War Memorial Stadium (Buffalo, New York)

War Memorial Stadium (nicknamed The Rockpile) was an outdoor stadium in Buffalo, New York. It hosted Minor League Baseball and professional football teams, most notably the Buffalo Bills of the American Football League (AFL), and later National Football League (NFL).

War Memorial Stadium
The Rockpile
War Memorial Stadium Rockpile.JPG
Main entrance (left field corner) in 2011,
at Dodge Street and Jefferson Avenue
Former namesCivic Stadium (1938–1960)
Grover Cleveland Stadium (1937–1938)
Roesch Memorial Stadium (1937)
Location285 Dodge Street
Buffalo, New York
Coordinates42°54′18″N 78°51′22″W / 42.905°N 78.856°W / 42.905; -78.856Coordinates: 42°54′18″N 78°51′22″W / 42.905°N 78.856°W / 42.905; -78.856
OwnerCity of Buffalo
OperatorCity of Buffalo
Capacity• 46,500 (1960)
• 35,000 (1939)
• 33,000 (1937)
SurfaceNatural grass
Broke ground1935
Opened1937; 83 years ago (1937)
Demolished1988 (partially)
Construction cost$3 million
($53.4 million in 2019 dollars[1])
Canisius Golden Griffins (NCAA)
Football (1937–1949, 1967–1986)
Baseball (1954–1987)
Buffalo Indians/Tigers (AFL) (1940–1941)
Buffalo Bills (AAFC) (1946–1949)
Buffalo Bulls (NCAA) (1946-1954)[2]
Buffalo Bills (AFL/NFL) (1960–1972)
Buffalo Bisons (IL) (1961–1970)
Buffalo Bisons (EL/AA) (1979–1987)

The stadium was situated on a rectangular block near the downtown area and its baseball diamond had an unorthodox southeast alignment (home plate to center field).[3] The main entrance was in the left field corner at Jefferson Avenue to the east and Best Street to the south (behind right field). Its other boundaries were Dodge Street to the north (behind third base) and Masten Park to the west (behind first base) with Masten Avenue farther west. The east-west alignment of the football field was also unorthodox, running along the third base line. The elevation at street level is approximately 650 feet (200 m) above sea level.

War Memorial Stadium was built as a WPA project in 1937. It was built on top of a large block that had once been the Prospect Reservoir.[1] It was originally named Roesch Memorial Stadium, though the name was changed to Grover Cleveland Stadium later in 1937 (honoring the former President and Buffalo public official) and then to Civic Stadium in 1938. The name was changed to War Memorial Stadium in 1960.[4]

The stadium originally sat 35,000, but expansions raised the capacity to over 46,500. Despite this, by the time of the AFL–NFL merger in 1970, it was one of the league's smallest stadiums (below the league's new 50,000-seat minimum). After considering[5] and rejecting a move to Seattle, the Bills left after the 1972 season for Rich Stadium (now Bills Stadium) in suburban Orchard Park, which had a capacity of over 80,000 in 1973.


Professional tenantsEdit

The stadium hosted the Buffalo Bills of the American Football League, and later the National Football League from 1960 to 1972, the unrelated Buffalo Bills of the AAFC from 1946 to 1949 ("Bisons" in 1946), the Buffalo Indians and Tigers of the third American Football League in 1940 and 1941, Canisius College's baseball and football teams, and baseball's Buffalo Bisons of the International League during the 1960s and again from 1979 to 1987 (as part of the Eastern League and American Association).

Postseason games hostedEdit

The stadium hosted three postseason professional football games, all in the American Football League.

