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Shiny new NFL stadiums in peer cities

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It’s been almost a year now since the Greater Buffalo Sports and Entertainment Complex unveiled their vision for a new stadium which would be largely privately financed and be situated smack dab on the lake’s edge in Buffalo’s Outer Harbor.

Since that time, Erie County, the State and the Buffalo Bills partnered up and got a new lease done, which will assure that the team stays here for at least 7 and up to 10 years. Ralph Wilson Stadium will be seeing all sorts of upgrades during the coming offseason, which fans will get to experience come 2014. It comes with a hefty price tag, but it also buys this community time in term of coming up with a long term plan to keep the Buffalo Bills here in perpetuity.

Nicholas Strascick and George Hasiotis, the principals behind the GBSEC, deserve every bit of gratitude and plaudits from the stakeholders and citizens of this area for moving this debate forward. They invested substantial sums to retain a world class architect (HKS Sports) and come up with a preliminary design. They have lobbied mightily at all levels of government to try and secure a time sensitive land option on the Outer Harbor property. And if the vision and the proposed site as depicted eventually falls by the wayside, the people in this community can do the proper due diligence to find the appropriate alternative.

In three other NFL markets, either construction and/or plans are proceeding nicely for new stadiums which will further raise the bar on architecture and design, fan amenities, technology and functionality. Here is the rundown:

SAN FRANCISCO
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Construction is proceeding at a brisk pace on Levi’s Stadium, the new home for the San Francisco 49ers, to replace the aging and generally horrible Candlestick Park, one of oldest and most decrepit stadiums in the league. Set to open in 2014, this building is situated 38.3 miles from San Francisco and actually closer to San Jose, giving this franchise a true regional footprint. It will be the home venue for Super Bowl L (that’s “50”) in 2016.

MINNESOTA
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Ground is being broken for a new stadium in downtown Minneapolis, with the opening set in time for the 2016 NFL season. So where will this facility be located? Right where their current stadium, Mall of America Field (nee Metrodome), is now. In fact, some site work will get underway shortly, and as soon as the current season is concluded, the current stadium will be demolished, and the Vikings will spend two seasons playing at TCF Bank Field on the University of Minnesota campus while their new playpen goes up.

ATLANTA
Just this past week the Atlanta Falcons unveiled new renderings and design concepts for a new stadium to replace the Georgia Dome in downtown Atlanta.

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The Falcons also plan to build their new facility on the footprint of the current Georgia Dome, which would be razed to make room for the new stadium. They plan to raise the bar with electronics and LED technology to dazzle the senses, including a massive “halo” 360 degree video board crowning the circular retractable roof opening, as well as a football field length HD board running along the main concourses. If all goes to plan, their new stadium will open in time for the 2017 NFL season.

For sake of time comparisons here, both Mall of America Field opened in 1982 and the Georgia Dome opened in 1993, while Buffalo rolled out what was then named Rich Stadium in 1973. When San Francisco opens their new field next season, that will leave Buffalo and Oakland as having the two oldest stadiums in the National Football League.

Let the community debate continue.


Flying Bison’s move would have been a steal for Canalside

Guest submission by CHRIS OSTRANDER

For as much good is done at Canalside, it always feels like they’re missing out on the big score. Yet another piece of development news broke today regarding a project that should have been tailor made for Canalside.

As Jim Fink reports in Business First, Flying Bison is exploring a move to a new property in Larkinville in an effort to expand their burgeoning business. According to the report, Flying Bison is eyeing a 12,500 square foot building on Seneca Street for their new home. Here’s more from Fink:

Flying Bison plans on moving by March 2014 from its original home on Ontario Street to the new site. Since its 2000 inception, Flying Bison has leased its Ontario Street site and the building’s owner, DiVal Safety Equipment now needs the building for its own expansion needs.

Herzog said Flying Bison had pinpointed a pair of Michigan Avenue buildings, but those deals could not be completed.

The new building will allow Flying Bison to increase its output and also develop an indoor beer garden/tasting room as part of the tours that regularly take place at the brewery.

Sure 12,500 square feet is big. But would a brewery have not been a killer attraction for Canalside? Think of having Flying Bison’s new brewery (and restaurant?) situated on the Northwest corner of the Aud Block overlooking the recreated canals and facing towards the river, Arena and the rest of Canalside. Instead we continue to wait on the faux historically aligned canals to be completed let alone see any sort of significant construction towards attracting additional tenants to the district. Note: One Canalside and HARBORcenter are both tremendous projects that show how vitally important private interest and investment in the area will be. Continuing to miss out on these types of opportunities is the issue at hand.

This isn’t meant to discount the Larkin District, either. That’s a tremendous neighborhood and the development there is unparalleled. This will be a great project for that district aided by the fact that there are already buildings ready to be filled by new owners. One of the first plans for Canalside called for buildings to go up ready for tenants, but that was shot down in favor of the light, quicker, cheaper programming led by the sunset chair brigade.

