Buffalo Sabres’ Development Project Next to First Niagara Center Moving Forward February 13th, 2013 at 2:00 PM
By Paul Lane Sabres 101
The Buffalo Sabres' proposed entertainment/hockey complex across the street from First Niagara Center moved one step closer to reality Tuesday, when it was revealed the project will cost tens of millions more dollars than originally thought.
Buffalo's planning board approved the HARBORCenter project, which includes a restaurant, hotel, retail space, parking garage and two NHL-sized rinks. The development will be built in the parcel across from the arena known as the Webster Block, which until this season served as a parking lot.
Original team estimates had the project costing $123 million, but Chief Development Officer Cliff Benson said infrastructure and other concerns will bring the total cost to $170 million.
Sabres officials expect a half-million people to visit the facility per year and pump millions of dollars into the local economy. Some of those visitors are expected to see the Division I NCAA hockey team the Sabres want to host in one of the two rinks. Buffalo-based Canisius College is without a hockey arena and plays its games at nearby Buffalo State College.
That and the other rink, Benson said, are intended to make Buffalo a hockey destination for aspiring pros. In addition to the NCAA, officials hope to host more amateur events such as the USA Hockey Showcase the Sabres hosted last fall.
"What we want to be out of this facility is the place where every really good hockey player comes, feels like they have to come there for the kind of training we provide," Benson said. "Also for the local, we want the local kids here. We want this to be a place where they say, 'I don't need to go to Toronto. I don't need to go to Boston. I don't need to go to Minneapolis. I'm staying in Buffalo.' "
Several hurdles remain, including plan approval by the Erie County Industrial Development Agency and approval by the Buffalo Common Council to sell the land to the Sabres for $2.2 million. Assuming those approvals come through, the Sabres want to break ground March 1 and have the first phase of the project open by fall 2014.
"We want to make an investment. We want to make Buffalo better, and we think the waterfront is the place to do it," Benson said."
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