Final yearsEdit

The Bisons baseball team, which had been prosperous at Offermann Stadium, suffered a serious downturn in attendance after moving to War Memorial Stadium. Additionally, the park's rough neighborhood contributed to an incident on July 18, 1969, when a gang held the clubhouse boy at knifepoint and stole anything they could carry away. The players threatened to strike if something wasn't done to improve security. [Rochester, New York, Democrat and Chronicle, July 20, 1969, p.88] As disheartening as that incident was, the nadir came in early June of 1970, when the International League revoked Buffalo's entry and awarded it to the Montreal Expos, who moved the team to Canada.[6]

In its later years, War Memorial Stadium was poorly maintained. Ron Fimrite, writing in Sports Illustrated in 1984, quoted another writer, Brock Yates, as having said in a previous SI article in January 1969 (published when the Bills' founding owner Ralph Wilson was hinting at moving the team out of western New York state)[7] that the stadium "looks as if whatever war it was a memorial to had been fought within its confines."[8] That look contributed to the oft-used nickname Buffalo residents gave it: The Rockpile. Ironically, that worn-down look worked perfectly for the 1984 film The Natural, about which Fimrite was writing. All of the baseball scenes in that movie were filmed here in 1983,[9][10] except for the one scene set at Chicago's Wrigley Field, which was filmed at Buffalo's All-High Stadium. The movie was set in the late 1930s, when the stadium was new.

The stadium was deemed unsuitable for National Football League play after the AFL–NFL merger, which took full effect for the 1970 season. As part of a deal with Congress clearing the way for the merger, the NFL declared stadiums seating fewer than 50,000 people were not suitable for league needs. War Memorial Stadium only seated 46,500 people at its height, and could not be expanded. This led to the construction of what was then called Rich Stadium (now called Bills Stadium) in suburban Orchard Park and vacating War Memorial Stadium after the 1972 season.

After the Bills' departure, the stadium sat dormant from 1973 to 1978. The last tenant of War Memorial Stadium was the Buffalo Bisons, a franchise revived in 1979 before moving to a new downtown stadium, now known as Sahlen Field, in 1988.

The last major event at War Memorial Stadium was a Bisons game against the Nashville Sounds (the Sounds won, 7–5) on August 30, 1987; the game drew 25,000+ spectators.[11] Following the game was a slowpitch softball match between members of the Buffalo media. Doug Smith, a freelance newspaper columnist and WIVB-TV personality, led the winning team.[12]

Johnnie B. Wiley Amateur Athletic Sports PavilionEdit

Baseball diamond and football field

War Memorial Stadium was demolished shortly after the Bisons moved downtown to Pilot Field. A high school athletic field (Johnnie B. Wiley Amateur Athletic Sports Pavilion – c. 1997) remains at the old site and serves as one of Buffalo's three major high school football fields (the others being All-High Stadium and the field at Riverside Institute of Technology); the field also was the home of the Buffalo Gladiators, an adult amateur football team.

The northwest and southwest entrance to the old stadium was demolished, but the northeast and southeast entrance was saved and preserved. A small baseball diamond is on the former field's southwest corner.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Retrieved January 1, 2020.
  2. ^ https://s3.amazonaws.com/ubbulls.com/documents/2019/6/17/2018_football_infoguide.pdf
  3. ^ "42.906 N, 78.857 W". Historic Aerials. Retrieved January 13, 2016.
  4. ^ Western New York Heritage Press
  5. ^ "Buffalo Bills nearing move to Seattle". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). January 12, 1971. p. 3B.
  6. ^ Ithaca Journal (New York), June 5, 1970, p. 14.
  7. ^ Yates, Brock (Jan. 20, 1969). "Warts, Love and Dreams in Buffalo," Sports Illustrated, p. 45.
  8. ^ Fimrite, Ron (May 7, 1984). "A Star with Real Clout". Sports Illustrated. p. 100.
  9. ^ "Redford movie being filmed in Buffalo". Evening News. Newburgh, New York. Associated Press. June 16, 1983. p. 8B.
  10. ^ Mulcahy, Susan (July 20, 1983). "Buffalo wins out for Redford flick". St. Petersburg Independent. Florida. p. 18B.
  11. ^ Bisons' Rockpile finale was 25 years ago today. The Buffalo News. Retrieved August 30, 2012.
  12. ^ Doug Smith, 81, colorful newsman, sportswriter and TV personality

2. The site is currently used for grammar school track & field events.

External linksEdit

Preceded by
first stadium
Home of the
Buffalo Bills

1960 – 1972
Succeeded by
Rich Stadium
Preceded by
Offermann Stadium
Home of the
Buffalo Bisons

Succeeded by
Pilot Field