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
Main entrance (left field corner) in 2011,
at Dodge Street and Jefferson Avenue
Former names Roesch Memorial Stadium (1937)
Grover Cleveland Stadium (1937–1938)
Civic Stadium (1938–1960)
Location 285 Dodge Street
Buffalo, New York
Coordinates 42°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
Owner City of Buffalo
Operator City of Buffalo
Capacity • 33,000 (1937)
• 35,000 (1939)
• 46,500 (1960)
Surface Natural grass
Construction
Broke ground 1935
Opened 1937; 79 years ago (1937)
Expanded 1960
Demolished 1988 (partially)
Construction cost $3 million
($49.4 million in 2016 dollars[1])
Tenants
Buffalo Indians/Tigers (AFL) (1940–1941)
Buffalo Bills (AAFC) (1946–1949)
Buffalo Bills (AFL/NFL) (1960–1972)
Buffalo Bisons (EL/AA) (1979–1987)
Bishop Fallon High School (Monsignor Martin Athletic Association) (1962–1969)

War Memorial Stadium (affectionately known as The Rockpile) was an outdoor stadium in the northeast United States, located in Buffalo, New York. It hosted both minor league baseball and professional football teams, most notably the Buffalo Bills of the American Football League (AFL), and later National Football League (NFL).

The stadium was on a rectangular block near the downtown area and its baseball diamond had an unorthodox southeast alignment (home plate to center field).[2] The main entrance was in the left field corner at Jefferson Avenue to the east 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. The east-west alignment of the football field was also unorthodox, running along the third base line.

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.[3]

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 new 50,000-seat minimum). After considering[4] and ultimately rejecting a move to Seattle, the Bills left after the 1972 season for Rich 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 19601972, the unrelated Buffalo Bills of the AAFC from 1946–1949 ("Bisons" in 1946), 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).

Postseason games hosted[edit]

The stadium hosted three postseason professional football games, all in the American Football League.

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 in 1983,[5][6] 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. As part of a deal with Congress clearing the way for the merger, the NFL declared that stadiums seating fewer than 50,000 people were not suitable for league needs. War Memorial Stadium only seated 46,500 people at its height, and could not be expanded. This resulted in the Bills constructing Rich Stadium in suburban Orchard Park and vacating War Memorial Stadium after the 1972 season.

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.[7]

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]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved November 10, 2015.
  2. ^ "42.906 N, 78.857 W". Historic Aerials. Retrieved January 13, 2016. 
  3. ^ Western New York Heritage Press
  4. ^ "Buffalo Bills nearing move to Seattle". Eugene Register-Guard (Oregon). January 12, 1971. p. 3B. 
  5. ^ "Redford movie being filmed in Buffalo". Evening News (Newburgh, New York). Associated Press. June 16, 1983. p. 8B. 
  6. ^ Mulcahy, Susan (July 20, 1983). "Buffalo wins out for Redford flick". St. Petersburg Independent (Florida). p. 18B. 
  7. ^ 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