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Ted Black wants major NHL events, is the city ready?

Filed under: Puck Stop, Sports

Guest submission by CHRIS OSTRANDER, Two In The Box.

Ted Black came out of this weekend’s board of governors meeting with a mission that he has trumpeted many times over the past 12 months. He wants to host anything and everything related to the NHL.

Whether it be the All-Star Game, Draft, Winter Classic or something so cool we haven’t even heard of it, Black and the Sabres want in. Unfortunately the Columbus Blue Jackets will host the 2013 All-Star Game before the event is skipped for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. However, being passed over for next season may be in the best interest for the Sabres as a team (and management) and the City of Buffalo.

First of all, it is totally awesome to think that Ted Black is going into every BOG meeting and lobbying for the Sabres to host the any major NHL event. This is just another one of those tangible examples of what this ownership group is doing to make Buffalo “Hockey Heaven”.

Going into All-Star weekend, 2012 Draft and 2013 Winter Classic hosts had already been chosen. Also, considering the Leafs will be the visitors for the next Classic, it is safe to assume the Leafs will be due to host in the near future. The decision on who would host next year’s All-Star game was to be made this weekend; giving Black the opportunity to pull for Buffalo as the hosts.

With Columbus hosting next season and the Olympics likely cancelling the 2014 event, the next All-Star Game without a host will be 2015. Looking at all the secondary factors; that should be the game Buffalo pushes to host.

To begin, First Niagara Center is a perfect arena to host an All-Star game or any other major NHL event. Between the original features (pavilion, Harbour Club, congregating areas) and the new additions (laser beam Zambonis and locker room renovations), FNC is a class-A venue for any major event. It is the area outside the Arena that is ill prepared.

Columbus is a terrific barometer for Buffalo in terms of identifying what steps need to be taken to be able to host this type of event. Columbus has a terrific arena district with – brace yourselves – things to do before and after events. The Arena District helped get Nationwide ranked first by my USRT friends and is given four stars by Stadium Journey. Walk out of FNC on a given night and there are four bars within walking distance, or you can drive elsewhere for postgame entertainment.

Despite the proximity of Canalside, there is little to do in the district that should act as the entertainment anchor for downtown Buffalo. Not only would I consider Buffalo incapable of hosting the next All-Star game, I wonder how prepared the city was to host the World Juniors last year. Let us not forget the statement made by Brian Higgins in 2008 at the WJC announcement. He said there would be development prepared and progress made at Canalside before the tournament began. Three years later, we are still waiting.

Make no mistake, USA Hockey and the Sabres put on a terrific tournament. It was the activities beyond the arena that were lacking. There was plenty of flap about the lack of attractions in Buffalo during the WJC. Plopping one of the NHL’s premier events in the city right now would do little to dispel the criticism levied one year ago. Time needs to pass for attractions to be built up around the arena. One year’s time would not be enough.

The Donovan Building is required to be finished by the end of 2013; the canals are expected to be completed by the end of 2012, but may not be in full function until well into 2013. There are plenty of interesting plans in place for developing additional attractions, but no shovels are in the ground at this point. Just that short overview shows more time needs to pass. Allowing for a two-year run to further develop the district not only provides the time to construct the necessary attractions, but the ability to fine-tune them as well.

Assuming the 2015 All-Star Game is awarded to Buffalo, the progress in Canalside will likely be far advanced. It would be criminal if there is little more than “functional lawns” and 18” canals in such a burgeoning district in 2015. I can’t imagine it would be too hard to lure Dinosaur BBQ into a new building in the district. The same goes for many other restaurateurs and retail establishments looking for space.

Along with other areas in the city (Larkin, BNMC, the casino etc.), Canalside should serve as a testament to the city’s progress, not a blight on the lack of movement and inability to accomplish anything.

Regardless of the Sabres’ standing in poaching NHL events in two years, there should be visible progress made downtown. Taking the concrete projects and the pipe dreams into account, Canalside (and the rest of the city) should be prepared to serve as a terrific centerpiece when the NHL rolls into town.


