Finding a solution to First Niagara Center’s blocked signage

There have been a few rumors and reports that the Sabres are working to mend things with First Niagara as the construction of HARBORCENTER is leading to the First Niagara Center’s front door to be obscured quite a bit.

The new facility has risen high enough to block a fair portion of the building’s name when looking down Washington Street along with from other vantage points throughout the city. I can’t imagine it’s too big of an issue as the building’s name isn’t going to change and all the in-arena signage will certainly remain, but a fix is in order for the arena’s signage. Quite frankly, I’m surprised they haven’t already taken care of it.

The areas in yellow would be where the new FNC signage could and should go.
The areas in yellow would be where the new FNC signage could and should go.

I understand why First Niagara is upset. They paid a lot of money for the naming rights and now their sign is all but blocked when you look at the arena. What’s silly is that everyone already knows the name of the building and given the size of the arena, we know it’s not going to be dwarfed by many other developments in that area. However, it is still something that needs to be resolved.

With the new construction, using one sign on the front of the upper façade is no longer an option. It’s obscured from most angles and when you have a corporation shelling out as much as First Niagara has, a remedy will be in order. The easiest, and perhaps most logical, solution is to simply adorn either side of the arena with a First Niagara Center sign so that it’s fully visible no matter where you’re looking from.

As the picture above shows, putting up FNC signage on the east and western portions of the oval would provide cars a full view of the arena’s name whether they’re driving on the north or southbound 190 along with the surrounding neighborhoods.

Personally, I think it could be cool to place the signs on the edge of the façade rather than directly on the blue ring (as it is today). But that’s a minor detail. One way or the other, placing signage on those two areas should appease the decision makers at First Niagara nicely.

Additionally, I think it would be cool to put some sort of overhead sign above Washington Street as you near FNC and HARBORCENTER from downtown. Something that could stand in as a way marker for the arena (as ridiculous as that concept is) while also incorporating HARBORCENTER and the overall presence the Sabres have established in this part of town.

While my rudimentary skills in Powerpoint and MS Paint limit my creative ability here, I envision a sign that would span Washington (perhaps at the corner of Scott) proclaiming that you’ve arrived in Hockey Heaven which serves as the home of HARBORCENTER and the Sabres.

Hockey heavenThe sign’s purpose would be little more than window dressing given the size of HARBORCENTER and FNC but it strikes me as something kind of cool that you see sprinkled in to districts and neighborhoods in various cities. It would also allow for the resurrection of Hockey Heaven as a definition for the city and Sabres.

I think the term Hockey Heaven has been cast too far aside in recent years as the marketing team has chosen to pursue such zingers as We Are Hockey. Hockey Heaven is nearly just as catchy as Hockeytown while being original enough that it doesn’t seem like the Sabres are trying to be copy cats (see: City of Hockey). It was cool when Ted Black said it in Terry Pegula’s introductory press conference and I’ve always seen it as a term that doesn’t need to be recycled.

Putting “Welcome to Hockey Heaven” on a sign right over HARBORCENTER’s most prominent corner would really give the marriage of the new build and FNC an exclamation point while also serving to further define the city’s arena district.

HSBC might be the only hurdle to clear in order to get that sign up, especially with First Niagara’s branding on it. But if the sign was anchored on the sidewalk I wonder if any complaints would be skirted.

This would also take a step that ECHDC should have taken with Canalside as many as two years previously in order to properly define their area with a unique, eye-catching sign. Perhaps Canalside will get a cool, dynamic sign in the coming years, but Terry Pegula has demonstrated that he’s not one to wait around to do cool things – HARBORCENTER and paying for to turf one of Canalside’s lots are perfect examples. I could see this as something added as a final flourish to the HARBORCENTER project as it is buttoned up next year.

Fixing the sign on FNC is going to be easy enough, but I’d really love to see that additional sign added on Washington as a proper welcome to the arena district.

If any actual graphic designers wish to one up me with a cleaner, better looking version of this sign I would have no complaints. You can even work it into the rendering if you’d like and I can post all the iterations here with proper credit, of course.

2 thoughts on “Finding a solution to First Niagara Center’s blocked signage

  1. westinpat August 19, 2014 / 9:36 am

    What about moving the large sign to the Perry Street entrance? They could hang it above ground level glass or high above the upper level glass. Then just place smaller signs around the area/arena directing to the building.


    • Chris Ostrander August 19, 2014 / 10:03 am

      That’s pretty much what I’m thinking but with another facing out from the other side of the building as well. The signs could still hug the roof line as the main sign does now but in an unobstructed location. The smaller street-level sign I cooked up could be multiplied as the team/city sees fit.

      The silly part about all of this is that it’s not like it’s a difficult building to find or identify. So some of First Niagara’s concern is somewhat overblown.


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