As with many of you, I returned home for Christmas break, but for me it was the first time in four years. Just prior to my junior year of high school, my parents moved my family to Littleton. Even after being in Colorado for so long, I still consider Rochester, N.Y. home.
For those who probably don’t know where Rochester is, it’s in upstate N.Y., about an hour and a half east of Buffalo. It’s a big city, but certainly no N.Y.C.
One of the best things about growing up in Rochester was the sports teams. There are no “major league” sports, but Rochester has its fair share of sports franchises, and though they’re “minor league,” there’s nothing minor about them.
One of the city’s most recognized teams is the Rochester Redwings, the Triple A farm team for the Baltimore Orioles. Many stars like Cal Ripken Jr. and Mike Mussina got their starts with the Wings, and even Rockies left fielder Alex Ochoa started his career in Rochester. The team is a constant contender in the International League, and is famous for being a part of baseball’s longest game: 33 innings against the Pawtucket Redsox in 1981.
The Rochester Americans (a.k.a. Amerks) are the farm club for the Buffalo Sabres hockey team. The team has won numerous American Hockey League titles and is in contention once again. Players like Dominik Hasek and Alexei Zhitnik have graced the ice of the Rochester War Memorial Arena.
The Wings and Amerks are just two of many teams located in Rochester, which also includes professional lacrosse, indoor lacrosse, soccer and a recently acquired Arena Two football team.
The true joy of growing up in a “minor league” city like Rochester is that you can actually afford to go to games throughout the season.
While home over break, my grandfather took my girlfriend, Megan, and I to an Amerks game. Our seats were in about the 10th row just shy of center ice. Amazingly enough, each ticket was a mere $15. In comparison, for Christmas, Megan bought us tickets to go see my first Avs game, this Thursday against Phoenix (that’s right I’ve never seen the Avs play live). To sit in the front of the 300-section, it cost $54 a seat.
Granted, the NHL has a faster pace, but it’s not that different. As a matter of fact, it seems the sense of community and team pride a smaller city has increases the fun of attending a game. Average families can actually attend games on a regular basis, instead of once a season. Denver may have “major league” teams in each of the big four sports, but fans do not have the connection to the players or pride in the teams, through the ups and downs of a season. In my opinion, Denver fans are probably the biggest fair weather fans of any.
The truth is, you can blame the growing ticket prices of our city’s professional sports on the ever-growing expense of player contracts, along with the constant building of new facilities, which are seldom needed. Selling a stadium’s name to a corporate sponsor to help with the cost of building a new facility is not enough to save the constantly growing cost of tickets.
Don’t get me wrong; I love that Denver has an abundance of major sports franchises, but every once in a while, I’d like to be able to afford an evening at a game without spending my life savings, and without having to sit in the nose-bleed section or Rock-pile.