Pegulas can put the Arena District on their Shoulders

A little over a week ago I heard that some action could be happening at the foot of Washington Street. The dominoes began to fall today as the Pegulas are reported to have the Hi-Temp Fabrication building at Illinois and Perry under contract.exterior-day

Pegula’s purchase of the building throws his hat back into the Arena District development ring as it would be surprising if he didn’t have plans to renovate the five-story warehouse. While any talk about plans would be speculative, it’s my understanding that Pegula had been chasing this building for quite some time as a home for the Sabres offices. So unless plans have changed, I’d bet on the organization following that track.

Relocating the Sabres offices would make a lot of sense as it would open up a large space in the suite level – and directly above the Lexus Club – for development into a fan focused area. A specialized lounge in the suite level would not only give the team another money making outlet, it would add a brand new amenity to the 20 year-old arena. Continue reading

The Instigator Podcast 5.1 – The Arena at 20

We kick off season five talking about First Niagara Center’s approaching 20th birthday and the areas of the arena which are in need of attention and renovation. We are joined by Andrew Kulyk of the Ultimate Sports Road Trip and StadiumJourney.com to not only discuss the arena around the arena that need attention, but bigger picture opportunities for the arena and the surrounding areas.

 

Sabres Pipe Dream: Renovating the 100 Level

At a previous Sabres Blogging Summit Ted Black made mention of the organization preparing to undertake the renovation of the 100 Level of First Niagara Center. Nearly two seasons have passed since he first touched on the possibility and it’s quite possible that the team has put those plans on the back burner.

Exactly what would be on the to-do list is up for debate as there would be some physical challenges posed by the construction of FNC along with whatever budgetary restraints the organization chose to attach to the plan.

More history and (maybe) more space would be key additions for The Aud Club.

As the official pipe dream author of the Basement Brigade I thought I’d toss out my wishlist of what I’d hope to see incorporated into a renovated 100 Level if and when the Sabres finally undertake the project.
Continue reading

It’s time for the Sabres to address their rafters

The summer is expected to bring changes to One Seymour H Knox III Plaza both on the ice and off. Tim Murray will not only be ushering in the second overall pick in the draft – which is all but assured to be Jack Eichel – along with a number of other acquisitions which are expected to improve the on-ice product.

Away from the ice, improvements to the arena will be on their way again as First Niagara Center continues to get updates as its 20th birthday approaches. One area of the arena that I think needs immediate attention is the rafters. Particularly the items hanging from the rafters.

Presently the Sabres have seven retired numbers, ten Sabres championship banners, two banners in memory of the Knoxes, six banners commemorating the Bandits retired numbers and championships and then four “Gold Ring Sponsor” banners. That’s the extent of what hangs from the FNC rafters (aside from the US and Canadian flags) and I’d like to see the Sabres organization address this aspect of the in-arena experience.

First off, the Sabres banners look horrible. They’re separated by a large gap and there are at least three different fonts used on the seven banners. The French Connection and Tim Horton banners are obviously made with a different font than Gare, LaFontaine or Hasek’s and it appears as if the Hasek banner has a slightly different number font than the others as well.

Additionally, the Hasek banner itself is a different size than the rest. It appears to be the same width but the break to the pointed end is lower than that of the neighboring banners. Combining that poor measurement with the varying fonts – and potentially colors – cries out for the team to revisit and re-hang the banners with a uniform look.

Finding a new location for them, hopefully somewhere in the rafters that isn’t interrupted by a spotlight stand, would provide the ability to order them properly as well. The large gap between Gare and LaFontaine’s banners look ridiculous and I’d rather see the team decide to abandon that spotlight location in order to provide a better layout for their retired numbers. Continue reading

Roadtrip Recap: Columbus and Nationwide Arena

When I penciled in a trip to Columbus to catch the Sabres-Blue Jackets game I had no idea the implications that night would hold.

At the time I decided to add Nationwide Arena as my next NHL road trip, the Sabres were wallowing through a franchise-record losing streak and April 10 looked like a great chance to see the Sabres in a new building in a cool arena district when the weather was nice. I figured any concerns about 30th place would have been locked up and the game would be easy to enjoy.

Obviously that wasn’t the case, as the Sabres put up a strong fight but ultimately succumbed to the Jackets in regulation, locking up a top two pick for June’s draft. That didn’t make Friday’s game less enjoyable, however. While the final period was nerve racking, I loved the arena district, arena and the atmosphere inside Nationwide Arena.

Our trip to Columbus was enjoyable. I took a road trip to Nashville last spring and took in the sights of the city along with a Predators game. I was very impressed by Bridgestone Arena, Preds fans and the overall atmosphere of the building. Nashville, as a city, is loads of fun and I can’t wait to return. Nationwide landed on my list for this season thanks to its proximity and the potential for a warm-weather game in a different locale than Buffalo. It certainly didn’t disappoint. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Pipe Dream: Taking the opportunity to upgrade First Niagara Center’s exterior

The fanfare surrounding HARBORCENTER isn’t going to die down soon. Nor should it. This is a phenomenal project that will inject all sorts of money and life into downtown Buffalo. It has the added flair of pissing off Tim Tielman and leaving him pouting in his open air bus, clutching to his construction paper and crayon “alternative”.

Just take a minute to look at that thing and tell me it’s not the most ludicrous thing you’ve ever seen. I can’t tell what’s more hysterical, the fishing huts along Main or the rink on a portion of the DL&W Terminal that isn’t currently a platform suitable for a rink.

Make this a statement, not an afterthought.

Anyway, HARBORCENTER is going to be a boon for downtown, the waterfront, Canalside and the arena district as a whole. It has raised some concern over the First Niagara signage on the arena being obstructed and it has also obstructed a vast majority of First Niagara Center’s atrium. The former point probably isn’t all that important. Nor will it be all that difficult to address. The latter, however, should be addressed in some form or function.

I’ve mentioned before that it would be beneficial to re-skin the atrium as a way to improve the visual connection between HARBORCENTER and the arena. The drop off in height and the drastic difference in architecture makes the adjoining buildings look odd, especially from Main Street. So the idea of a visual upgrade makes sense to me.

However, in between portions of our most recent podcast, Eric (of 3rd Man In) and I got to talking about a few aspects of the arena and how the Sabres may be able to improve on the exterior of the building. Continue reading