Wednesday, November 30, 2011

War Memorial at the OnCenter, Syracuse NY

Basic Information
Team: Syracuse Crunch (American Hockey League)
Game: Crunch vs Binghamton Senatorus-11/25/2011
Team Website: http://www.syracusecrunch.com/
Ticket Information: (315) 473-4444 or http://www.syracusecrunch.com/
Tourism Information: (800) 234-4794 or http://www.visitsyracuse.com/
Online Broadcasts: WSKO-AM 1260 http://www.thescore1260.com/
Local Newspaper: Syracuse Post-Standard www.syracuse.com/poststandard/

Team History: After playing two years as the Hamilton (Ontario) Canucks, professional hockey returned to central New York in 1994, when the Canucks moved to Syracuse and became the Syracuse Crunch. The Crunch have been affiliated with the Canucks, then the Columbus Blue Jackets, and most recently, the Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks and Crunch have been affiliated since the beginning of the 2010-11 season.
While hockey has been played in Syracuse in different leagues since the early 1930's, one of the most legendary teams that called the War Memorial home never "really" set foot on the ice. The Syracuse Bulldogs, led my Tim "Dr. Hook" McCracken, Gilmore Tuttle, Andre "Poodle" Lucier, and of course, "Ogie" Oglethorpe were immortalized in the 1977 hockey classic "Slap Shot" as the opponent of the Charlestown Chiefs in the Federal League championship. Many of the hockey scenes were filmed at the War Memorial.

Team Affiliation: The Crunch are the top affiliate of the NHL's Anaheim Ducks.

Arena Capacity: The War Memorial has a seating capacity of 6,159 for hockey.
How About That Name (And Some History): Opened in 1951 as a salute to those who served in World War I and World War II, the War Memorial at the OnCenter cost over three million dollars and took two years to build. Not only has the War Memorial hosted hockey, it was also the original home of the Syracuse National of the NBA. The Nationals played in Syracuse from 1951-1963 before moving to Philadelphia to become the 76ers.

In addition, the War Memorial has hosted indoor football, indoor lacrosse, and in 2011, the arena opened it's doors to indoor soccer, as the Syracuse Silver Knights took to the turf for the first time.

The OnCenter is composed of the War Memorial, the Pirro Convention Center, and the Mulroy Civic Center theater.

On The Town: Named after the Italian city of Siracusa, Syracuse is the fifth largest city in New York State with a population of 145,710. Syracuse is located in the central part of the state, approximately three hours from Buffalo and Albany. The city is serviced by the New York Thruway (Interstate 90) and Interstate 81.

For over five thousand years before European settlers, the land around Syracuse and Onondaga Lake has been the home of native Americans. This area was the territory of the Six Nations, a confederation of native tribes (the Mohawks, the Senecas, the Onondagas, the Oneidas, the Cayugas, and the Tuscaroras).

In 1615, the first Europeans, led by French explorer Champlain attacked the Oneida. During the next thirty years, many French missionaries were driven back into Canada. In 1654, a Jesuit missionary. Simon LeMoyne, drank from a spring that the natives avoided, thinking it was foul. LeMoyne discovered that it was salt water spring, and returned to Canada with salt made from the spring.

In 1825, history changed forever in the area with the opening of the Erie Canal. Boosted by state senator DeWitt Clinton, the canal became a major transportation artery, making it simpler and faster to get products from the east to the west. When the canal was finally completed in 1830, the villages of Syracuse and Salina were combined into the city of Syracuse, which became a major port on the Erie Canal.

Several notable Syracuse natives include actors Tom Cruise and Richard Gere, writer and host of "The Twlight Zone" Rod Serling, former NFL star running back Dorsey Levens, and comedian "Bobcat" Goldthwait.
Getting There: From the New York Turnpike, exit onto I-81 south (Exit 36), Take I-81 south to Harrison St (Exit 18). Make a right onto Harrison St, then follow for two blocks and make a left onto State St. Follow State St to the War Memorial parking.

Nearby Airport: Syracuse Hancock International Airport is approximately seven miles northeast of the War Memorial

What To Do: Not far from the War Memorial is the Erie Canal Museum. The museum was built into a refurbished weigh house, where boats traveling the canal were weighed and were charged a toll based upon the weight of the cargo. Inside the museum there are many "hands on" displays telling the story of the canal and how it became a major thoroughfare for waterborne cargo and those who wanted to settle in the western part of the United States. The museum is free, an also has some resources for those who are visiting the city. For more information, call (315) 471-0593 or visit http://www.eriecanamuseum.org/.

