Two in the Mailbox – Arena Thoughts, Very Bad Trades and Offseason Targets for the Sabres

Two in the Mailbox, the (sometimes) weekly mailbag on the Sabres, goalie stuff, Buffalo and anything in between, is back. You can submit to the mailbag using #2ITBmailbag on Twitter or emailing 2intheboxbuffalo@gmail.com.

The mailbag is back post-Asplund and pre-draft. Before jumping into the questions for this edition, I thought I’d share some thoughts on the arena as it’s been in the news quite a bit recently.

The evolving arena renovations news has been very interesting to follow and it’s something I have a lot of interest in. I re-posted my arena renovations wish list last week to share my thoughts with anyone who may have missed it the first time around. Obviously that list is pretty pie in the sky in terms of some of the stuff I’m hoping for.

However, things on this front haven’t quieted down. It doesn’t appear that any work has started at One SHK III Plaza, which isn’t exactly ideal, but it’s very clear this is at the front of mind for a lot of people. Kim Pegula’s recent comments caused quite a stir and as a result a few people submitted questions regarding potential renovations for this week. This is me addressing those questions but also adding my two cents on the current status with the arena.

The idea of the Sabres building a new area is extremely intoxicating. Although KeyBank Center was built right in the middle of a big boom in new facilities around the NHL, it seems to lack a lot of the flexibility other arenas offer. I feel that the atrium gets over looked for how unique the space is, but beyond that, it’s a very utilitarian structure. There wasn’t a lot of thought given to common areas, nor is there much flexibility to create that type of space either. Add in other factors like the tall roof and there’s plenty of reasons that a mulligan would be preferable.

I struggle to see a new arena making sense given the amount of hype and investment made with HarborCenter. There is a lot of boasting about having the only “three rink” facility in the NHL. Even if that claim is a little creative, the layout of the two buildings certainly plays a role in keeping the Combine and potentially landing other key arena-focused events. A new building, even if it was built just down the block on the surface lots, eliminates that convenience.

That being said, Mike Harrington noted that current projections have the current renovation budget at about $50 million and, frankly, that number seems extremely low to me. If the target is to bring KeyBank Center up to par with the rest of the league, that cost would need to exceed $100 million. And if they’re in line to spend $100 or even upwards of $200 million on renovations which they’ll be somewhat handcuffed on – due to the building’s current layout – does it make more sense to bump the budget closer to $500 million and get the state-of-the-art arena of your dreams?

When it comes to spending other people’s money, I’m something of an expert. It would be incredibly exciting to get a shiny new arena downtown. Just look at what the Red Wings did with Little Caesars Arena for an idea of some of the trends in new arena design. But if the Pegulas are going to require a large public buy-in, I wouldn’t be nearly as excited at the prospect. That factor really poisons the well for me and pushes my preferences towards a renovation since the requirement for public money would be that much less (plus the other issues I mentioned above). But in a vacuum? Give me the new toy and let’s see how cool they can make it.

Now, on to your questions. Continue reading

KeyBank Center Upgrades Wishlist

The beginnings of this site go back to the summer of 2010 when I starting tossing random musings together before eventually deciding to stick to sports®. Not long after that the site became dedicated to all things Bills, Sabres, Bandits and Buffalo.

Now it’s pretty much just a Sabres site with the odd Buffalo development story sprinkled in. There are only so many hours in the day, people. One topic I’ve always had a strong opinion on was the need to upgrade and renovate KeyBank Center (and First Niagara Center and HSBC Arena). My first foray into offering takes on what could improve the arena dropped in 2011 and it’s something I’ve kept an eye on ever since.

This area could use a makeover.

So when news broke last summer that the Pegulas had began working with contractors and doing leg work on renovating the arena, I got very excited. KeyBank Center turned 20 in 2016 and the building is really showing its age. Bringing the facility up to par with other buildings around the country would create a better fan experience and possibly open Buffalo up to more opportunities for special events.

More news has dropped in recent weeks and months about those initial reports, including a WGRZ report on fan complaints. Many of the topics covered were things the Sabres Twitter community has been discussing for a few years now.

It strikes me that we aren’t too far off from seeing plans (renderings!!!) of the changes the Sabres and Pegulas have in mind for the building. Therefore, I wanted to hit reset in a way, and collect the random musings I’ve thrown out over the past year to two in a wishlist of sorts for what I’d like to see done when the time comes to renovate the arena. Continue reading

20 Reflections – The Arena at 20 with Andrew Kulyk of the Ultimate Sports Roadtrip

As Crossroads Marine Midland Arena HSBC Arena First Niagara Center Key Bank Center officially turns 20 years old this season, we will be bringing you a series of 20 posts looking back at the history of the building through the scope of the Sabres, Bandits, special events and more.

