Main Street Armory
|Location||900 East Main Street
Rochester, NY 14605
|Location||900 E. Main St, Rochester, New York|
|Area||less than one acre|
|Architectural style||Other, Medieval fortress school|
|NRHP Reference #||80004268|
|Added to NRHP||December 2, 1980|
The Main Street Armory is a multi-purpose arena located at 900 East Main Street in Rochester, New York. The Armory was built in 1905 by the United States Army and used for the training and processing of soldiers. Its main arena also hosted several non-military events, including high school basketball, circuses, and auto shows prior to the mid-1950s. In 1990, the New York National Guard left the facility, leaving it vacant and allowing it to fall into disrepair. It was purchased and renovated in the mid-2000s with the intention of refurbishing the Armory's main arena to hold events once again. The building opened for this purpose on February 3, 2007.
It is currently the home of the Rochester Raiders of American Indoor Football. It was the home of the Rochester Centrals of the American Basketball League from 1925 to 1931, the Rochester Iroquois lacrosse team, and was the home of Next Era Wrestling from 2007-2008 until they moved across the street to the Rochester Auditorium Center.
The Armory was constructed in 1905 by the United States Army and used for the final training and processing of war-bound (World War I and World War II) soldiers. Its use was not limited to the military, however, as its 35,000-square-foot (3,300 m2) main arena (originally intended for drill exercises) was used for events of widely varying natures—ranging from professional basketball to auto shows—for most of the early to mid-20th century. The construction and opening of the Rochester Community War Memorial (now known as the Blue Cross Arena) in the 1950s brought the Armory's reign as the primary indoor venue in Rochester to an end as most of the Armory's signature tenants left the small, aging Armory for the spacious, new War Memorial 1 mile (1.6 km) to the west in the heart of downtown. The New York National Guard continued to use the Armory as a training facility until 1990, at which point the Armory became largely abandoned.
By 2005, the building had fallen into a severe state of disrepair from years of disuse and neglect. The arena floor was covered in pigeon droppings, the birds having been the building's primary occupants for fifteen years, and the building's roof, windows, and interior systems were in poor condition. In July 2005, the building was purchased at auction by local entrepreneur Scott Donaldson. He paid only US$1,000 for the 138,000-square-foot (1,300-square-meter), 7-story building, as no one else bid for it. Donaldson, who is blind, was told he never would have bought it if he could have seen it, but he has invested thousands of dollars into repairs and refurbishment, and the building is once again hosting events.
Much of the non-arena portion of the building is being converted into office space, some of which is already filled. The basement of the building is now used as a venue for indoor paintball events and group parties.
The Armory's main arena was home to sporting events as early as 1925. That year, the Rochester Centrals, Rochester's first professional basketball team, began play in the American Basketball League. The team played for six seasons and made the playoffs once (in the 1929–1930 season, when they reached the league finals). After the 1930–1931 season, the league suspended operations, causing the Centrals to fold. In addition to the Centrals, the Armory also played host to high school basketball and was the home of the East High School basketball team. Walter Dukes and Al Butler—two players that went on to play in the National Basketball Association—both played at the Armory in the late 1940s and early 1950s as members of East High.
During the 1930s, the Rochester Iroquois, Rochester's first indoor lacrosse team, competed in the North American Amateur Lacrosse Association and played at the Armory. One Iroquois player of note was Jay Silverheels, better known for playing the character "Tonto" on the television series The Lone Ranger. While playing for Rochester, Silverheels went by Harry Smith, his real name.
The building also hosted many events, including circuses, concerts, balls and auto shows, prior to opening of the War Memorial in the 1950s. The Damascus Temple Shrine Circus used the Armory as its venue for performances in Rochester through 1960.
The Armory's first post-refurbishment sporting event was Next Era Wrestling's "Fatal Attraction" show on February 3, 2007. It had an attendance of 450 fans despite a major snow storm that hit that night. The main event saw World Wrestling Federation Hall of Famers Jimmy Snuka and Tito Santana in action. For the next 15 months the Armory became N.E.W.'s home venue, and such wrestling superstars such as The Latin American X-Change (Homicide and Hernandez) (L.A.X.), Koko B. Ware, Too Cool, The Heart Throbs, and Extreme Championship Wrestling legend The Sandman have since competed inside the arena. Eventually outgrowing their Gates, NY office space, Next Era Wrestling moved both offices and live events across the street to The Rochester Auditorium Center in early 2009.
The refurbished Armory's first concert event was held on February 4, 2007, a performance by O.A.R. More concerts followed later that year, as refurbishment continued. The indie rock band Modest Mouse performed there on April 26, 2007.
The main arena, refurbished to seat 6,500, was the home of the Rochester Raiders of the Continental Indoor Football League during the 2007 season. The Raiders played their inaugural season at the ESL Sports Centre, but it was considered less-than-ideal for football. At the Armory, the team could charge less for parking and provide fans with better sight lines and a closer view of the action. In return, the Raiders management expected a more energetic atmosphere thanks to the acoustics and visuals. After the 2007 season, the Raiders moved to the Blue Cross Arena however they moved back for their re-launched 2014 season
The Main Street Armory is currently primarily a concert venue, hosting several different acts each month.
- Mandelaro, Jim (2006-12-29). "Army of one is restoring old armory to usefulness". Democrat and Chronicle. p. 1A. Retrieved 2007-01-11.