Opening Night — New Scoreboard Shines, Bad Hockey, and An Arena Management Disaster

The Rochester Americans opened their 2018-19 season against the Charlotte Checkers in Rochester Friday night. Expectations were high following a somewhat successful 2017-18 season that broke a multi-year playoff drought and returned the Amerks to a winning record for the first time since 2013-14. The new season brought lots of changes in tow. The arena is now being managed by Pegula Sports and Entertainment, there’s a snazzy new scoreboard, a new video ribbon along Court Street, and the City of Rochester has promised lots of additional arena upgrades. For all intents and purposes, tonight should have been the start of something great. Unfortunately fans instead had to suffer through bad hockey and poor arena management. The Amerks lost 6-2 with the only real bright spot being C.J. Smith’s goal in the 2nd period. The real story, however, was arena management (or lack thereof).

Pegula Sports and Entertainment (PSE) was awarded an interim management contract for the Blue Cross Arena during the offseason, replacing SMG. The change in arena management requires review (and resulting changes) for arena service providers. One of the services commonly outsourced is food and beverage operations. PSE hired Delaware North to handle food and beverage services at the Blue Cross Arena. While SMG was widely criticized for poor management of the arena, tonight’s home opener verged on total incompetence. There were numerous complaints about food being served cold. Food options were significantly limited compared to last season. Many food choices were eliminated while most returning food items saw significant price increases. Few concession stands had menus or prices posted. Not only were food choices (and by fan’s reports, quality) lacking, but the staff were not competent and in many cases rude. One example of a customer service issue was the grill corner along the Court Street end of the arena. They have increased prices and packaged fries with many menu items. Prior to the start of the game they were not able to serve fries due to an issue with the deep fryer. Customers were told they had to pay full price even though the stand was unable to serve the included fries. I personally received numerous comments/complaints about concessions throughout the arena (just look at the replies to my tweets on this subject on twitter!). I reached out to Delaware North for comment, who immediately confirmed that they are now managing food and beverage services at the Blue Cross Arena but did not respond to questions about tonight’s issues by the time of this article’s publication.

The management issues weren’t limited to food and beverage services. Some bathrooms ran out of soap by the first intermission. By the second intermission some bathrooms had run out of toilet paper. Water fountains had such low water pressure that they were not usable. Fans that arrived to the arena close to game time were faced with long security lines that resulted in missing some of the 1st period. These issues fall entirely within PSE’s scope of responsibility. Hopefully these are little more than temporary issues for a new management team…but it certainly left fans feeling unappreciated.

Lets wrap up this article on a positive note —the new scoreboard is beautiful!

Chris Schiffner is the man behind the Amerks Extra Twitter feed and the chief editor of Chris founded Amerks Extra in order to provide fans with a voice during one of the most tumultuous periods in the organization's history. Amerks Extra has evolved into a leading source for Amerks news and discussion. When not covering Amerks Hockey, Chris is on the ice playing the game himself.

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