War Memorial Stadium (Buffalo)
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War Memorial Stadium Buffalo
War Memorial Stadium
"The Rockpile"
War Memorial Stadium Rockpile.JPG
Main entrance (left field corner) in 2011
Former namesRoesch Memorial Stadium (1937)
Grover Cleveland Stadium (1937-1938)
Civic Stadium (1938-1960)
Address285 Dodge Street
LocationBuffalo, 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
Capacity46,206 (1965-1989)
36,500 (1937-1964)
Record attendance50,988
Bennett vs. Kensington, 10/21/1948
Field sizeLeft field: 330 ft (100 m)
Left-center field: 362 ft (110 m)
Center field: 420 ft (130 m)
Right-center field: 333 ft (101 m)
Right field: 310 ft (94 m)
Backstop: 50 ft (15 m)
SurfaceNatural grass
Construction
Broke ground1935
OpenedOctober 16, 1937
Renovated1960
Expanded1965
ClosedMay 5, 1989
Demolished1989
Construction cost$3 million
($54 million in 2020 dollars[1])
Tenants
Canisius Golden Griffins (NCAA)
1937-1949, 1978-1988
Buffalo Indians-Tigers (AFL) 1940-1941
Buffalo Bills (AAFC) 1946-1949
Buffalo Bulls (NCAA) 1946-1954
Buffalo Bills (AFL/NFL) 1960-1972
Buffalo Bisons (IL) 1961-1970
Buffalo White Eagles (ECPSL) 1962
Buffalo Blazers (NSL) 1976-1980
Buffalo Bisons (EL/AA) 1979-1987
Canisius Golden Griffins (NCAA) 1979-1989

War Memorial Auditorium, colloquially known as The Rockpile, was an outdoor football, baseball and soccer stadium in Buffalo, New York. Opened in 1937 as Roesch Memorial Stadium, the venue was later known as Grover Cleveland Stadium and Civic Stadium. The stadium was home to the Canisius Golden Griffins (NCAA), Buffalo Indians-Tigers (AFL), Buffalo Bills (AAFC), Buffalo Bulls (NCAA), Buffalo Bills (AFL/NFL), Buffalo Bisons (IL), Buffalo White Eagles (ECPSL), Buffalo Blazers (NSL), Buffalo Bisons (EL/AA) and Canisius Golden Griffins (NCAA). It also had a race track and hosted several NASCAR events. The venue was demolished in 1989 and replaced with the Johnnie B. Wiley Amateur Athletic Sports Pavilion, which retains entrances from the original stadium.

History

Planning and construction

Roesch Memorial Stadium was built on the East Side of Buffalo for $3 million as a Works Progress Administration project in 1937. It was built on a large, rectangular block that had once housed the Prospect Reservoir.[2]

Opening and reception

The 36,500-seat venue was primarily used for college football when it opened on October 16, 1937, with the Tulane Green Wave defeating the Colgate Raiders 7-6 in the inaugural game.[3] The venue's name was changed to Grover Cleveland Stadium in 1937 and then to Civic Stadium in 1938.[4] The Buffalo Indians-Tigers became the venue's first professional football team in 1940.

Alterations

A quarter mile cinder oval race track was added to the interior perimeter of the venue in 1940 for auto racing. Both midget car racing and stock car racing were popular at the venue, attracting NASCAR events in 1956 and 1958. Due to the small size of the track, drivers were forced to leave the venue to make pit stops at nearby Masten Armory. Fans were also forbidden from sitting in the first five rows of the venue for safety reasons.[5]

Buffalo was awarded an expansion franchise by the Continental League of Major League Baseball in January 1960, and made plans to play at the venue beginning with the 1961 season. However, the league folded before the season began.[6] The Buffalo Bisons remained in the International League and began play at the newly renamed War Memorial Stadium in 1961, as their previous home of Offermann Stadium had already been slated for demolition.

The venue's race track was removed in 1960 so that the stadium could accommodate both baseball and football for the Buffalo Bisons and Buffalo Bills. The stadium's baseball diamond had an unorthodox southeast alignment (home plate to center field).[7] The east-west alignment of the football field was also unorthodox, running along the third base line.

The stadium was expanded to hold 46,306 fans in 1965.

The venue was poorly maintained, lending to its nickname of "The Rockpile". Brock Yates of Sports Illustrated jokingly wrote in 1969 that the stadium, "looks as if whatever war it was a memorial to had been fought within its confines."[8]

While the Buffalo Bills were popular and regularly filled the venue, the Buffalo Bisons struggled to attract crowds. The Bisons moved mid-season in 1970 and became the Winnipeg Whips.[9]

The stadium was deemed unsuitable for National Football League play after the AFL-NFL merger, as it sat fewer than 50,000 people and could not be expanded. Rich Stadium was constructed for the Bills in suburban Orchard Park, where the team moved after the 1972 season.

