It’s easy to say that Buffalo has more than enough hockey rinks (we do). There are far too many youth programs and, for the most part, higher level teams are watered down because of this. However, there is a building on Buffalo’s near East Side that would serve brilliantly as a mid-sized hockey venue.
The Broadway Auditorium was originally built as an armory in the 1800s and was eventually expanded to its current size to accommodate for parade grounds and later, sporting events. This write-up from The Daily Public does a great job highlighting the tremendous sporting history of the Broadway Aud and making a case for the grand building to survive Byron Brown’s recent call to replace it.
Brown’s plan for replacing the structure isn’t without merit, as it would take an aging structure that lost a great deal of its beauty in recent years and replace it with a mixed-use development that would help towards the revitalization of the near East Side. The project would also help to better connect downtown to the East Side as other projects in recent years have.
In fact, McGuire Development is planning to fill in one of the city’s countless surface lots with a mixed-use development that’s just a mid-iron away from the Broadway Aud. The area around the property is picking up lately and rather than see a relic of Buffalo’s sporting past go the way of the landfill, why not find a way to revitalize it for the better?
One idea that was brought up to me in conversation was to build it out as an OHL-sized arena. The Aud previously held boxing matches – Joe Louis fought here – hockey games and many other sporting events. It’s a very good-sized building and has that old barn feel that’s been long forgotten with new rink construction.
If this building was converted into a sports arena again, it could be used for so much more than just hockey. Teams like the Buffalo 716ers could call it home as it would have a large, but not too large seating capacity that fits perfectly for minor league teams. From a hockey perspective it could be retro fit to accommodate for an OHL club or even a USHL team should the American junior league continue to look for expansion cities further east.
Indoor soccer, concerts and even convention-style events would fit beautifully in this space as the build itself clearly has the bones to host any number of events. One other benefit this would have, it would be a perfect secondary venue for a World Junior Championship along with providing Buffalo with a perfect auxiliary rink for such events like NCAA Hockey Regional games or other sought after tournaments.
I touch on the OHL arena idea in the wake of the Erie Otters bankruptcy announcement. While it would appear that there are a host of questions that still need to be answered regarding the franchise, would it not be right up Terry Pegula’s alley to purchase the team, move them to “Hockey Heaven” and pour some more money into developing a property in Buffalo along the way? Or, as a former Buffalo blogger put it: 1. Pegula buys the Otters. 2. Pegula renovates Broadway Auditorium. 3. Renamed Otters play at Broadway Aud. 4. ???? 5. Profit.
It’s hardly a lay-up given the financial situation the Otters are in, their very, very nice arena in downtown Erie and the unknown interest Pegula would have in actually purchasing another hockey club. But it is a fun pipe dream to cook up when you think about it. A mid-size arena that would house either a CHL or USHL club along with other events like concerts and the like wouldn’t even necessarily compete with HarborCenter as their relationship with Canisius would be unaltered by this property.
The lone issue is that it would add yet another rink to Western New York and downtown. Between HarborCenter, Riverworks, the Rotary Rink and Canalside, there would be seven total sheets of ice downtown which is probably about five too many depending how you cut it. Adding another youth program would further water down what’s already becoming a far too watered down product and poaching a program from another rink would be counter-productive.
However, if the building was run in a way that it sustained itself, I would see no issues of this facility taking business from the others. Most of my assumptions are based on the ability of this facility to book concerts and other non-hockey events that are too small for First Niagara Center but too big for most of Buffalo’s other venues.
My last hope would be that the building itself would have its exterior restored to it’s former glory. This was a very cool looking building and if it was done right, it would make for a very cool mix of modern and historical architecture.
It’s something to keep in mind and while it’s highly unlikely that all the pieces that I point out above fall just right, it would make for a very cool restoration project which is all the rage in Western New York these days.