby lounge area.
Ushers apply a ‘Wait for the Whistle’ rule in which fans remain on the top walkway while the puck is in play. This helps allow fans not to miss a piece of the action on the ice. The temperature is fine; a heavy jacket or thick sweatshirt should suffice. The music volume is just fine. You can enjoy conversations with your new Amerks friends and neighbors without having to yell to be heard.
Typical entertainment such as kiss cam, dance cam, and hometown hero is offered. The 585 Brigade (the Amerks promotional team) bangs drums, starts chants, and even tries to start the wave. Youth hockey teams scrimmage on the ice between periods.
Blue Cross Arena is in downtown Rochester, NY along the Genesee River. As of this writing, the city of Rochester is looking to rejuvenate the downtown area by adding a riverwalk along the river that will include green space and benches, and an enhanced walkway. I expect it to be lovely when complete. For now, though, it is a bunch of annoying construction.
Recommended restaurants in the area are The Distillery (sports bar), Dinosaur B-B-Q, and The Exchange (sports bar and nightlife). Plenty of others are nearby and within walking distance. Rochester has over 20 breweries. The closest to the arena are Fifth Frame Brewery and Swiftwater Brewing. You can’t go wrong with Rohrbach Brewing or Genesee Brewing either.
If you’re spending a few days around the holidays, check out Roc Holiday Village (a winter wonderland). Other notable indoor things to see are the Susan B. Anthony House and Museum, Rochester Museum and Science Center, and the Strong National Museum of Play (good for kids).
Several hotels are within walking distance. The Holiday Inn is just two blocks away. Across the river are the Hyatt and the Hilton Garden Inn (both less than .5 miles from the rink).
If you can drive for an hour or an hour and a half, the NHL Buffalo Sabres are a 75-mile drive away. Canisius or Niagara Universities (85+ mile drive) have some D1 sports. And heading east, the AHL Syracuse Crunch is an 87-mile drive, and Syracuse University has some D1 sports, too.
A very highly energized crowd packs the stands at an Amerks game. Multiple generations and lots of kids support the hockey team which is fantastic to see. Plenty of fans are decked in their Amerks / Americans jerseys. Often the ‘Let’s Go Amerks’ chant is belted out without the video board prompting for noise.
By the way, some fans complain, you’d they think they are better skaters than the players on the ice. Or a better coach than whoever is standing behind the bench. This is a common theme in minor league hockey stands. Average attendance in the last ten years is 5K – 6K, though it has dropped a bit since the pandemic. All-in-all they are a first-rate fan base.
During the 2022-2023 season, plenty of road construction is nearby the arena. Rochester’s finest police officers direct traffic before and after games helping with the vehicle and pedestrian flow.
The Civic Center Parking Garage at 55 S Fitzhugh St. is .1 miles from the arena and costs $15. The website states you can get to the arena via an underground tunnel which is helpful for those chilly upper NY State winters. Outdoor parking is available at Court Street Municipal Lot 10 (corner of Court St and Exchange St).
Rochester has a bus service, even from the airport. For fares and schedules, check RTS The airport is 5 – 6 miles from Blue Cross Arena.
Uber and Lyft are easily available. Once inside, fans walk through a security check (clear plastic sports bags 12” x 6” x 12” are allowed) and walk up a flight of stairs to get to the main concourse. The entrance provides an escalator as well. The concourses are very narrow and get crowded.
Return on Investment 5
Single-game tickets are $15 - $35. The $15 seats are not in a great location, but it gets you in the door!
The team offers flex pack deals which are 8 or 16 undated ticket vouchers and run from $20 - $28 per game. They also offer Family pack deals and Holiday pack deals. Check their website for details. The refreshment prices are lower than major league prices and are less than other AHL venues. The game day experience and history are so enjoyable it’s worth attending a game here.
Several additional features are worth noting. First, game day staff hands out a program upon entry. It contains mostly ads for sponsors but has the schedule, highlights a specific player, and upcoming Amerks promotions.
Second, visit the museum and veterans memorial. A full merchandise shop is off the lobby with shirts, jerseys, hat pins, banners, pucks, stuffed animals, and trinkets. I bet if you want it, they have it. Finally, at the game of this review, the NLL Knighthawks players were signing autographs at the Amerks game.
Blue Cross Arena Amerks Shop, Photo by Meg Minard, Stadium Journey
With the war memorial, the honoring of all military branches, and all the Rochester Americans banners on the rafters, it’s worth a visit or two or three!