January 12, 2019 - Fairport, New York
Thomas Creek Ice Arena opened in Fairport, New York in 1989 as a single pad ice rink. A second pad was added in 1995, and the arena has been serving local hockey players and skaters in this town about 15 minutes east of Rochester ever since. An ownership change a couple years ago found the facility being renamed as the Rochester Ice Center, and the USPHL came to town not long after that and the Rochester Jr. Monarchs now have teams competing at the USPHL Premier and NCDC levels. This community arena sits in a wooded area off the road, and has a paved and gravel parking lot on site that gets rather full when the arena has activities going on. The hockey scene in Rochester is rather crowded with NCAA Division 1 and 3 teams, the AHL, and then junior hockey for the fans to choose from. The exterior of Rochester Ice Center has a modern look thanks to recent renovations, and features red and tan metal siding and a main entrance that accesses the lobby between the 2 ice pads. Oddly enough the ice pad nearest the road features older yellowish metal siding and still has block letters attached bearing the Thomas Creek Ice Arena name. The blue and white Rochester Ice Center logo, which has the name blended together as "Icenter" sits above the main entrance door to the lobby. A fitness center, pro shop, and bar style restaurant are also on site, and the facility is not unlike many other community arenas in upstate New York. Rochester Ice Center also houses quite a few area high school hockey games in addition to the Jr. Monarchs, and is a busy place bustling with activity. This arena was never intended to be a large spectator venue, but serves the purpose of being a well equipped local arena for area families nicely.
This Saturday evening NCDC contest had a 8pm start against the Connecticut Rangers, which allowed us to catch a college game at the College at Brockport in the afternoon. Upon entering the building you are in the main lobby, which features a nicely stocked pro shop to the left, and the main concession stand and snack bar to the right. A large mural above the lobby features logos of all of the teams which call the facility home, including local youth programs, high schools, and the Jr. Monarchs. The layout of the facility finds the 2 ice pads laid out perpendicular to each other. The Jr. Monarchs games are held in the West Rink, which has the larger seating capacity of the 2 rinks, with a grandstand featuring 10 rows of blue metal bleachers running most of the length of the ice. We'd guess the seating capacity at about 400. There is an enclosed area next to the glass in the lobby which features a fireplace and seats overlooking the ice, and many attendees chose to watch from that warmer area. There was no admission charge for this game, and a Jr. Monarchs table was set up at the entrance to the West Rink displaying team and league signage and information as well as free lineup sheets. With the NCDC relying on tuition paid by players in the lower levels of the organization to fund the NCDC there is little focus on marketing to fans or trying to attract folks in the area to attend games, despite the level of play being quite solid. The view from the grandstand is decent, although the rake of the seating is not very steep. A single scoreclock sits above the goal on one end, and the restaurant overlooks the ice from an upper level on the lobby end. Netting is in place in front of the entire grandstand, and the lighting is kept rather dim inside the rink. The ceiling is low and is held up by large gray beams, and the walls are a light gray as well giving the place a rather dreary look inside. Rochester Ice Center is certainly a sufficient place to house a NCDC team, and is well kept inside, there is just not a lot to make it stand out from most other community ice arenas in the region.
The game day presentation at Rochester Ice Center for a Jr. Monarchs game is basic but professional. There is music played during stoppages over a robust PA system and the starting lineups are announced. Aside from that there is little ancillary activity going on and intermission simply consists of the ice being resurfaced while most fans head to the lobby to warm up a bit. The zamboni has Buffalo Sabres logos and colors, and the restaurant stays quite busy during the games and the lower level enclosed seating also seems to fill up fast, whereas the colder grandstand section was rather empty. With an announced attendance of less than 200, and the Jr. Monarchs falling the the contest to Connecticut there was not a whole lot of excitement for the fans, although the game did feature a penalty shot and some solid on-ice action. With the Jr. Monarchs struggling at the bottom of the NCDC standings the crowd was rather subdued and mainly made of of friends, and families, and billet families as well as some area youth hockey players checking out the game with aspirations of moving to this level someday. Rochester Ice Center is certainly not the primary destination for area hockey fans looking to catch a game, but the Jr. Monarchs offer a solid level of play and you can't beat free admission to watch players who will certainly advance to the college level in a short time. We enjoyed our stop at Rochester Ice Center, and the rink will certainly continue to serve as a great place for local residents to enjoy the game of hockey.