Through the series we’ll celebrate some of the greatest moments in the building’s history, remember heartbreaking defeats and look forward to the building’s future as the Pegula’s ownership continues on. The first iteration of the series will revisit the first episode of season five of The Instigator Podcast when Andrew Kulyk of Artvoice and the Ultimate Sports Roadtrip joined the show to discuss the pros and cons of the downtown arena, where the organization can improve the building while sharing chronicles of similar venues from his expansive travels.

The Instigator Podcast 5.11 – Sabres Wish List

This week we reached out to our fan(s) to hear what you would put on a Sabres Wish List. Among the suggestions were redesigned jerseys, a return of the goathead, in-arena upgrades and much more. Chris and Tyler tackle the various items that were submitted while adding a few of our own. We also touch on the latest developments surrounding Evander Kane and the news of the Sabres Prospect Challenge and the coming US Junior Select Camp. You can listen and subscribe to The Instigator Podcast on iTunes or listen in on Stitcher by following the links.

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

Reflections from the Basement Party: The Sabres and the Webster Block

With only a few days remaining until the City of Buffalo awards the winning bid to those who put in an RFP for the Webster Block, it seems as if the Buffalo Sabres are hoping for another off ice victory.

While Ted Black didn’t show his hand during yesterday’s New Media Summit, he certainly indicated that the Sabres do have a vested interest in the development of the area right outside their front door. After briefly discussing Terry Pegula’s $120,000 gift to complete the lawns at Canalside, Black pointed to the organization’s interest in potentially being involved in developing the Webster Block.

There have been plenty of rumors floating around the internet about what the Sabres may be doing down near the arena, but this certainly backs up what had originally been reported by the News and Business First. With the RFP slated to be announced on the 15th, I expect the Sabres will be holding their breath in hopes of having the winning bid.

Personally, I would imagine that Pegula’s donation was done as a first step of the Sabres’ full interest in that part of the neighborhood. I would imagine that the Sabres have to be the front runner for this RFP simply because I would imagine their proposed project would offer the most return for the neighborhood and city as a whole.

One other thing that was brought up by Black and the Sabres is their involvement in potentially earning the right to host NHL events like the Draft or an All-Star Game. He made a comment that not only pointed to their interest and influence (whether direct or indirect) in the area around the arena.

When addressing the Sabres’ interest in these special events, Black made an indirect reference to some comments made by Emerson Etem and European reporters who made disparaging comments about the city and the lack of activities. Black said that the team and city want to make sure they’re putting their best foot forward and leaving visitors with the best opinion of Buffalo possible. He then said that having a large construction pit right outside the arena would not be ideal, especially if an All-Star Game is on the way.

Based on the conversation with Black, the next possible All-Star Game the Sabres will make a run at will be in 2015, giving three more years for Canalside, the Webster Block and the Donovan Building to be built out and develop. From where I’m sitting Black and Pegula are fully aware of how difficult it is to get anything done by the water and they don’t want the same embarrassment that was suffered during the World Junior Tournament.

While the forum in which Black’s statements were given may not get the most publicity, they should certainly carry a lot of weight to those who make decisions in Buffalo. Continue reading

Statues for legends, could it work for the Sabres?

The Buffalo Sabres fortieth anniversary brought about some very cool festivities and features. A new alternate jersey, the Albright Knox exhibit, the in-arena history exhibit and more. What the year-long celebration told me was there is a wonderful opportunity for a permanent Sabres Hall of Fame.

The Bobby Orr statue outside of TD Garden offers a nice template for the Sabres to potentially draw from.

I’ve shown interest in the Sabres involvement with the space which formerly housed the Ira G. Ross Aerospace Museum and the Backstage Club prior to that. Previous posts have been dedicated to my pipe dreams and I even used the Blog Summit forum to offer a suggestion regarding the space.

For those who haven’t read up on the subject; I envision the Sabres taking advantage of the empty space as a team-oriented Hall of Fame. Better yet, the 12,000 square feet (thanks Mr. Black) could be devoted to Buffalo hockey history. Regardless, I see that space as a perfect spot to celebrate the team’s history. In addition to putting together a Hall of Fame, I have come upon another idea regarding honoring the team’s history around the arena.

My most recent light bulb moment comes thanks to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Pens will be unveiling a Mario Lemieux statue outside of CONSOL Energy Center. Much like Chicago, Detroit and Boston (to name a few), the Penguins will immortalize their greatest player with a statue outside of the arena. Why don’t the Sabres do the same? Continue reading