History of Lease Problems and Conditions at Blue Cross Arena, Mayoral Candidate Issues Statement

There’s been a lot of discussion this week about the future of the Rochester Americans in Rochester with it’s lease and the condition of Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial. Anyone who has followed things behind the scenes over the last decade will recognize that none of this is new. Everything that has happened has been a non stop band-aid going all the way back to the arena renovations in the 90’s. Here we are 20 years later and it’s deja vu with the same thing happening again.

(Featured image is has been altered, was not really displayed on the marquee)

Let’s recap some Amerks ownership history over the last 10 years.

While Steve Donner was known to have some financial issue,s one thing that didn’t help was what became an unfavorable lease operating out of the building (ex. no cut of concessions). It was a mess between he, his partners, Larry Quinn, the Sabres and the City of Rochester in his final years as owner. It’s one of many reasons that lead to the unfavorable dual affiliation before the sale of the team and then the Florida Panther years.

When Curt Styres purchased the Amerks he was able to negotiate a new lease to operate out of the building but he still had financial challenges. He worked his way through those with his passion for owning both the Amerks, Knighthawks and pride in Rochester (he still owns the Knighthawks).

When Terry Pegula came along and made an offer it was one that Styres couldn’t refuse both financially and due to fan demand in getting the Sabres back into town as the affiliate of the Rochester Americans. This time Pegula Sports and Entertainment has a lot more power than previous ownerships.

SMG is managing the arena itself but no one is walking away with truck loads of cash. Based on previous reports the the City of Rochester loses about $1 million a year. Food and beverage revenues used to go to the city but don’t anymore along with subsidizing operating losses. There’s a reason companies weren’t rushing towards bidding opportunities to manage the building.

Here we are in 2017 and problems are brewing again. We do believe that the Sabres are committed to keeping the Amerks in Rochester – with all of this being necessary to move these discussions along. Unfortunately, it involves putting fan emotions in the middle but based on reactions we have a loud passionate voice to be heard.

Can the city and PSE work together to really modernize the current building versus more band-aid improvements like we saw in the 90’s? Would a new arena be more cost effective over the long term? Money is obviously an issue but if you read Mayoral candidate Rachel Barnhart’s statement below there might be money out there and Rochester just needs someone to work at getting it. Youth hockey is massive in the Rochester area. Why not open up the building to be used more often like a local rink as well? The HarborCenter is constantly used and appears to be a great revenue stream along with a constant flow of people. Some creative minds need to work at a facility being utilized more than a few hours at night (Dear City of Rochester, call me, I’m available)!

PSE recently purchased a building in downtown Buffalo for $7 million (via Buffalo News). What’s the roadblock to this kind of investment in Rochester? No good investment opportunities? Bad market? No good partnerships?

Great questions that need answers and solutions. It’s not just the Pegula’s playing hardball, there’s history of every ownership group dealing with this.

Here’s Rachel Barnhart’s statement:


This week, the Pegulas again expressed concern over the condition of the Blue Cross Arena. They want assurances the arena will be upgraded to ensure the Amerks can have a suitable home for years to come.

A consultant recommended $37 million in improvements to the arena. That’s about what we spent 20 years ago to upgrade the War Memorial.

The city has secured $10 million from the state for upgrades. This isn’t enough. This week, the governor broke ground on a $1.5 billion expansion of New York City’s Javitz Center. The state has the money to do these projects. And just last month, Pegula purchased a former manufacturing building in Buffalo for $7 million. So, both our state and our owner have the money! Rochester needs to get its fair share!

Putting expensive band-aids on the arena every two decades may not be fiscally responsible. The city needs to come up with a comprehensive plan for the War Memorial and convention center. Decide the future of these facilities, even if that means new builds. Then go after the money to do it.

It may be a good thing if the Pegulas wanted to buy the arena and make the kinds of investments in downtown Rochester that they are making in Buffalo. However, it’s clear the arena needs too much work to be an attractive option at this point. A partnership with the Pegulas could be a way forward to preserve the team and secure a modern facility that can be enjoyed for decades to come.

The Amerks are a vital part of downtown Rochester that no one wants to see anywhere else. Let’s hope leadership can all come together and create a long term solution that benefits everyone.