The Adirondack Bank Center at the Utica Memorial Auditorium$2M deal leads to new name for Utica Aud is a 3,860-seat multi-purpose arena in Utica, New York, with a capacity of 5,700 for concerts. Nicknamed the Aud, it is the home arena of the Utica Comets, the AHL affiliate of the NHL's Vancouver Canucks.
Interior of the Utica Memorial Auditorium during a game between Lake Erie Monsters vs. Utica Comets on December 15, 2013.
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The Utica Memorial Auditorium was conceived by then-Utica mayor John T. McKennan, who believed that the city needed a place for entertainment and sporting events. McKennan and the administration that he hired to plan out the process, led by Frank M. Romano, than hired Gilbert Seltzer, a well known architect at that time, to draw up plans for the building. A site was found along the old Erie Canal, and groundbreaking took place April 15, 1957. The arena was constructed using the world’s first pre-stressed dual cable roof system, designed by Lev Zetlin with "struts" between the cables. John A. Roebling’s Sons Company developed the tensioning method for the project. Zetlin's design became the predecessor to the many modern dome designs seen today, and has since influenced many other tensile structures including Madison Square Garden. Seltzer would take the most pride in constructing "The Aud", saying, “This was the first successful use of cables for a roof structure.”
"The Aud" was also one of the first stadiums to have telescopic seats. Telescopic bleachers (the bleachers pulled out from below higher levels) were common in stadiums, but Zetlin requested more comfortable seating for the arena.
Work continued through 1958 and into 1959. When the Auditorium was finally completed, it became one of just three arenas built without obstructed views. The arena opened on March 13, 1960, with the Greater Utica Industrial Exposition its first event, running three evenings from March 16–19. 96 exhibitors took part in the presentation which drew an attendance of some 45,000. In 1962, it hosted the NCAA Division I Men's Hockey Championship (AKA the "Frozen Four"). (In 2017, the arena will host the Division III "Frozen Four".)
Scenes from the 1977 film Slap Shot starring Paul Newman were shot at the Auditorium. The original center-hung scoreboard, as seen in the movie, was unusual in that the game time was kept by a digital clock, while the penalty time was kept by analog clocks. This was eventually replaced by a center-hung scoreboard designed by Eversan, which includes a one-line messageboard. "The Aud" also has the distinction of being the location of one of the last scheduled Elvis Presley concerts. The concert was scheduled to be on Friday, August 19, 1977, three days after Presley's death on August 16.
In 2011, the Utica Memorial Auditorium was designated as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers in recognition of its innovative cable suspended roof.
On June 14, 2013 it was announced that the Peoria Rivermen, the AHL farm team of the National Hockey League's Vancouver Canucks would be relocating to the Utica Memorial Auditorium for the 2013-2014 season as the Utica Comets. As the AHL has a strong presence in Western and Central New York State, the league agreed to the move, citing the move would further boost the league's strength in the Northeast while further cutting down on travel expenses. Travis Green was named as the first head coach in team history on July 23, 2013, joining the Comets from the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL. The Comets played their first game in franchise history on October 11, 2013 at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, losing 4-1 to the Rochester Americans. The first Comet goal ever (and the game's lone Comet goal) was scored by Pascal Pelletier at 13:28 of the third period. On October 23, 2013, the Comets played at "The Aud" for the first time, losing 4-1 to the Albany Devils in front of a sold-out crowd. Frank Corrado scored the first Comet goal on home ice (and the Comets' only goal of the game) with 6:48 remaining. Green named Colin Stuart the first captain in team history on October 30, 2013.
Today, in addition to the Comets, the Auditorium plays host to the Utica College Pioneers men's and women's ice hockey teams which play in the ECAC West conference of NCAA Division III, The Skating Club of Utica, The Jr. Comets Youth Hockey Program and several high school varsity ice hockey teams. It has been the former home for the Mohawk Valley Stars/Comets of the Atlantic Coast Hockey League, the Utica Devils of the American Hockey League, the Utica Bulldogs/Blizzard and Mohawk Valley Prowlers of the United Hockey League, and the Mohawk Valley IceCats of the North Eastern Hockey League. Both Pioneer hockey teams boast the highest average attendance for a Division III hockey team in the United States, with regular season games frequently selling out.
In recent years, "The Aud" has earned high rankings from various hockey circles, earning the #8 spot in "The 10 Coolest Hockey Rinks in the World" list by Complex Magazine, the #8 rank for best AHL arena by Stadium Journey, and #4 in the Pure Hockey Blog's list of the top 6 places to skate for hockey.
Photos and renderings of the Utica Memorial Auditorium are on permanent display at New York's Museum of Modern Art. The museum's collection honors the auditorium as an architectural landmark.
On September 27, 2017, the Upper Mohawk Valley Memorial Auditorium Authority announced a 10-year naming rights deal with locally based Adirondack Bank, amending "The Aud"'s official name to Adirondack Bank Center at the Utica Memorial Auditorium.
In addition to its regular season high school hockey games, the Utica Memorial Auditorium hosted the New York State Ice Hockey semi-finals and finals every year from its inception to the 2015 Championships. In August 2015, NYSPHSAA announced it would be moving the state tournament to Buffalo's HarborCenter. On March 9–10, 1973, Utica Memorial Auditorium hosted the 11th NYSPHSAA state wrestling tournament. The annual tournament has not returned to Utica since.