Blue Cross Arena
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Blue Cross Arena, also known as the War Memorial, is a multi-purpose indoor arena located in Rochester, New York. For hockey and lacrosse, its seating capacity is 11,215. The arena opened on October 18, 1955, as the Rochester Community War Memorial. It was renovated in the mid-1990s and reopened as The Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial, on September 18, 1998. It is home to the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League and the Rochester Knighthawks of the National Lacrosse League.
The War Memorial
|Full name||Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial|
|Former names||Rochester Civic Center Arena (planning/construction)|
Rochester Community War Memorial (1955–1998)
|Location||1 War Memorial Square|
Rochester, New York 14614-2109
|Owner||City of Rochester|
|Operator||Pegula Sports and Entertainment|
(Rochester Arena LLC)
End stage 180°: 10,877
End stage 270°: 11,352
End stage 360°: 12,428
In the Round: 12,906
General Admission: 14,000
Floor Size: 85' wide x 200' deep
|Broke ground||February 1, 1953|
|Opened||October 18, 1955|
|Construction cost||US$7.5 million|
($70.2 million in 2018 dollars)
$41 million (1998 renovations)
($65.5 million in 2018 dollars)
|Architect||Leonard A. Waasdorp|
|Rochester Royals (NBA) (1955–1957)|
Rochester Americans (AHL) (1956–present)
Rochester Griffins (NLL) (1974)
Rochester Knighthawks (NLL) (1995–2019)
Rochester Brigade (af2) (2001–2003)
Rochester Razorsharks (ABA/PBL/NAPB) (2005–2018)
Rochester Raiders (IFL) (2008–2009)
Rochester Lancers (MISL/MASL) (2011–2015)
Rochester Knighthawks (NLL) (2019–)
The arena was built on a downtown site as a replacement for Edgerton Park Arena, bounded by Exchange Boulevard on the west, East Broad Street on the north, the Genesee River on the east and Court Street on the south. The property was formerly the home of the Kimball Tobacco Co. and other retail buildings. Originally named the Rochester Community War Memorial, the arena opened on October 18, 1955. The building included a full stage on the south end and an exhibition hall located on the basement level. One of the members of the construction team was a young Robert Marella, who later achieved fame as a professional wrestler under the ring name Gorilla Monsoon. The arena's first tenant was the Rochester Royals NBA basketball team, who played their final two seasons in Rochester at this arena. They were joined by the Americans the next year, who have played in the arena for 63 consecutive seasons.
On March 13, 1996, renovations to expand the arena took place, eliminating the permanent stage at the south end of the building. On July 24, 1998, Blue Cross Blue Shield and City officials announced that the name of the renovated arena would be Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial. On September 18, 1998, the arena reopened to the public during a formal ribbon cutting/rededication ceremony. DeWolff Partnership Architects completed the project as Architects of Record with Rossetti Architects in a consultant relationship. C.E. DeWolff, Senior Partner of DeWolff Partnership, Geno Rossetti of Rossetti Architects, were Design Associates who collaborated on features of the design. In 2018, the city terminated the arena management contract with long term operator SMG who had been running the arena since 2000. In July 2018, the city reached an agreement with Pegula Sports and Entertainment, owners of the Americans, Buffalo Sabres and Buffalo Bills and operators of KeyBank Center in Buffalo to operate the arena beginning on August 1, 2018. Shortly after the Pegula takeover the arena received updates of a new center scoreboard, a new ribbon board at the stage end of the arena and enhancements to the audio and video equipment. There are plans for expansion along the Exchange Boulevard side of the arena that will make room for additional office space and improved locker room facilities as well as planned upgrades to the bathrooms, new concessions and a restaurant.
Blue Cross Arena's portable stage, which measures 80 feet deep by 80 feet wide, is said to be deeper than, and is nearly the same size as, the proscenium stage at Radio City Music Hall across the state in New York City.
The first event at the facility was a public trade show held in the exhibition hall and featured such famous Rochester-based companies as Eastman Kodak, Haloid (now Xerox), Bausch & Lomb, General Railway Signal and Rochester Products.
A semifinal game and the final game of the ECAC Upstate-Southern Region Tournament, an NCAA Division I men's college basketball tournament organized by the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC), took place at the War Memorial in 1978; the tournament champion received an automatic bid to the 1978 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament.
Local high school basketball games are played here, most notably the New York State Public High School Section V (5) Championships at the end of each season. Additionally, the arena is the home of high school cheerleading championships each year. The arena also hosts college basketball, and Section V hockey and wrestling.
On Saturday and Sunday, March 8–9, 2008, the Blue Cross Arena played host to the 46th NYSPHSAA Wrestling Championships, just the second time the annual interscholastic event has been held in the Rochester area.
The arena attendance record of 11,650 was set December 3, 2003 when Syracuse University defeated St. Bonaventure University in men's basketball. St. Bonaventure has hosted one of its home games in Rochester every year since 2002.
In 2016, the arena hosted the Kellogg's Tour of Gymnastics Champions.
On Saturday May 18th, 2019, Blue Cross Arena held UFC on ESPN+ 9. Making it the first MMA event held at the arena.
In addition to sporting events, the arena hosts a wide variety of entertainment events, including live concerts, ice shows and the circus.
The Rolling Stones played here in a concert that lasted only 7 minutes on November 1, 1965.
The Grateful Dead's performance, on November 5, 1977, was recorded and later released as a live album, entitled Dick's Picks Volume 34. Part of the Grateful Dead's performance on September 2, 1980 is included as bonus tracks on Dick's Picks Volume 21. The band performed at the arena ten times between 1973 and 1985.
Footage from Phish's documentary Bittersweet Motel, was filmed here on December 11, 1997.
Aside from the Rochester Americans, who play their home games in the arena, the Blue Cross Arena has played host to several notable ice hockey events and games. On November 12, 2003, the Buffalo Sabres and the defending Stanley Cup champion New Jersey Devils played the first National Hockey League regular season game in the venue. The game was made possible by then Sabres owner Tom Golisano, who hails from Rochester, and featured two Rochester natives: Brian Gionta of the Devils and Rory Fitzpatrick of the Sabres. It ended in a 2–2 tie. A second regular season game was held at the arena on October 26, 2005, with the Sabres falling to the Washington Capitals, 3–2 with 8,552 in attendance.
On March 23, 2006, Atlantic Hockey, an NCAA Division I Men's ice hockey league, announced that its league tournaments in 2007, 2008, and 2009 would be held at the Blue Cross Arena. 2007 was the first time the tournament was held at a neutral site. The league continued to hold their tournament there each year through 2018 when it then moved to Buffalo's LECOM Harborcenter. Additionally, the 2007 NCAA Men's Division I Ice Hockey East Regional was held at the Blue Cross Arena. Attendance was low due to high ticket prices and distance from large Division I programs.
Every year, the Blue Cross Arena hosts regular season Section V high school hockey games and the Section V Basketball championship.
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