Pegula Ice Arena progressing towards completion

This is a special guest submission from Kyle Rossi who runs the blog Thank You Terry. His blog is all about Penn State hockey – both club and NCAA – and is full of phenomenal information. I highly recommend reading it on a regular basis. Kyle was kind enough to offer some insight to the progress being made on the Pegula Ice Arena down in State College. Given the Sabres recent victory regarding the Webster Block, I thought there would be no one better to provide some insight on the scope of a Pegula funded project such as the PIA or the HARBORcenter. Enjoy.

Hey Sabres fans! My name is Kyle Rossi, and I write Thank You Terry, a blog covering the soon-to-be four hockey teams representing Penn State (men’s and women’s NCAA, men’s and women’s ACHA). As I’m sure you know, you and I both share a debt of gratitude to one rather wealthy man: Terry Pegula.

The rendering of what the finished Pegula Ice Arena will look like.

Our stories are actually somewhat parallel. While Buffalo was wandering through a purgatory characterized by an always-competitive team that never saw a free agent it couldn’t lose (or a scouting department it couldn’t slash) and therefore couldn’t take the final couple of steps, Penn State was dealing with its own sort of limbo. Our non-varsity teams, known as the Icers and Lady Icers, had been considered candidates to make the jump to the big time, NCAA Division I, for decades – if only the school could find some money for a DI-caliber hockey arena. Despite PSU’s glut of success in the ACHA (including seven national championships), the program’s rabid supporters were always just one “hey, when are you guys going DI?” from an outsider away from a feeling of hopelessness.

Suddenly, in swoops this billionaire nobody had ever heard of to write large checks and save the day. In the Sabres’ case, I suppose he wasn’t a complete unknown, but there still had to be a “wait…this guy’s a Sabres fan…and he wants to buy the team?!?” moment for you guys.

Anyway, Chris invited me to write this post to update you on the progress of something possibly of interest of you, the arena bearing Pegula’s name on Penn State’s campus.

You might be familiar with some of the widely-reported basics. There will be two NHL-sized sheets, one in what’s being called the Community Rink, which will have 300 seats, the other in the main arena, which will seat 6,000. Five thousand of those seats will be arranged in a single-level horseshoe, with a ring of suites above the open concourse that will be at the top of the “regular person” seating. The final thousand seats will be the student section, to be located behind the net Penn State will attack twice. It will be as steep as code allows, helping to meet the one major directive Pegula has given on the project, that the building “sound like a hockey game inside of a garbage can” on game days.

“It should sound like a hockey game inside a garbage can.” Terry Pegula

The price tag – $89 million – is absolutely staggering for a college hockey facility of its size. For context on that, one only needs to consider some of the venues toured by a Penn State contingent (including Pegula) in 2010 to generate design ideas. Notre Dame’s Compton Family Ice Arena, which opened last season, cost about $50 million. Miami’s Goggin Ice Center cost $35 million (in 2006). Minnesota-Duluth’s AMSOIL Arena opened in late 2010 at a cost of $38 million, while RIT’s proposed Gene Polisseni Center, the most likely candidate to replace the Pegula Ice Arena as the newest in college hockey, is estimated to cost around $35 million. Basically, if Penn State gets anything approaching dollar-for-dollar value on this project, it will instantly become the crown jewel of college hockey. Continue reading

UPDATED: Sabres a player for Webster Block

It would appear that the competition for the Webster Block will come down to a pair of plans submitted to the City on the 15th.

According to Business First, the Sabres and Carl Paladino each have submitted a bid for the RFP process for the block across from First Niagara Center. Business First mentions a third bid which was described as more of a concept as compared to the other two bids.

Shovels should be in the ground on the Webster Block within 12 months.

“Sources said the Sabres are proposing a multi-rink facility, with a themed sports bar/restaurant to be developed by Delaware North. The rinks would be used as a practice facility for the team as well as the home base for some of the area’s collegiate hockey teams. It would also host amateur and youth tournaments.

The Paladino/Ellicott Development proposal calls for a multi-use project anchored by 140-room brand name hotel, 42 market rate apartments, 110,000-square-feet of Class A office space, some street level restaurant and retail store fronts and a 1,089-space parking garage.”

The part that should illicit the most excitement is that the city is expected to announce a winner by the end of the summer and construction will be expected to begin next year. Based on that time table I wouldn’t be surprised if major progress wasn’t underway on the block within the next 12-18 months. 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