The folly is that the ECHDC and Canalside will be missing out on a tenant that could serve as a cornerstone to the mixed-use entertainment district that the region is waiting on. At some point there needs to be some brick and mortar to back up the merits of “500 events a year” and “800,000 visitors”. Or perhaps a simple disclaimer that lingering at Canalside longer than 25 minutes is a challenge on most days.

Not only would a development like this help pave the way for additional commercial tenants, but it would be the type of year-round service that has been desperately missed to this point.

Obviously this all costs money. And building new – particularly a building suited to your specific needs – is going to cost a hell of a lot more than moving into a pre-existing structure elsewhere in the city. So you can’t fault Flying Bison for making the right decision for their business. Nor can you blame ECHDC for being in a situation where they’re unable to recruit tenants to fill new builds.

Where you can find fault is Canalside and the ECHDC’s massive mishandling of the canal project continues to serve as a monumental setback for a district that has seen nothing but setbacks since the first rendering was introduced. Additionally, the failure to provide the skeleton of some of the period-style buildings that are poised to fill the district as the construction has progressed is another missed opportunity for the property’s managers. It’s a point I’ve made before, but how great would it be if BFLO Harbor Kayak and the Spirit of Buffalo had a real rental and tour office rather than operating from a tent and kiosk?

It seems fairly obvious that the ECHDC needs to show potential tenants that this a desirable location. We’ve gone on long enough hoisting the benefits of all the events and all the visitors without seeing much independent interest for Canalside parcels – note that Terry Pegula’s investment in the Webster Block is practically independent of any future development at Canalside.

The skeleton of the Explore-N-More museum is going to be built by ECHDC. This is a great step forward and that will not only provide a specific framework for what other buildings in the area will look like, but to stake a further claim for private investors in the neighborhood. You can’t tell me that a similar course of action to help attract a full-service, local brewing company wouldn’t further stimulate that type of private interest. Just imagine what it would be like having a business somewhat similar to Pearl Street operating right alongside the recreated canals.

Perhaps it’s the shattered image of a signature space for Flying Bison at Canalside that is clouding my opinion, but it just seems like a massive missed opportunity for the ECHDC and Canalside.

At some point there needs to actually be things to do at Canalside. They don’t necessarily need to be all alcohol-related, it just so happens that food and alcohol related activities tend to keep people in an area for extended periods of time. Not to mention the fact that this is right next door to a sports arena.

Canalside is not going to be worse off because they missed a chance on Flying Bison. But the district won’t be better off, either.

Chris Ostrander blogs on sports and Buffalo development at his site, Two In The Box. Follow Chris on twitter @2ITB_Buffalo


Buffalo’s HarborCenter…Rising before our very eyes

Cliff Benson from HarborCenter leads the tour this afternoon at the project site

Cliff Benson from HarborCenter leads the tour this afternoon at the project site

It’s probably one of the most exciting construction projects to ever hit downtown Buffalo. HarborCenter, the multipurpose twin hockey rink, hotel, parking structure, and adjoining restaurant and other retail space, is rising quickly at the foot of Main Street adjacent to the First Niagara Center. Today representatives of the Buffalo Sabres and Mortensen Construction, the general contractor on the project, took members of the media on a “hard hat tour” to update the construction progress on the facility.

“We’re right on schedule, not ahead of schedule, but things are progressing nicely and we’re on track for a September 2014 opening for the entire facility except for the hotel, which will open nine months later,” said John Koelmel, who along with Cliff Benson and Sabres PR members showed off the building and updated the progress to date.

Mortensen Construction is finishing work on the new Pegula Arena in State College, Pennsylvania, the new home of the Penn State Division 1 ice hockey program, and Benson admits that this project is far more more challenging. “There are so many different components, so many moving parts here.The complexity of this compared to Penn State is far higher. Although we are moving along on the same aggressive timeline. The attitude on the job site is fantastic. They learned a lot of stuff from the Penn State experience and are bringing it to this project,” said Benson.

Indeed, some of the nuances learned from peer projects have been incorporated at HarborCenter. On the Washington Street side is the footer for a specially outsized freight elevator. Why so big? “We need this size to be able to transport a Zamboni machine up to the sixth floor to where the hockey rinks will be situated,” explained Ryan Poropat, Superintendent of the project for Mortensen. Poropat, who has worked on many large scale sports construction projects, including the Olympic Stadium in London, was quick to point out some of the nuances of the construction, including a special footer in the northwest corner of the structure near Main and Scott Streets, which serve as the base for the elevator towers which will serve the hotel.