  • http://artvoice.com Chris Smith

    Oh, how wrong you are. They are intended to be FLEXIBLE lawns, not just functional. Shows what YOU know.

    Also, great article!

  • Travelllrrr

    Mr Ostrander– it’s bad enough that road trip Kulyk blathers on and on about his ballpark journeys, now you come on here too with more of the same.

    I’ve been to the Arena District. It is a tacky soulless menagerie of brewpubs, condos and chain restaurants. Totally devoid of character. We aren’t talking about some generic shopping mall here, this sacred land is the great terminus of the Erie Canal and the gateway to the west. You can’t be serious about sullying this property with something as tacky as a Dinosaur BBQ. Nobody here in WNY wants to see them come here anyway I think I speak for just about everyone.

    I also speak gor everyone when I say that nobody cares about NCAA basketball tournaments or Woekd Juniors or All Star nonsense. We need to focus on getting more events like the Preservation Conference to Buffalo. As for hockey fans, they can go drink on Chippewa or better yet go back to the suburbs or Canada where they came from. Who wants them anyway!

    God Bless Fred Kent and Tim Tielman, they are delivering the waterfront that we all want and deserve. You and Kulyk can go paint your faces blue and gold and go drinking together on an urban bar crawl up Allen St with your sports and hipster buddies have fun!

  • http://twointhebox.com Chris O

    @Travelllrrr – I hate to break it to you, but major events like the NCAA Tournament, WJC, NHL All-Star game and the like, create major amounts of revenue. The type of revenue that boosts the region’s economy with outside dollars.

    I’m not asking to turn the Galleria inside out and plop it on Canal. But when I visit Canalside I stay for 15, 20 minutes at the most. There needs to be THINGS TO DO. And just because Tielman & Co. scratched and clawed for historically aligned canals (which are little more than reflection pools) doesn’t mean that the area will be any more of an attraction.

    Canalside doesn’t need to be a big box theme park. But lawn chairs and snack stands won’t create the waterfront we deserve either.

  • Peter Farrell

    Wait, I missed something. Was there some sort of preservation conference here in Buffalo recently? Yawn. People came here to look at older buildings that tend to exist in every rust belt city in the country? Send me a postcard.

    And since I attended WJC, NCAA’s and saw packed houses at the arena during their time it’s safe to say that Travelrrr’s comment is, dare I say it…historically inaccurate?

    People do care about these events. No matter how much you think they don’t. And one thing that these fans don’t do is visit Canalside, because there’s nothing there to see and do regardless of whether an historic canal terminus exist or not.

  • http://artvoice.com Chris Smith

    Travelllrrr is either the greatest internet troll to grace our pages in months or he is the debbil. I’m not sure, but it was fun to read!

  • http://artvoice.com Chris Smith

    PLACES TO GO! THINGS TO DO! HELL YES, WE WILL GO!

    /Every regular guy within a 500 mile drive of Buffalo

  • Alan Bedenko

    I’m tempted to say this is parody.

    It is a tacky soulless menagerie of brewpubs, condos and chain restaurants. Totally devoid of character. We aren’t talking about some generic shopping mall here, this sacred land is the great terminus of the Erie Canal and the gateway to the west. You can’t be serious about sullying this property with something as tacky as a Dinosaur BBQ. Nobody here in WNY wants to see them come here anyway I think I speak for just about everyone.

    That first paragraph has everything. Denigration of chains, condominiums, and euphemisms for “sense of place” conceits. I don’t know why Dinosaur BBQ is any more tacky than, say, a topless green school bus belching diesel fumes at unsuspecting Buffalonians while tourists gawk at largely empty buildings, but I guess the old adage “to each his own” is appropriate. Finally, there’s the “I speak for just about everyone” arrogance.

    It’s a great troll. Kudos.