The venue sat vacant until 1976 when the Buffalo Blazers of the National Soccer League began play.[10] A new Buffalo Bisons franchise was founded in 1979 that returned baseball to the venue. That same year, Canisius College signed a 10-year agreement to use the venue for its college events.

The Natural was filmed at the venue in 1983.[11][12]

Closing and demolition

Johnnie B. Wiley Amateur Athletic Sports Pavilion

The Bisons moved to newly constructed Pilot Field following the 1987 season.[13] The final event at the venue saw the Akron Zips defeat the Canisius Golden Griffins 11-2 on May 6, 1989.[14] Canisius moved its football and baseball teams to the newly built Demske Sports Complex.

War Memorial Stadium was demolished in 1989 and replaced with the Johnnie B. Wiley Amateur Athletic Sports Pavilion, a high school athletic field. Built in 1992 for $6.8 million, the complex incorporates the original entrances from War Memorial Stadium.[15] It was previously home to the Buffalo Gladiators, an amateur football team.

The original flag pole from center field at War Memorial Stadium was preserved and installed at Pilot Field in July 1990, where it stands to this day.[16]

Notable events

Football

A preseason neutral site Canadian Football League game between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the Toronto Argonauts took place at the venue on August 11, 1951. Hamilton defeated Toronto by a score of 17-11.

The venue was host to the Coaches All-America Game from 1961 to 1965. Originally called the Graduation Bowl in its inaugural year, the game was an exhibition between the best college seniors in America who were turning professional.

The stadium hosted three postseason American Football League games:

Baseball

The stadium hosted two Major League Baseball exhibitions:

NASCAR

The stadium hosted two NASCAR events:

See also

References

  1. ^ 1634 to 1699: Harris, P. (1996). "Inflation and Deflation in Early America, 1634-1860: Patterns of Change in the British American Economy". Social Science History. 20 (4): 469-505. JSTOR 1171338. 1700-1799: McCusker, J. J. (1992). How much is that in real money?: a historical price index for use as a deflator of money values in the economy of the United States (PDF). American Antiquarian Society. 1800-present: Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800-". Retrieved 2020.
  2. ^ "prospect reservoir - Discovering Buffalo, One Street at a Time". Discovering Buffalo, One Street at a Time.
  3. ^ "This Day in Buffalo Sports History October 16, 1937 -- Game one". The Buffalo News.
  4. ^ Western New York Heritage Press
  5. ^ "Lackawanna herald. (Lackawanna, N.Y.) 193?-19, May 31, 1940, Image 1" (1940/05/31). May 31, 1940: 1 – via nyshistoricnewspapers.org. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  6. ^ Bailey, Budd (29 January 2011). "This Day in Buffalo Sports History: The majors in Buffalo?". The Buffalo News.
  7. ^ "42.906 N, 78.857 W". Historic Aerials. Retrieved 2016.
  8. ^ Yates, Brock. "WARTS, LOVE AND DREAMS IN BUFFALO". Sports Illustrated Vault | SI.com.
  9. ^ "1970 Buffalo Bisons/Winnipeg Whips Roster". statscrew.com.
  10. ^ Boeck, Greg (March 10, 1977). "Sports Roundup". Democrat and Chronicle. p. 42.
  11. ^ "Redford movie being filmed in Buffalo". Evening News. Newburgh, New York. Associated Press. June 16, 1983. p. 8B.
  12. ^ Mulcahy, Susan (July 20, 1983). "Buffalo wins out for Redford flick". St. Petersburg Independent. Florida. p. 18B.
  13. ^ http://blogs.buffalonews.com/insidepitch/2012/08/bisons-rockpile-finale.html
  14. ^ "ECC'S RUSSO NETS TRIPLE". The Buffalo News.
  15. ^ "BUFFALO'S FIELD OF DREAMS COLLINS' PERSISTENCE HELPED NEW COMPLEX HAPPEN". The Buffalo News.
  16. ^ "War Memorial Stadium Memorial at Coca-Cola Field -- Buffalo, NY, August 23, 2014". August 23, 2014 – via Flickr.
  17. ^ Bailey, Budd. "This Day in Buffalo Sports History, Aug. 19, 1963: Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford play at War Memorial Stadium". The Buffalo News.
  18. ^ Reporter, Mike Harrington News Sports. "The 1987 'Battle of the Lakes' exhibition was Buffalo's last trip to the majors". The Buffalo News.
  19. ^ a b "Race Results at Civic Stadium - Racing-Reference.info". www.racing-reference.info.

External links


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