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Looking north from the third floor deck of HarborCenter, One Canalside is rapidly nearing completion on the other side of Scott Street

Looking north from the third floor deck of HarborCenter, One Canalside is rapidly nearing completion on the other side of Scott Street

A new rendering of the building is on display high up in the pavilion at First Niagara Center, and will greet fans coming to the Sabres home opener this Friday against the Ottawa Senators. One area of the building for which substantive drawings have not been revealed are streetscape renderings of the Main Street side, and the sports themed restaurant planned for the northeast corner on Washington and Scott Streets.

Koelmel stated that plans are still being refined for the restaurant, which HarborCenter will own and operate, as opposed to leasing out the space to outside parties. He promised that more information on this component of the facility will be unveiled “in the next 30 to 45 days, tops.” Harbor Center officials had previously revealed that they had made several excursions to Toronto’s Real Sports Restaurant, an upscale sports bistro operated by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, and are looking to create a similar atmosphere and buzz here.


As for the tenant mix anticipated for the street level of the facility, Koelmel replied, “We’re fairly well advanced with our thinking and our dialogue relative to the (restaurant) tenant at Main and Scott. We’ve just started our process for tenants at this end of the building which is at Main and Perry, we’ve had numerous inquiries from protective tenants as to who wants to partner with us and that dialogue and discussion is just now advancing.” Benson added, “We’ve been working with the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation on all these things. We want this to be as user friendly as possible in terms of the pedestrian experience. We have to deal with traffic flow, how people get in and out of these facilities, it’s a little different than Chippewa Street when you have 15-20,000 people moving in and out at one time. But certainly, friendly to the environment down here, absolutely what we want to do here. We want to create a hospitality area here that connects with everything else that is going on across the street, wheat’s going on down here. That is the ultimate goal.

“We’re more than just sensitive to this issue of street friendly design,” added Koelmel. We’re fully engaged with the Canal Harbor people, with Benderson Development, Sam Savarino and others. Our focus is on the district, not just on the project. Fast forward to fall of 2014. Both canal projects will be done. The area around us continues to develop. Sam (Savarino) just opened up a new facility on Illinois Street the other night. The new casino is now open. The NFTA station renovation? That is not coincidental. We’re fully engaged with our district partners to make this experience as user friendly as it can be. We want people to come and come again and come again.”

Other items of interest on the project:

-The crane closest to the arena will be dismantled by next summer, while the second tall crane near Scott Street will continue functioning until next fall, continuing the buildout of the hotel structure which will reach 18 stories.

-Perry Street will be reopened to traffic once HarborCenter opens next September. A skywalk about 25 feet wide will connect the third level of the structure with the second floor of the First Niagara Center pavilion.

-Between 100-110 construction workers are on site at the HarborCenter on any given days.

- The Sabres are in the early stages of thinking where the main marquee for the First Niagara Center will be situated. Once the HarborCenter structure is fully in place, the marquee high top the arena will be largely obstructed from view.

- There will be hockeycentric store for equipment sales and repairs up on the rink level.

“This is moving along as fast as any construction project in the country,” said Benson. “It’s already started at a tremendous pace. We’re somewhat dependent on winter weather but we’re on schedule and ready to go.”

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Over in Batavia… A No Hitter and Magical Day

boxscore
How to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon on a holiday weekend when you’re sports dudes like we are… take in a baseball game that’s what.

Had the Buffalo Bisons still had a shot for the International League Governors Cup playoffs, a roadie to Syracuse would have been in the cards today. With the Herd’s playoff hopes extinguished last night in Rochester, it was off to Batavia instead to see the Muckdogs take on the Mahoning Valley Scrappers. Batavia is the low “A’ affiliate of the Miami Marlins, while the Scrappers are part of the Cleveland system.

The game meant nothing in the standings; both teams are done as far as the New York/Penn League playoffs are concerned. It was “free food for seniors” day, but with meaningless baseball, the crowd was somewhere in the 600 range on a sunny and muggy Sunday.

The fans who did attend got a chance to be a part of history and witness one of the rarest of baseball occurrences – a No Hitter. In this case it was the visiting Mahoning Valley Scrappers, using a combined three pitchers, who went nine innings and managed to post a 6-0 victory and no hits for the home team.

The three pitchers were named Luis Gomez, Carlos Melo and Kerry Doane. Gomez in particular was outstanding, he got into trouble in the first allowing a base on balls and then a hit by pitch, but got out of the jam nicely. He went on to pitch six strong innings, and was virtually unhittable, confounding batters with a combination of fast ball and breaking ball. The three combined for 12 strikeouts.

In the 9th inning, Doane surrendered a leadoff hit which caromed off the third baseman and took a vertical hop, allowing the runner to get to second base. The official scorer quickly ruled it an error, keeping the no-no intact. From there, it was a ground out, strikeout looking and a strikeout swinging, and the entire MHV team poured out onto the field and mobbed the pitcher in jubilation.

