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  • Writer's pictureMeg Minard

Blue Cross Arena – Rochester Knighthawks

Photos by Meg Minard, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.00

Blue Cross Arena 1 War Memorial Square Rochester, NY 14614

Year Opened: 1955

Capacity: 10,662


Knighthawks Lax

The Rochester Knighthawks are a member of the NLL (National Lacrosse League), an action-packed game of box lacrosse. This is the second Knighthawk franchise to call the Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial in Rochester, NY its home. The first was a very successful franchise that operated from 1995 to 2019. Its owner relocated the team to Nova Scotia and rebranded them as the Thunderbirds after the 2019 season.

The NLL granted an expansion franchise to Pegula Sports and Entertainment (owners of four other professional sports teams in Western New York) to begin playing the 2019-2020 season. Pegula Sports purchased the Knighthawks name to keep that name and lacrosse in Rochester. The organization hired new players and staff and designed new logos and colors for the new team. All championship records of the former team moved with them to Nova Scotia.

The Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial opened in 1956 and received a significant facelift in 1996. Old-time Rochester residents still simply call the venue the War Memorial, while newer Rochesterians call it Blue Cross Arena. It is also home to the AHL (American Hockey League) Rochester Americans, and hosts concerts, Disney on Ice, and other forms of entertainment.

Food & Beverage 4

Plenty of food and lots of beer are available for purchase. Main concession stands are in alcoves off of main concourses. 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.

Roc City Dips ice cream (floats, sundaes, cones, or dishes) is very popular, with various servings 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. The 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.

Atmosphere 4

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. The centerpiece of the atrium has remained from the previous iteration of the Knighthawks, that being the large bronze statue of a traditional Indigenous lacrosse player entitled “For the Love of the Game.” It is a wonderful reminder of the roots of lacrosse.

Lacrosse Statue at Blue Cross Arena, Photo by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey

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; a few are over the goal at one 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, goals, shots, penalties, and game action. No closed captioning. Oddly, the video board is not over the center line. 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. The game day operations pump smoke out of the video board after a Knighthawks goal.

Box lacrosse is a very fast-paced, high-energy game. Music is played the entire game but not so loud that you need to wear earplugs. During the introductions, players run out between neon green poles through a billow of smoke. An emcee successfully encourages fans to get involved and cheer on the team throughout the game. It’s usually a high-scoring game which seems funny to me with the teams having a huge goaltender protecting the little itty bitty goal.

Rochester Knighthawks Goaltender, Photo by Meg Minard, Stadium Journey

The game day staff facilitate silly, harmless games during breaks, like a hot dog race. The players circle the court after the game to show their appreciation to the fans.

The arena is the perfect size for box lacrosse; it’s not too big.

Neighborhood 4

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 arena).

When in town, check to see if the AHL Rochester Americans are playing. Check the RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology) athletics page to see if their hockey team or other sports teams are playing. 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.

Fans 4

Knighthawks fans are glad they still have lacrosse in their city. The arena generally draws 5K – 6K for each lacrosse match.

You’ll see plenty of fans decked out in their new Knighthawks jerseys and gear. Several fans wave flags after each Knighthawks goal. They’re loud and proud and on their feet for each goal!

Access 3

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.

Return on Investment 5

Single game tickets are $15 - $35 (including Ticketmaster fees). The $15 seats are not in a great location, but it gets you in the door.

The team offers Holiday Packs promotions (two tickets, two vouchers for another game, and a scarf for $55). That’s a great deal. Check their website for details. The refreshment prices are lower than major league prices.

The game day experience is so enjoyable and stimulating it’s worth attending a match here.


Extras 4

Several additional features are worth noting.

Game day staff hand out programs upon entry. It contains mostly ads for sponsors but has the schedule and highlights a specific player.

Plan a visit to 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, the Knighthawks players, team, and organization are highly involved in local youth lacrosse outlets and programs.

Final Thoughts

With the war memorial, the honoring of all military branches, the return of the Rochester Knighthawks, and the thrilling game of lacrosse, it’s worth a visit!

We encourage you to see a game if you haven’t been yet.

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