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Sabres light up the night at First Niagara Center

Filed under: Puck Stop, Sports

Hockey fans heading down the street towards the First Niagara Center might have been a bit surprised tonight, when at approximately 6:54 PM, the dazzling new marquees of the First Niagara Center were lit up for the very first time high atop the arena.

The Sabres made the most of it, offering a short lighting ceremony presided by First Niagara CEO John Koelmel and Sabres president Ted Black. Set at a podium on the corner of Washington and Scott, the pair briefly touched upon the recent history on how these two organizations got together to award the naming rights to Buffalo’s fastest growing financial institution. Then without further ado, a small but boisterous group of Sabres fans watching the proceedings and counted down to the lighting, and presto! The “end of the beginning” of the arena’s transformation to the First Niagara was now complete.

The new signage is dazzling… and this critique comes from us two stadium guys who have been to all 30 NHL venues (yes even the MTS Centre in Winnipeg although it was an AHL arena then). The signage lettering all all backlit and offer a clean but dramatic look to the facade, and a huge improvement from the old HSBC lettering which was poorly floodlit.


Ted Black and John Koelmel make it official
So now the next question beckons… with the dramatic new look to the arena and the great impact it makes on the immediately adjoining neighborhood, when are the public authorities involved (ECHDC, NYSDOT, NYPA) going to to take the next logical step in the transformation of Canalside to a dynamic and vibrant district? And that is to light up the Skyway pylons, and floodlight the Connecting Terminal Elevator, which is the grain elevator directly across the river behind the First Niagara Center.

We posed that question to Ted Black. His response? “Anything that’s good for Buffalo is good for us. We’re very interested in that. We have seen the plans for the re-creation of the canals through the Aud site, and I’m personally very excited by that which includes a skating rink. If anyone wants us to participate in that? At the end of the day anything that happens down here that involves drawing more people and more attention and creating more beauty we’re in favor of.”

Black stated that the ECHDC has not given the Sabres front office a seat at the table, so to speak, but has kept the team abreast of ongoing plans. “Not so much input or involvement,” Black replied, “but they know that what they do impacts us, just like anything we do impacts what they are doing. Again, I’m very excited. It would be great to see ice skating before the winter is out. That would be very. very cool.”

Time to light up the Skyway and the Connecting Terminal Elevator!