And where were we? There is a great back story involving my USRT partner and fellow Artvoice sports columnist Peter Farrell. Pete has been on a mission to see a no hitter since his childhood days. He was not there in 1997 the night Bartolo Colon made history for the Bisons – the only no hitter ever thrown at Coca Cola Field (I was there that night). A combined Bisons no hitter in 2001 went awry in the 9th inning when second baseman Kevin Sefcik couldn’t climb the ladder to snare the ball. A few years later, Buffalo pitcher Kyle Denney took a no hitter into the 9th and couldn’t cash in on a Saturday afternoon, which was just as well as Pete was not in attendance, instead out delivering mail.

The Quest For No Hitter and the ultimate failing of that quest has become synonymous with Pete amongst the Bisons media and staff in the Coca Cola Field press box. It has become a tradition among the scribes to call out “See Ya Farrell” or “Good Night Farrell” at the immediate moment both no hitters on the field are gone. This past Thursday, the final home game of the Bisons season, Buffalo had a no hitter going into the 6th inning. Pete showed up (running late after a monster overtime day at work) just as the 6th inning was getting underway. We all knew. Everyone knew that the minute Pete showed up, Buffalo’s no hitter was doomed. Sure enough. As soon as Pete got his beverage and settled into his chair, Sean Nolin gave up a solo home run to right field. 5 2/3 innings. No hitter gone. See Ya Farrell.

So here we are, in the grandstand behind home plate at Dwyer Stadium, both anxious and nervous as the 9th inning unfolds. Literally quaking and hanging on every pitch. A quick “whew” as that leadoff runner gets called an error. Then a ground out. One away. Pitch after pitch we are hanging on the ball. The next batter looks at a 2-2 pitch that should have been called strike. It was a ball. No matter. The next pitch he goes down looking.

I turn to Pete and recite one of the memorable quotes (amongst many insanely memorable quotes) from the 1989 baseball movie “Major League”. I said, “Pete, this is the out you’ve been waiting your whole life for.” I wasn’t far off with that statement. This was as close as we had come in years to witnessing a No Hitter in our many USRT baseball experiences. Would Mahoning Valley have it in them to get that final out?

No More "See Ya Farrell". It's a No Hitter today in Batavia

No More “See Ya Farrell”. It’s a No Hitter today in Batavia

It took only four pitches. On a 1-2 count, the final Batavia batter took a massive swing. The ball was safely in the catcher’s mitt. The entire Scrappers team piled onto the field in jubilation. And we can tell you that there was nobody louder or making more commotion in the stands than us. We were hugging, high fiving and whooping it up, even eliciting stares from the locals. A lady behind us asked if we were affiliated with the team. Really, ma’am? Would we be carrying on like this for a meaningless September win on the third last day of the season? We explained to her and her group that we had all just seen a no hitter, and they were oblivious to what was going on.

We stayed. We tweeted and facebooked and let all our friends know what we just saw. We took photos, went to the rail close to the MHV dugout to cheer on these young lads for their memorable accomplishment. And we just savored the moment, knowing it may be a long, long time, if ever, that we experience something like this again.

It’s a safe guess that the “See Ya Farrell” call will remain a part of Bisons press box tradition come 2014, because it just is, that’s why. But it will never be the same. Peter Farrell, and the USRT, have now attended and witnessed a No Hitter. As Pete tweeted, can a Bills’ Lombardi Trophy and a Sabres’ Stanley Cup be far away? At this point, anything is possible.

Andrew and Peter comprise the Ultimate Sports Road Trip and also cover Buffalo Bisons baseball and Buffalo Sabres hockey for Artvoice. Follow them on Twitter @akulykUSRT and @pfarrellUSRT


Cheers to the Buffalo News’ Mike Harrington – Hall of Famer

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It isn’t too often that a member of the media gets enshrined into a sports Hall. Tonight at Coca Cola Field was just one of those occasions as Buffalo News baseball writer Mike Harrington was inducted into the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame. Alongside were two other inductees, former Bisons players Dave Roberts and Ernie Young, both stars from the Cleveland Indians era as the Bisons’ parent club.

For Mike, it is an honor which is richly deserved. He has been at the helm as the Buffalo News’ primary Bisons “beat reporter” since 1993. He covered the team’s three championships, in 1997, 1998 and 2004, as well as the Triple-A World Series in Las Vegas in 1998. On the big league level, he has covered every World Series going back to 2000. He has also covered NCAA basketball and is part of the Buffalo Sabres media corps.

We are excited about our friend and colleague’s honor, for he has been an indelible part of the Ultimate Sports Road Trip almost from its humble beginnings. He also inspired us to get involved as media free lance representatives. Make no mistake. Without Mike Harrington’s influence, we are not here at Artvoice today. There is no Play Ball. There is no Puck Stop. Well, maybe there is, but it wouldn’t be us doing it.

