The Rochester Americans are striving to remain in Rochester at an upgraded Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial, according to organization officials.
Word had begun circulating that the Americans’ future was in question, as the Buffalo Sabres considered their options for the AHL franchise. The Americans’ lease for Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial is about to expire, and officials have made it clear that the venue–which opened in 1955–is in need of upgrades.
In remarks to the Democract & Chronicle on Wednesday, Russ Brandon–the president and managing partner of Pegula Sports and Entertainment, the entity that controls the Sabres and Americans–said that word that the team is looking to move “100 percent wrong.”
Any agreement to keep the team in Rochester, however, is likely going to require more planning to ensure that terms can be reached to execute an overhaul of Blue Cross Arena. Brandon and city environmental services commissioner Norman Jones stressed that discussions would continue as the two sides worked out lease terms. More from the Democrat & Chronicle:
The state last year awarded the city $10 million for arena improvements. Past studies have identified a laundry list of projects, including court-side club seating, improvements to concession areas, suites, bathrooms and the entrance area, an outdoor patio, all things focused on improving the fan experience and the venue’s cash flow.
That aligns with Pegula Sports’ priorities, Brandon said, as the Sabres already have made many upgrades to locker room and training facilities. The Pegulas took ownership of the Amerks in 2011-12.
“We’ve put in our own capital dollars to improve the team aspect,’’ Brandon said. “There may be enhancements there, but everything we’re focused on is making it a better fan experience for the customers. Everything is going to be about the fan, from people who come twice a year to suite owners. We just want to get the building up to speed.’’
The city has moved ahead with installing a marquee, and is moving ahead on lighting and technology upgrades as well as roof repairs.
Lease negotiations with the Amerks are expected to begin once the current season ends, Jones said. City officials first had to re-sign SMG to a new contract, which only wrapped up in the past couple months. As for the upgrades, Jones said he wants the Amerks involved in those discussions, a sentiment echoed by Brandon. Design work has yet to begin, however, because while the needed paperwork has been submitted, those dollars are not yet in place.
On Wednesday, Pegula Sports and Entertiainment issued a statement on the matter:
“Pegula Sports and Entertainment has been engaged in discussions with the hopes of reaching a long-term agreement for the Rochester Americans to compete in an improved facility that meets necessary arena standards. PSE is exploring all options for the Amerks organization with its primary preference to have the franchise remain a driver in the Rochester community as an anchor in the emerging downtown corridor.”
In December, it was reported that city officials were considering a multiphase arena improvement that would cover fan and player amenities.
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