Arena History


1880 - Kimbal Tobacco Factory opens on the present site of the War Memorial. William Kimbal's wife disliked the dirty smokestack and instead placed a 21-foot statue of the Roman God of Commerce, Mercury, atop the building.

1905 - The Kimbal Tobacco Factory closes and Cluet-Peabody & Co. take over the building. They begin manufacturing collars and shirts.

1924 - The property is purchased by George Eastman and later left to the University of Rochester by Mr. Eastman for "municipal purposes." One plan proposed for an 8,000-seat Auditorium and Opera Hall, situated on the once tobacco factory site.

The University later gives the property to the city. The site begins to operate as a City Hall Annex and public library.

May 23,1945 - Plans for a grand Civic Center Arena are revived following World War II. The Rochester City Council directs a citizens committee to study, "the possibilities for constructing and financing such a memorial within the Civic Center."

July 19, 1945 - The committee concludes that the memorial should have enduring civic usefulness. Also the structure should be, "a living memorial rather than a mere commemorative monument."

The committee recommends that the building contains an auditorium, sports arena, physical recreation facilities, meeting rooms, and display rooms, among other things. Estimate for construction, $2.5 million.

1951 - Kimbal Tobacco Factory is demolished for the construction of the War Memorial. The statue of Mercury is removed and placed into storage (until 1974).

October 18, 1955 - Rochester Community War Memorial opens for business. Total cost, $7.5 million.

1974 - The statue of Mercury, which once was located on the roof of the Kimbal Tobacco Factory, is reborn atop the West Group building where it still stands, across the street from its original home.

March 13, 1996 - Ground breaking for a $41 million renovation/expansion takes place, which includes luxury suites, increased concession stands, additional restrooms, fully functional banquet/meeting rooms, and larger capacity seating.

July 24, 1998 - Blue Cross Blue Shield and City officials announce the name of the renovated arena will be Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial.

September 19, 1998 - Although the arena continued to function throughout the renovations, the Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial officially reopens to the public during a formal ribbon cutting/rededication ceremony.

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