Brainstorming an addition to the Alumni Plaza

I took the opportunity to write out a number of thoughts I had regarding the exterior of First Niagara Center and the steps the Sabres could take to alter the exterior of their home.

It was a lengthy post that touched on a handful of topics that centered on the bland exterior of the building, the atrium and the visual and architectural relationship between FNC and HarborCenter. In the wake of that post, another idea came to fruition – via another talk over beers with a friend – and an alternative to the water feature in the Alumni Plaza was born.

Imagine this (only better) adorning the wall of the FNC parking garage. Ed note: I'm aware that's not the save I mention in the post.
Imagine this (only better) adorning the wall of the FNC parking garage. Ed note: I’m aware that’s not the save I mention in the post.

The water feature is nothing more than a green space buffer that softens the transition between the Alumni Plaza and the First Niagara Center parking ramp that opens onto Illinois Street. You can see some of that green space in this photo.

I’m of the opinion that the water garden is painfully dated and is bordering on becoming an eye sore simply because that portion of the plaza is so underused and the garden simply exists. What came of my conversation was an idea to better integrate the portion of the Alumni Plaza that sits behind the statue of the French Connection and the bridge between the ramp and arena.

With the assumption that at least one or two more Sabres statues will grace the Alumni Plaza in the near future (see: Hasek, Dominik), why not use that wall of the garage as part of the plaza itself? I’d like to see the wall of the parking ramp that is currently obscured by that garden turned into an interactive mural celebrating Sabres history.

There is a fair bit of space spanning from where the bridge begins up to the security entrance to the arena where the wall of the ramp opens up. It’s approximately 200 feet based on a very rudimentary measurement. The ramp itself is five levels high along that portion of the plaza, which makes for an impressive canvas on which to paint. This would require closing off that portion of the ramp – which is currently open air – and I’m not sure of any legal stipulations which would prohibit that from being done. Even so, I don’t think you’d want the mural climbing any higher than the third floor of the ramp anyway.

With the French Connection statue already displayed prominently in the front of the Alumni Plaza and a Hasek statue likely to come along in the near future, a mural would serve as a nice complement. The space would serve well to a timeline of Sabres history with major events highlighted by the artist. There are more than a few iconic scenes from Sabres history and here are a few that immediately come to mind for me:

  • The birth of the franchise
  • Robert’s game winner in the Fog Game
  • Buffalo’s triumph over the Soviet Wings
  • Perreault on the shoulders of his teammates
  • Hannan’s overtime winner
  • Hasek’s diving blocker save against the Flyers
  • Pominville’s OT winner over the Senators
  • The celebration of Drury’s tying goal against the Rangers
  • Terry Pegula’s purchase of the franchise

The list goes on.

One key, in my mind, is that simply painting a mural wouldn’t do much to change the harsh wall created by the parking garage. There would need to be interpretive signage that spanned the space of the mural to make the area more interactive for fans. A true timeline of the franchise with specific events highlighted by the mural would create a very cool exhibit for fans to enjoy, particularly in warm weather.

The other benefit would be if the team was to take up my previous idea for improving the exterior aesthetic of the arena itself. If the Alumni Plaza became the true front door of First Niagara Center, a 200-foot mural celebrating Sabres history would be a phenomenal complement to that space. Add in statues of the French Connection, Hasek and perhaps Ted Darling and Rick Jeanneret in the future and it would create one of the most unique spaces in the entire NHL.

I was dreaming big when I pitched the idea of renovating the exterior of First Niagara Center. This is far smaller in size and execution. The Sabres have a tremendous graphic design department who excel with these types of projects. Aside from the potential hurdles of walling off a portion of the garage, this is something that could be carried out in no time. And I’m certain that fans would love to experience it.

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