As the offseason began, the construction crews moved into the First Niagara Center. Now that the summer has come to a close there are plenty of new features the soak in at One Seymour H Knox III Plaza.
Terry Pegula and company entered the offseason hoping to start the transformation of Buffalo into Hockey Heaven. It all started with the renovations of the Sabres locker room, plus an overhaul of the coaching staff’s offices and visitors locker space as well.
The locker room, expected to be the class of the NHL, is all but finished. An overhaul of the concessions and the de-Slugging of the entire arena was completed some time ago. The Sabres put gobs of money into the ice equipment, with laser beam Zambonis and dehumidification (is that a word) equipment. There are also plans to install a 90-foot video board on the outside of the arena, as well.
I’m certainly missing a handful of additional renovations and upgrades that will make the overall experience of the F’N Center – both on the ice and in the stands – better for everyone involved.
The one hole that will remain as the season begins, is the massive area that is currently serving as the Sabres exercise facility. The space was previously the Ira G. Ross Aerospace Museum before their lease was not renewed. While this space would certainly be ideal for an additional bar/restaurant, I think it is a perfect location to build a Sabres Hall of Fame.
There are 37 members – with number 39 and 39 being inducted this year – in the Sabres Hall of Fame. There is currently no space to honor these members, and the former Ira Ross space is ideal. In addition to a traditional area to honor the inductees there would be plenty of room for interactive games and activities for the fans that will certainly mob the space upon it’s unveiling.
The way I see it would be an area dedicated to the 39 members, using a similar shrine as the Pro Football Hall of Fame, just centering the focus on the inductee and the silver sabre they are awarded upon being inducted. This would be built with the opportunity for expansion in order to save space for the time being – say five to ten years.
I also think capitalizing on the success the Hockey Hall of Fame has had with interactive games and features is a cornerstone for success and repeat business. Equate the theory to Canalside; with nothing to do, there is no reason to stay longer than 15 minutes or return, with things to do you will return on many occasions.
That being said, there would be plenty of room for interactive games and additional exhibit space. First, the non-video game exhibits. Honoring each decade individually would be a must. A copy cat of the HHOF’s exhibit space with an individual area for each decade would be a start. In addition, honoring individual award winners (Hasek, Miller, Myers etc.) and team awards (Presidents, Prince of Wales etc.) in an a separate area would provide a good companion to the individual inductees and decade exhibits. Lastly, a way to honor The Aud and the Sabres’ minor league affiliations (Americans and Bisons) would be another excellent addition. Clearly the interactive games would be the main attraction and could also offer a unique way to reflect on the Sabres’ history.
I envision an area with classic Rick Jeanneret calls that will allow fans to record their own version of the “Who else?” Drury goal or Lalalalalalafontaine. That could be coupled with video highlights of classic Sabres plays from over the years.
My final, and most ambitious/unrealistic vision for this imaginary Hall of Fame centers around two of the most unique games in Sabres history, or some of the best players in the history of the franchise. The HHOF in Toronto has two shooting games and two goaltending games that are big hits with all the visitors, no matter what age. I see the Sabres Hall of Fame having at least two games of this nature. Either two shooting games that that honor the Fog Game and the Winter Classic, or one shooting game regarding those two games and an interactive goaltending game that features Dominik Hasek, Gilbert Perreault, Pat LaFontaine and other legendary Sabres scorers.
Clearly this is a vision that is rather unrealistic and expensive. Of course Terry Pegula is not your ordinary owner. Still, this would be a serious project that would cost quite a bit of money and require quite a bit of devotion from the Sabres side of the table. It would certainly be a wonderful way to honor the Sabres past while providing a fantastic year-round attraction for fans. Not to mention, it would be a great addition to the attractions at Canalside – which currently stands at 1.5.
There is a great opportunity for the Sabres to develop this space. Even if the space were to be turned into a bar it would be a perfect space to pregame and have a few drinks after each game or concert. It seems as if the space is destined to be something more than a weight room, or a rarely visited aerospace museum. Hopefully a decision on the area is made in the near future and that decision brings an exciting addition to the F’N Center and the waterfront.