War Memorial Stadium (Buffalo)

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For other stadiums known as War Memorial Stadium, see War Memorial Stadium (disambiguation).
War Memorial Stadium
The Rockpile
War Memorial Stadium Rockpile.JPG
Remains of the stadium
Former names Roesch Memorial Stadium (1937)
Grover Cleveland Stadium (1937-38)
Civic Stadium (1938-60)
Location 285 Dodge Street
Buffalo, New York 14208
Coordinates 42°54′20″N 78°51′25″W / 42.9056696°N 78.8570533°W / 42.9056696; -78.8570533Coordinates: 42°54′20″N 78°51′25″W / 42.9056696°N 78.8570533°W / 42.9056696; -78.8570533
Owner City of Buffalo
Operator City of Buffalo
Capacity • 33,000 (1937)
• 35,000 (1939)
• 46,500 (1960)
Surface Grass
Construction
Opened 1937
Expanded 1960
Demolished 1988 (partially)
Construction cost US$3 million
($49.2 million in 2014 dollars[1])
Tenants
Buffalo Indians/Chiefs (AFL), (1940-41)
Buffalo Bills (AAFC) (1946-49)
Buffalo Bills (AFL) (1960-69)
Buffalo Bills (NFL) (1970-72)
Buffalo Bisons (1961-70, 1979-88)

War Memorial Stadium (affectionately known as The Rockpile) is the name of a stadium that formerly stood in Buffalo, New York. The stadium was on a rectangular block near the downtown area. Its main entrance was at Jefferson Avenue to the east (behind left field) and Best Street to the south (behind right field). Its other boundaries were Dodge Street to the north (behind third base) and Masten Park to the west (behind first base) with Masten Avenue farther west. War Memorial Stadium was originally constructed as a WPA project in 1937. It was originally named Roesch Memorial Stadium, though the name was changed to Grover Cleveland Stadium later in 1937 (honoring the former President and Buffalo public official) and then to Civic Stadium in 1938. The name was changed to War Memorial Stadium in 1960.[2] The stadium originally sat 35,000, but many expansions took place over the years, raising the capacity to over 46,500. Despite this, by the time of the AFL-NFL merger it was one of the smallest stadiums in the league (below the league's 50,000-seat minimum), and so in 1973 (after considering and ultimately rejecting a move to Seattle) the Bills left War Memorial Stadium in favor of their current stadium, now known as Ralph Wilson Stadium, which had a capacity of over 80,000.

History[edit]

Professional tenants[edit]

The stadium hosted the Buffalo Bills of the American Football League, and later the National Football League from 1960–1972, the unrelated Buffalo Bills of the AAFC from 1946–1949, the Buffalo Indians and Chiefs of the third American Football League in 1940 and 1941, Canisius College's baseball and football teams, and baseball's Buffalo Bisons of the International League during the 1960s and again from 1979-1987 (as part of the Eastern League and American Association). The track also hosted a NASCAR Grand National race on July 19, 1958, won by the Ford of Jim Reed, but is better known as the US debut of NASCAR legend Richard Petty.[3]

Postseason games hosted[edit]

  • AFL Eastern Division playoff, Boston Patriots 26 Bills 8, Dec. 28, 1963
  • AFL Championship, Bills 20 San Diego Chargers 7, Dec. 26, 1964
  • AFL Championship, Kansas City Chiefs 31 Bills 7, Jan. 1, 1967

Final Years[edit]

In its later years it was poorly maintained. Ron Fimrite, writing in Sports Illustrated (May 7, 1984, p. 100), quoted another writer, Brock Yates, as having once said that this stadium "looks as if whatever war it was a memorial to had been fought within its confines." That look contributed to the oft-used nickname Buffalo residents gave to the stadium: The Rockpile. Ironically, that worn-down look worked perfectly for the 1984 film The Natural, about which Fimrite was writing. All of the baseball scenes in that movie were filmed here except for the one scene set at Chicago's Wrigley Field, which was actually filmed at Buffalo's All-High Stadium.

The stadium was deemed unsuitable for National Football League play after the AFL–NFL merger, resulting in the Bills constructing Rich Stadium in the suburbs and vacating War Memorial Stadium. After the Bills' departure, the stadium sat dormant from 1973 to 1978. The last tenant of War Memorial Stadium was the Buffalo Bisons, a franchise that was revived in 1979 before moving to a new downtown stadium, known as Pilot Field, in 1988. The last event at War Memorial Stadium was a Bisons game against the Nashville Sounds (the Sounds won, 7–5) on August 30, 1987; the game drew a capacity crowd of nearly 40,000 spectators.[4]

Baseball diamond and football field

Johnnie B. Wiley Amateur Athletic Sports Pavilion[edit]

War Memorial Stadium was demolished shortly after the Bisons moved downtown to Pilot Field. A high school athletic field (Johnnie B. Wiley Amateur Athletic Sports Pavilion - c. 1997) remains at the old site and serves as one of Buffalo's three major high school football fields (the others being All-High Stadium and the field at Riverside Institute of Technology); the field also previously served as the home of the Buffalo Gladiators, an adult amateur football team. The northeast and southeast entrance to the old stadium was preserved. A small baseball diamond is located on the southwest corner of the field.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–2014. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved February 27, 2014.
  2. ^ Western New York Heritage Press
  3. ^ Assessed 12-OCT-2008 http://msn.foxsports.com.
  4. ^ Harrington, Mike (August 30, 2012). Bisons' Rockpile finale was 25 years ago today. The Buffalo News. Retrieved August 30, 2012.

2. The site is currently used for grammar school track & field events.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
first stadium
Home of the
Buffalo Bills

1960 – 1972
Succeeded by
Rich Stadium
Preceded by
Offermann Stadium
Home of the
Buffalo Bisons

1960 - 1970
1979 - 1987
Succeeded by
Pilot Field