Finding a home for concerts along Buffalo’s Outer and Inner Harbor

If there’s one summer entertainment option that Buffalo lacks as compared to similar cities it’s an actual concert venue. The stage setup at Canalside makes for a great setting for concerts, but the temporary status makes for an underwhelming venue. The same can be said for the Outer Harbor stage, which has drawn big names but lacks amenities.

At some point in the near future there should be active construction on a number of the parcels at Canalside. When that process begins it will spell the end for the temporary stage and the current set up along the Wharf. Additionally, with the wheels in motion to formulate a master plan for the Outer Harbor State Park, there could be a possibility that the Outer Harbor Concert series needs to relocate.

One way or another, both current sites are potentially in line to be nudged out of their locations due to future development plans. There’s much more flexibility with the Outer Harbor given that there’s no clear direction on how the park land will be developed and the massive amount of space can and should allow for a proper amphitheater to be included in the plans.

Look no further than the concert space at Millennium Park in Chicago for a guideline on this project. While Buffalo’s version doesn’t need to be nearly as big, something that can serve as a real venue as part of the Outer Harbor project should be part of the plans.

Conceivably a slightly larger venue on the Outer Harbor and a scaled down version near the Inner Harbor could co-exist. The two entities work in unison now so it shouldn’t be a stretch to think that a big venue for large acts can settle on the Outer Harbor while a smaller, but still permanent, stage could be built near Canalside. If you’re looking for a comparable to what I envision for the Canalside venue, check out Nautica Pavilion or Stage AE.

That particular point (using those two venues as an example for Canalside) is a point that I’ve harped on ad nauseum, so I don’t wish to linger on finding a parcel within Canalside’s footprint for such a project. One idea that recently came to me was using the land along the Outer Harbor that’s just across the river from Canalside. Use of the land would be nearly entirely reliant upon the completion of the proposed Outer Harbor Bridge, but it would also solve the problem of the future space problem across the way.

The area surrounding the Connecting Terminal grain elevator that sits right on the river seems like an ideal spot to position a moderate sized concert venue (sort of like Stage AE). This way the venue would be positioned in a picturesque area away from virtually every other potential development parcel on the Outer or Inner Harbor.

Without a completed Harbor Bridge anywhere near the horizon, this is nothing more than a pipedream. Even with the improvements to Ohio St. and Fuhrmann Blvd. this is far from a convenient site to get to. With the bridge spanning across from either Erie or Main St., this would immediately become an ideal spot as fans could either drive or walk across the river to catch a show. Considering the Harbor Bridge is on a very lengthy timeline, this plan would be so far down the pipeline it’s almost useless to dream about.

It’s not improbable that the ECHDC or even the state would get behind putting a viable, permanent concert venue somewhere along Buffalo’s waterfront. Obviously people will attend the shows, now it’s time to give them a proper venue with proper services like concessions and bathrooms where they can enjoy the acts that come to town each summer.

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