Monday, December 28, 2009

Blue Cross Arena at War Memorial-Rochester NY

Basic Information
Team: Rochester Americans (American Hockey League)
Game: Americans vs Hamilton Bulldogs-12/26/09
Team Website: http://www.amerks.com/
Ticket Information: (585) 454-5335 or Ticketmaster (585) 232-1900
Tourism Information: (800) 677-7282 or http://www.visitrochester.com/
Online Broadcasts: http://www.whtk.com/

Team History: The Rochester Americans are one of the most storied franchises in all of minor league hockey, having been a part of the American Hockey League since 1956. The Americans have won the Calder Cup (the American Hockey League’s championship trophy) on six occasions, most recently in 1996.

Some of the legendary names that have worn the Amerks crest include Gerry Cheevers, Al Arbour, Jody gage, and Don Cherry. In addition to his time as an Americans player, Cherry coached the team for three seasons.

The team was purchased in June of 2008 by Curt Styres, the first Native American to own a professional sports franchise. Styres is a member of the Grand River First Nation tribe. Styres then hired Ted Nolan, another Native American, as the team’s vice president. Nolan played with the Americans in 1984-85 before beginning his NHL career.

Team Affiliation: The Americans are the top affiliate of the NHL’s Florida Panthers.

How About That Name (and Some History): In 1945, the good people of Rochester began planning the possibility of a downtown civic center, which according to a committee, would cost 2.5 million dollars. The seven thousand seat arena would finally open in 1955, and the Americans hockey team would be one of its first tenants. In 1996, the city decided to renovate and expand their showplace, and two years later, the building, now seating over ten thousand, would re-open under its new name, the Blue Cross Arena at War Memorial.

Getting There: (from Buffalo) Take the New York Thruway east to exit 47 (I-490). Go north on I-490 for approximately 12 miles to the Plymouth Ave/Inner Loop exit (exit 13). Make a right onto Plymouth Ave, and proceed three lights to Broad St. Make a left onto Broad St, and follow to Arena. The arena will be on your right side on the intersection of Broad and Exchange streets.

Nearby Airport: Greater Rochester International Airport is approximately six miles southwest of the Blue Cross Arena.

What To Do Before The Game: One of the more picturesque parts of downtown Rochester is the High Falls neighborhood. As one might expect, there is a substantial waterfall as the Genessee River flows through the city. In the neighborhood around the Falls, there is a welcome center which helps visitors learn more about Rochester, as well as many art gallerys, shops, and restaurants. For more information about the High Falls district, call (585) 325-2030 or visit http://www.centerathighfalls.org/.

Where To Eat Before The Game: As in this trip, I was just heading into Rochester for the game, I didn’t have the time to survey the local cuisine. I would suggest getting a Rochester visitors guide or visiting the visitor’s bureau website at the address listed above.

Where To Stay: There are many hotels of all price levels in the Rochester area. I would check with your favorite hotel chain for the lodging choices.

Tickets: Americans tickets are priced as follows: $20.00 (100 level premium), $18.00 (200 level premium), $17.00 (100 level end), $14.00 (200 level end), $11.00 (200 upper level end and 200 level balcony). There is an additional $2.25 charge for tickets purchased at the box office on game day.

Parking: There are several municipal lots within a walking distance of the Blue Cross Arena. I parked at a lot directly behind the building which cost $7.00.

The Good Seats: Most of the seating at the Arena gives a good view of the action. However, the seats in the upper 200 “balcony” (sections 201, 202, and 203), are substantially back from the rink, and don’t have a clear view of the scoreboard. However, arena management has hung an auxiliary scoreboard just under the lip of the balcony, which gives those in the upper balcony all the pertinent game information.

Getting In: The main entrance to the Blue Cross Arena was one of the areas which was rebuilt during the most recent renovation. It now has a glassed-in atrium, which is the home of the box office and “the Zone” souvenir shop. After purchasing your ticket, fans go up a flight of stairs which takes them to the main concourse level. Just at the top of the stairs is a full service bar, where some of the team’s older championship flags are hung.

Arena Food: There are two main food courts located in the main concourse on either side of the center line. The food selections are limited to arena basics: hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken fingers and fries, etc. I sampled the $3.00 hot dogs on my last trip to Rochester, and to be honest, they weren’t exactly my favorite. Instead, I had a hamburger and fries, which for $6.50, wasn’t a bad deal. It wasn’t the best burger I’ve ever had, but it was hot. One of the more unusual things was that you had to order your burger at one stand, then head over to another one to purchase your fries.

There are smaller carts set up in the concourse selling beer, Dippin’ Dots, and flavored nuts.

Restrooms: There are sufficient restrooms set up along the main concourse. They are old, but clean and well stocked.

Scoreboard/Arena Voice: The Blue Cross Arena has a large center hanging scoreboard which features full video capability. There are also auxiliary scoreboards hung in the balcony, and on
the opposite end behind the goal.

The PA announcer was surprisingly subdued, and the music played was your standard “jock rock”, also played at a lower level. I’m not sure if this was intentional or the fault of the poor acoustics in the building.

Game Staff: Each section has its own usher which handles just about any issue. I was surprised to find that there wasn’t a “customer service” area which is now a standard in most of the larger arenas.

Souvenirs: “The Zone” shop has a small lineup of team merchandise for the Americans and the Knighthawks indoor lacrosse team. There is another souvenir table set up to the right of the main entrance on the concourse.

Atmosphere: The Americans’ fans might seem a little quiet, but I think that is because they are intently watching the action on the ice. The promotions are kept to a minimum, and the team’s two mascots, a moose and an eagle, circulate in the stands, but don’t distract from the action. The Amerks also have a four-girl cheerleading/promotional team and an in-stands master of ceremonies, but again, they don’t take away from what is going on inside the boards.

Overall Rating: The Blue Cross Arena is a pleasant place to watch hockey, but as I mentioned, as many of these players are soon to be headed to the NHL, it’s an intense experience, as Rochester fans know their hockey. They should, since they have had a proud franchise for over fifty years.

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