By Michael Lewis
Indoor soccer makes its debut at the Dome Arena when the Rochester Lancers open up their Major Arena Soccer League 2 season against the Detroit Waza Flo Friday, Jan. 4.
While it will be the inaugural indoor soccer match at the Henrietta, N.Y. facility, is certainly won’t be the first time a sporting event will be held at the venue.
Through the years, the Dome Arena has hosted basketball, arena football and roller derby, to name a few sports and endeavors.
Probably the best-known team to have performed at the Dome were the Rochester Zeniths of the Continental Basketball Association. The Z’s, as they known and nicknamed by the media and their most ardent supporters, called it home for most of their existence from 1978 to 1983.
Coached by the legendary Mauro Panaggio, the Zeniths were one of the leading teams in the CBA, winning two league titles and just about always in the fray as a perennial contender.
The Zeniths secured CBA championships during the 1978-79 and 1980-81 seasons, but never celebrated a title at home, winning both on the road.
At the time, the venue was known for an experimental green textile and rubber basketball court, which had been called the “future of basketball courts.” That concept wasn’t accepted by basketball arenas in the United States, although it was popular in Europe.
The Zeniths certainly had their stars, including Rochester natives such as Marty Byrnes, Norman Bounds, Glenn Hagan, among others. Larry Fogle, an All-American at Canisius College, also was a vital performer.
The Dome was involved in one of the most unique all-star games in the history of any sport in January 1979. With the Z’s enjoying a 57-48 halftime advantage over the CBA all-stars, the lights went out in the Arena on a rainy, stormy night, sending some 2,200 spectators into darkness.
A halftime slam-dunk contest was held under dim lighting by the Arena’s power generator before CBA commissioner Jim Drucker decided that the game would start as a fresh, new game.
Drucker, however, was verbally attacked by the Zeniths’ Fogle and Andre McCarter. “It’s not fair,” Fogle told the Democrat and Chronicle. The former Canisius College standout had 13 points and noted that scouts from the New York Knicks (Fuzzy Levane) and Philadelphia 76ers (Jocko Collins) were in attendance.
“We play hard the whole half and then you take it away. I’m trying for MVP. I want something for tonight to be counted for my behalf.”
McCarter had 14 points, five assists and four steals. “I’m really frustrated,” McCarter told Drucker. I’m out there doing my job with the pro scouts here. I’m trying my best to get out of this league and I might not be as ready tomorrow night. My legs might be stiff. I’ve worked so hard for this game.”
So, Drucker made a Solomon-esque decision for the next night. He kept the statistics from the previous night and wound up with a six “quarter” basketball game as the Zeniths prevailed over the all-stars, 182-168, as the teams combined for 350 points.
As for McCarter, he finished with 42 points and dished out 25 assists to capture MVP honors.
The Z’s also played some home games at the Blue Cross Arena, Community College of the Finger Lakes, Monroe Community College and St. John Fisher College.
The Rochester Raiders called the Dome home during the 2010 Indoor Football League season. They finished second in the Atlantic Division with a 9-5 record behind Richmond. However, the Raiders upset their Virginia foes in the opening round of the playoffs, 26-24, before falling to Wichita, 45-33, in the next round.
The Raiders’ Kevin Conception led the league in scoring that season with 186 points behind his 31 touchdowns. He also caught 65 passes for 921 yards. Perry Patterson finished fourth among quarterbacks, completing 203 of 367 passes for 55 percent, 2,428 yards, 53 TDs and 13 interceptions.
Roc City Roller Derby has held events at the Arena since 2008, traditionally holding doubleheaders in the spring and summer. They recently completed their 2018 season.
The Lancers will host six M2 matches at the Dome, with Saturday, Jan. 5 encounter with the Cincinnati Swerve next up at 7 p.m. They return to action the first weekend of February, hosting the Chicago Mustangs and Cincinnati on Friday, Feb. 1 and Saturday, Feb. 2, respectively, at 7 p.m. Rochester closes out its regular-season home schedule with another back-to-back affair, playing the Detroit Waza Flo and Muskegon Risers on Friday, March 8 and Saturday, March 9, respectively, at 7 p.m.