Where To Eat Before The Game: When in Syracuse, RUN, DON"T WALK to the amazing Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, which is located about a half mile walk west of the Erie Canal Museum on West Willow St. Dinosaur Bar-B-Que is not a restaurant, it's a BARBECUE JOINT, and a damned good one. When Linda and I visited on the day after Thanksgiving at about noon, there were people lined up out the door, and we were told that there was a half hour wait. Fortunately, we were able to get a seat at the bar, and dined on an amazing lunch. I had a pulled pork sandwich liberally coated in the house "Sensuous Slathering" sauce, and Linda had a pulled pork and beef brisket platter and two side dishes. Not only was the food "melt on your mouth" good, it was an agreeable $30.00 between the two of us. Don't ask. Don't think about it. Just go. For more information, visit http://www.dinosaurbarbque.com/.

Where To Stay: On this trip, we stayed at the Red Roof Inn, which is located just off the Thruway, and is about ten minutes from downtown Syracuse. While this Red Roof is just like the others in the chain (clean, comfortable, and moderately priced, the only drawback was that the only restaurant that was open in the area on Thanksgiving day was the Denny's across the street. Not exactly fine dining, but you play the hand you're dealt. There is also a Italian restaurant and a Dunkin' Donuts within walking distance. For more information, call (800) THE-ROOF or visit http://www.redroof.com/.
Ticket Prices: Crunch tickets are priced at $17.00 and $13.00. Since the Crunch and the War Memorial are connected with Ticketmaster, you can also assume the normal ridiculous service charges if you purchase your seats over the internet or via the telephone.
Parking: There is a large lot and a covered garage just across the street from the War Memorial. Parking in this lot costs $8.00.

The Good Seats: The majority of the seating at the War Memorial surrounds the rink in a "horseshoe" fashion. There is also seating on the stage end of the building, I found that while walking around the seating bowl that all of the seats provide a good view of the ice. The only drawback was that the overhang over the top row of the seating area obscures the view of the scoreboard.

Getting In: The main entrance of the arena is located on the Montgomery St side of the building. The main entrance also features the box office and a moderately sized waiting area. In addition, there is a small beer stand located just inside the entrance.

Arena Food: Being an older building, there really is not much in the way of "specialty" items. In fact, I noticed that, for the most part, each stand sold the same items, which turned out to be the standard arena/stadium concession items. I sampled the arena's personal pizza. To be honest, it wasn't the best I've ever had. It might have been better if it was a little warmer and had more than just a essence of mozzarella on it. Linda sampled the arena's signature hot dog and cheeseburger. She said that "the Hoffman German-style sausage had a pork taste and casing, was grilled well, had a mild flavor, and was served on a fresh, above average bun". The cheeseburger was "about a standard quarter-pound size, but was a bit on the dry side. Although it was served on a kaiser bun, it wasn't particularly filling".

Here is a sampling of the concession prices at the War Memorial:

Hot Dog: $4.00   Cheeseburger: $6.00   Nachos: $6.00   Draft Beer: $5.00   Pretzel: $4.50   Large Soda: $5.00   Ice Cream: $4.00   Personal Pizza: $7.00

Soft Drinks: Coca-Cola products are served at the War Memorial.

ATM: A "no-brand" ATM is located outside the souvenir table in the main concourse.

Souvenirs: Small souvenir counters are located on the main concourse on either side of the "long ends" of the rink. Both sell a smaller than expected line of merchandise.
Restrooms: Restrooms are located on the main concourse near the corners of the seating area. All are on the older side, but very clean and in good working order.

Mascot: A large white beast of unknown species and lineage named "Al" prowls the stands during the game.

Dance Team: The "Ice Girls" help hand out promotional items as fans enter and circulate in the stands during the game.

Program: Surprisingly for an AHL team, the Crunch do not sell a game day program. A staffer told me that a team magazine is available online for fans to read. The team does hand out an abbreviated set of game notes for those who want to follow the roster.
Scoreboard/Arena Voice: In one of the few concessions to "modern technology", the War Memorial has a large center-hanging scoreboard, which provides not only the pertinent game information, but also has a crystal-clear video picture. The arena also has message boards which hang off the facing of the press box, but these are just used for advertisements.

The acoustics in the arena a fairly good, which makes the presentation by the public address announcer easier. The PA is good, and is supplanted by decent musical choices.

Arena Staff: No issues at all. Everyone was fairly pleasant and helpful.

Arena Features: A very pleasant surprise was the historic displays throughout the main concourse. There were two large displays featuring the contributions made by Syracuse residents during all of the military conflicts that the United States has fought in. Also along the walls was a large plaque with all of the names of the Syracuse residents who fought in World War I and II, Korea, Vietnam, and in Desert Storm. In addition, a large wall-sized display lists all of the Syracuse-area winners of the Congressional Medal of Honor, the military's highest award.
Along the outside of the building are carved the names of many legendary battles that this country has fought in.

Atmosphere: The War Memorial has all of the feeling of an old-time hockey barn. The people that go to Crunch games are very much a hockey-savvy bunch, and are very intense in their support of the home team.

Overall: The War Memorial is a trip back in time when arenas didn't have all of the creature comforts that are such a necessity today, and that not a bad thing. The home of the Crunch still serves the people of Syracuse well, and is a terrific place to watch some hockey on a cold winter evening.