Our association with Mike began way back in 2001. We were in the Buffalo Bisons press room, doing some “media” work for a public access sports show which was so hideous it could have made your eyes bleed to watch it. We introduced ourselves, told Mike what we were up to, and he was captivated. So much so, that he pitched the Ultimate Sports Road Trip as a feature story in the Buffalo News. It ran in 2001, and when we hit the finish line in December of 2002, Mike did a follow up feature story. That piece made it to the AP news wires, and then a whirlwind of media appearances, culminating with NBC’s The Today Show. That gave the USRT a true “15 minutes of fame” which we will always remember and cherish.

Mike likes sports venues. He likes sports travel and road trips. He especially loves ballparks, old and new. Some members of the media who travel to faraway places never see the inside of the public areas of a stadium or arena. Work involves entrance through some obscure security door, a ride up a freight elevator, a seat in a press box and then a work area near a locker room. Mike does far more than that. When he covers a road game, in whatever sport, he takes the time to explore the venue, get a gander of the city and what works and what doesn’t work with the architecture, streetscape, food and event entertainment. He takes the time to mingle with the fans and get their feedback.

When he tweets from Sabres games the playing of “silly blooper reel”, few other media members care or pay attention. The reason he calls out the Sabres game night crew is because he sees and experiences how cool and awesome game night presentation is in other NHL venues, and demands better from the Sabres front office for the fans and spectators. That’s the kind of guy he is.

We’ve always been a bit envious of Mike, because as much as he travels for his job, he gets to experience cool events and places that are hard for the USRT to get to. How many epic World Series’ moments, how many NCAA Final Fours? Being working media is hard and grueling work, but it’s also full of awesomeness.

But we are guessing that sometimes Mike is envious of the USRT as well. He follows our travels religiously, he checks out our Artvoice columns as part of his reading rotation. In 2011 we had the good fortune to travel to Europe and follow the Sabres on their epic trip through Mannheim, Helsinki and Berlin. The Buffalo News didn’t send Mike, but he was following our travels and stories every step of the way.

In 2009, New York opened two gleaming baseball venues, those being Citifield, the home of the Mets, and the new Yankee Stadium, home of the Yankees. In May of that year, Mike traveled to New York, and then prepared a multi page feature for the Buffalo News profiling the new ballparks. The body of work was USRT-esque. it totally captured the feel of everything regarding New York’s two new stadiums. We’d like to think that we had some influence and impact on Mike’s decision to go on that trip, and to do all that work to create something that was so journalistically superior and thorough.

The Buffalo Bisons press box is almost like a family – staff, media members, the official scorer and public relations people sit together, mingle and do their jobs. Mike is a mainstay of that environment. When we joined Artvoice in 2004, he made us feel welcome, and since that time, we have seen him welcome other new journalists and bloggers as they have made their way through the accreditation process and take their seats as members of the media.

And the last endearing memory we get to share – We get to cover a few hockey road games for Artvoice each year, and just happened to be in Chicago’s United Center in January of 2012. The Sabres played an awful and forgettable game that night, and were in the midst of a protracted slump. In the post game gathering in the hallway downstairs, Mike repeatedly challenged Coach Lindy Ruff on his decision to keep Ville Leino in the game after some horrible miscues on the ice. Exasperated, Coach Ruff finally snapped, “Mike, YOU COACH”, and stormed away in a huff. It was an epic media moment and we were among the few fortunate enough to have been there in person.

So on this night we raise a glass to toast our good friend, our colleague, and our mentor, Mike Harrington, on the occasion of this great honor. Thank you for the fellowship, and hoping for many more years of association through our work assignments and our shared love of sports.

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Follow the Ultimate Sports Road Trip on Twitter @akulykUSRT and @pfarrellUSRT


And over at ECDems, a good day

Friday June 14 was one of those good days over at Erie County Democratic Committee headquarters. One of those days where the boss calls the local pizzeria for delivery for the entire staff, including party hats, confetti and pitchers of orangeade to wash down the food.

cecparty

So what happened? Perhaps a sighting of Erie County Comptroller candidate Lynn Szalkowski? Well, no. One can’t even find her on a milk carton, much less at a public event.

So maybe release of a new poll showing a runaway lead for Bert Dunn? Not that either. Or wishful thinking that Republican legislators Hardwick and Dixon would be dropping out of their respective races? Nah!

What was big news was that the 4th District of the New York State Appellate Court dismissed the lawsuit brought on by Cheektowaga Chair Frank Max and others challenging the validity of last September’s election to Erie County Chair. The information was eagerly trumpeted on the ECDems Facebook page as soon as the decision was made public:

Erie County Democratic Town Chairs Association
Friday
So I hear the Max lawsuit is over once and for all. Finally. and Guess who is the Chairman – Jeremy Zellner

Of course it was big news, but not unexpected. But the posts kept coming, between noshing of those slices of pizza and tooting the party horns around the office conference table:

Erie County Democratic Town Chairs Association shared Erie County Democratic Committee’s status.
Friday
knew it all along, what a waste of effort. Time for these people now to show if they are Democrats of not

Tacked on to that post was this by ECDems Chair Jeremy Zellner:

Erie County Democratic Town Chairs Association shared Erie County Democratic Committee’s status.
Friday
Chairman Zellner issued the following statement in response to today’s ruling from the Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division, regarding the lawsuit brought against the Party by Frank Max, Dan McParlane and John Fracos:

“Just as in the trial court, the four justices today unanimously found that there was no merit to the claims made by Frank Max, Dan McParlane and John Fracos in the suit they filed earlier this year. This ruling confirms the overwhelming vote by the duly elected committee members of the Erie County Democratic Committee at our Party’s reorganization meeting in September 2012. At the time of the vote, both candidates for chair stated publicly that they were going to unite behind the winner. It is time for the Democratic Party in Erie County to move forward together and unite behind our strong ticket, headed by Mayor Brown and countywide slate, headed by Bert Dunn.”

What Mr. Zellner omitted in the statement was that the original court review, and the appellate hearing, never actually heard arguments on the merits of the case. This case involved a meeting of the Erie County Democratic Committee last September to elect a new chair, when roughly 48% of those present voted for Zellner over Max, and that minority turned into a huge majority when a weighted vote was applied, a gross manipulation of the assigning of those weighted votes, according to Max and his supporters. The original judge dismissed the case not because of the lack of merit, but because the case was not filed in time. In other words, a technicality. The appellate judges confirmed that lack of timeliness. Case over. Fight over.

As the staffers were clearing away the pizza plates and dumping the rest of the orangeade, one more post was presented to the public, and this one went into a dark place:

Erie County Democratic Town Chairs Association
Friday
from Tim Frank, a former resident all the way from Florida in response to post about end of lawsuit by Mr. Max Confirms my suspicion… I was Executive Director at Black Rock/Riverside NHS in Buffalo. He was Chairman of my Board… got in trouble for forging signatures on petitions, went to jail, and got my Administrative Assistant in trouble by having her notarized false signatures.

Whoa, Nellie. Forgery! Jail! False! Out of the blue, a person from Florida steps forward at the exact time the appellate decision is released? Really? Read the ECDems post carefully. Who exactly got in trouble and went to jail? Was it Tim Frank, Frank Max or the Administrative Assistant? And why are we learning of this now?

Frank Max was more than eager to respond. “I was the Chair of our local Neighborhood Housing Services in Black Rock. It wasn’t a political organization and our function wasn’t to collect petition signatures for people running for office. Basically, we dealt with issues of neighborhood stabilization, matching first time homebuyers who had mortgage qualification challenges, and getting their mortgages guaranteed by HUD. I vaguely remember Tim Frank he only worked for us for a brief time, keep in mind we’re talking over 30 years ago. But nobody forged anything. Nobody went to jail. This entire allegation is beyond preposterous.”

If Tim Frank, formerly of Black Rock and now resident of Florida, has tangible information and proof regarding this revelation he shared only with Mr Zellner, then he needs to step forward and present dates and facts and evidence. If not, then Mr. Zellner needs to pull the statement off his social network feed and apologize to Mr. Max.

But will he? It’s all about unity now. Stay tuned.

Disclosure: Artvoice sports columnist Andrew Kulyk is involved as a political operative engaged in local Democratic circles. The writings and opinions contained herein are his own only. Follow Andrew on Twitter @akulykUSRT.


In Lancaster and West Seneca, yet more Bile, Hatred, Retribution

In this week’s print edition of Artvoice, editor Geoff Kelly summarizes the machinations which have unfolded in Cheektowaga regarding an endorsement vote for County Legislature in LD-7. Rick Zydel, who has served as Cheektowaga Councilman and is enormously popular amongst fire companies, veterans groups, and has the robust backing of most of the rank and file committeemen, not to mention the endorsement of the Conservative Party and Working Families Party, is the hands on favorite to succeed retiring legislator Tom Mazur.

Lots of grim faces at the recent ECDems fund raiser. Nobody seems to be having a good time.

Lots of grim faces at the recent ECDems fund raiser. Nobody seems to be having a good time.

Says Kelly,“Instead of preserving party resources to battle Republicans in the general election in other districts, Zellner is running Lynn Dearmyer in the primary against Zydel. Dearmyer has run for Legislature before, in 2009, and lost; Zydel is a proven election winner. Both are Democrats.”

So what happens? Petition packets arrive in committeeman’s doors; downtown hand picks a candidate with absolutely no vetting, no consultation with the local chairs, no vote of the committee people. What is the new normal, that now seems to be the Democratic process.

But Cheektowaga is not the only district where these things are going on. Over in LD-8, which comprises the Towns of Lancaster and Alden, and the Depew and Southline portions of Cheektowaga, incumbent legislator Terry McCracken has opted not to seek a new term. Which is a good thing, since his dispassion for the job, his oft absences, and holder of multiple patronage positions within his family would have made him easy fodder for Republican opponent Ted Morton (and with that loss would presumably go Democratic control of the County Legislature, which is teetering with a slim 6-5 majority).

Enter Wes Moore, who is the dream candidate straight out of central casting. Well groomed and good looking, an accomplished financial planner and banking executive, an investor in the district with a new sports park currently in the planning stages, engaged in the community via his young son’s involvement in youth sports, and very popular amongst his committeemen out in Lancaster. In the old normal, such a candidate would be revered and welcomed as someone who could keep the district, and probably control of the legislature, in Democratic hands.

So what does downtown do? No endorsement meeting, no consultation with the local chairs, no vote of the committee people. Petition packets are mailed out, and the hand picked candidate is… who?

Winnie Fisher.

Fisher is the town chair out in Alden, not even an active candidate, but her name appears on petitions simply for the purpose of disrupting the momentum of candidate Moore, until such time as downtown can find a real candidate, and place his/her name on the ballot via the substitution process with the Committee on Vacancies. The people who carry the petitions, the local leaders, and anyone else who matters out there is seeing through this sham and having no part of it. As for the Republican, Ted Morton? He must be getting a good laugh out of this. His worst nightmare is facing Moore in a November showdown. Anything to derail Moore’s candidacy is a good thing at this stage.

Over in LD-10, a sprawling district which comprises West Seneca and a bunch of rural towns eastward and southward, incumbent Legislator Joe Lorigo, a Conservative who caucuses with the Republicans, has performed the job in an exemplary fashion in his freshman term. Beating him and placing the district back in Democratic hands would be a heavy lift. So what does downtown do? Again, no vetting of candidates, no consultation with the local chairs, no endorsement vote. Petition packets are mailed out, containing one for a Lauren Gray for legislature. She is the daughter of an employee at the Board of Election, working for Commissioner Dennis Ward, and it is possible that she doesn’t even live in the district, instead living in the City of Buffalo.photo 3photo 4

Town of Wales Democratic Chair Mary Julian, whose town is a part of LD-10, had seen enough, and sent this blistering email to ECDems Chair Jeremy Zellner yesterday..

In regard to the petitions you tried to pass on to the committee people in this town other than myself:

Town of Wales Endorsed Dick Dobson for Erie County Sheriff ,as did many others. We do not believe that buying an endorsement is Democratic. We also do not believe that Bert Dunn carries democratic values ,especially after his text message scandal. Not liking Obama or our Governor and admiring Reagan is a disgrace to this party beliefs and we want anything to do with that.

Bert has gone up to many people and commented to them that his endorsement by you was a done deal before the interviews. He also said that the interviews wqre just a formality. His father has gone up to chair people and asked bluntly ‘ how much does it cost to endorse my son’. Bert has also gone up to many people telling them that Dick is too old — exact words Jeremy. Age discrimination is against Democratic values. Might I remind you of your devoted support of Louise Slaughter and our Vice President?? How about Hillary Clinton who intends to run for President of the United States? Do you intend not to support her because of her age?

We are not supporting that girl you threw on the petitions for Erie County Legislator. I got calls from my committee people asking who she was after receiving your packets. I told them I have no clue who she is as she has never reached out to me. No one called us , had a meeting , sent a letter or emailed us regarding this girl. Candidate 101- reach out to the chairs and talk to them about your candidacy and ask them for support. My committee people decided that if she finds no value in reaching out to us then we find no value in supporting her.

We will not pass petitions for Lynn Szalkowski because she is not running for comptroller and she is on the petition with Bert who we are not supporting. If Lynn is running then she needs to meet with me and my committee people and convince us that she indeed intends to run a full blown campaign.

The Town of Wales Democratic committee has endorsed Barbara Howe, Paul Crapsi and Mary Carney – three fine choices for the positions they are running for. All of them took the time to reach out to us on more than one occasion.

to add to this I did try to reach out to you regarding my town candidate. I got no return calls and no return emails. I reached out to the other girl who used to run your office and to the guy who does it now and left messages from whoever answered the phone as well as voice mails. Due to needing petitions I found reputable people to help me out.

While we are not in need of the petitions, I do thank you for the walking sheets. They will come in handy while we pass our petitions out for our endorsed candidates.

The local Democratic chairs in LD-10 have countered by circulating petitions for Bob Hauger, who upon information and belief actually does live in the 10th district. No matter. Look for Lorigo to win this one going away.

So there you have it. This is the state of affairs in Erie County Democratic land today… a candidate for Sheriff who brings little to the table beyond the ability to self fund, a Comptroller candidate who thankfully for her will shortly withdraw for “health reasons”, and spare herself and her family the public scrutiny of the sadness and drama going on in her household, a County Legislature on the brink of ceding control away from the Democrats.

Bile. Hatred. Retribution. It is the core belief that guides policy, planning and campaign execution from ECDems headquarters. What a great time this must be to be a Republican in Erie County!


Sabres New Mantra: “Suffering”

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When the Buffalo Sabres did their famed makeover of the team locker rooms and training areas two summers ago, the most noted space planning casualty was the press conference room. Gone was the spacious work area with podium space, ample seating and even a large standing area behind the camera bays for special visitors to stand and watch the proceedings. In its staid came a glorified nook, with a scattered few chairs and two folding tables in the back of the room for writers and photographers to unfurl their laptops and equipment.

So if the media clamors for a season ending press conference, then, hey. Why not? Cram as many people as possible into too small a space, turn up the hot television lights, shut the doors to cut off air flow, and let’s have at it.

Suffering.

Team President Ted Black, and his now apparent organizational equal, General Manager Darcy Regier, met with the press this past Monday to face the media and talk about the fortunes of the franchise. For the collective Buffalo community, it was not one of our prouder moments. Reporters from two media outlets in particular fired questions that were sniping, over the top personal, and prompted snarky and condescending replies from the oft composed Black.

As for Regier, his part of the discussion was to admonish the public, press and the team supporters that there would be plenty of “suffering” ahead as the team retools towards the eventual goal of bringing the Stanley Cup to Buffalo. He used the word repeatedly throughout the conference.

While few details were revealed as to the team’s plan for their head coach, keeping prized assets Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek, or what the on ice game plan is moving forward, a great deal of discussion centered on the Sabres’ decision to raise ticket prices by 4%, an announcement that was made last Friday in conjunction with the team’s “Fan Appreciation Night”.

Suffering.

The Sabres repeatedly trump their robust season ticket base, their lengthy waiting list for season tickets, and their price structure, which remains in the lower tier of the league’s 30 NHL teams. All true.

What the team neglects to pay attention to is its own history and record when it comes to their fan base and ticket sales. It is a colorful story of ebbs and flows.

Buffalo began a sellout streak of games which began in early 1971, when the Aud capacity was still 10,429 seats. That streak continued for almost two decades even after a balcony was added to the arena. Fans would camp out on Terrace Street overnight for the opportunity to purchase scarce and precious tickets at the top of the oranges or in standing room. Being a season ticket holder back then was one of Buffalo’s ultimate status symbols. The front office had a profound sense of hubris and arrogance that there would always be a blindly faithful ticket buying public with lines out the door.

Then the Scotty Bowman period ended. Badly. The team went into a tailspin. And by the late 80s, tickets could be had in all price ranges.

The second ticket renaissance occurred in the 90s. The powerhouse Mogilny/Lafontaine offense ignited new interest in the team, which only grew larger when Ted Nolan’s “hardest working team in hockey” won the hearts of Sabres fans. Excitement over the new arena stimulated ticket sales, and by 1999, the Sabres’ last run to the finals, there were fistfights outside the arena over places in cue for playoff tickets, and the team was offering playoff tickets in exchange for season ticket commitments from customers.

It all fell apart. The popular Nolan was shown the door and got dirt kicked in his face upon his exit (by Regier, no less), then the team spiraled into scandal and bankruptcy. By 2003 the Sabres were playing in front of thousands of empty blue seats on any given night.

Enter Tom Golisano. His Managing Partner Larry Quinn slashed ticket prices, instituted a variable game pricing policy and deep discounts for season ticket holders. The team came out of the 2004-05 lockout fast, exciting, fun to watch and sales surged. While season ticket prices have creeped upwards four of the past six years, the overall pricing model remains in place to this day.

But what now? The dirty secret that nobody wants to talk about is that for the last few games this year Sabres tickets had a commodity value of near zero. People couldn’t give their tickets away.
And the ticket buying public here in Buffalo aren’t fools. They will support their team and shell out their hard earned dollars if they are given hope. Monday’s press conference, laden with anger, acrimony and snark, didn’t exactly help the cause.

Want 99% renewals, Sabres front office? Sell hope. Bring back Ted Nolan, or a guy like him. Announce defiantly that the losing is over. Now. Give your season ticket holders a new incentive that has a “wow” factor. 2.5% Sabrebucks no longer cuts it.

Unfortunately, the one huge lesson gleaned from Monday is “Suffering”. And for Sabres fans and their best customers, strip to the skivvies, grab one’s ankles, and exclaim, “Thank you sir, may I have another.”




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