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the Crossroads Project / an Investment in Buffalo’s Past and Future

Buffalo Memorial Auditorium / the Aud

Buffalo Memorial Auditorium

Something I’ve been working on recently brought to mind the original name of what is now the First Niagara Center in downtown Buffalo. When the project was first announced and throughout the funding and construction phases, the new arena to replace Buffalo Memorial Auditorium was known as Crossroads Arena.

I was only about twelve at the time, but thought that was an pretty awesome name. I don’t think I was alone, in fact, I think just about the entire city thought that sounded great. The name followed its purpose, as this nearly 20,000 seat arena has hosted everything from hockey, lacrosse, arena football, soccer, to concerts, college basketball and professional wrestling.

                Of course, then everyone’s heart was broken with the naming rights inevitably sold off and Crossroads Arena was suddenly Marine Midland Arena. Which was, you know… lame. Apparently people in Buffalo don’t swear enough so in 2011 First Niagara acquired the naming rights and we were given the ‘effin center’. But until then it was most commonly known as the Arena. The Aud, the Arena, the Ralph. We do what we want.

                This was the first major sports complex built in New York State in 20 years and more than half of the $127 million bill was secured from private sources, the rest coming from city, county and state sources. It took several years to get the project off the ground during which time the Sabres’ owner Seymour Knox III had to threaten the sale or relocation of the franchise.

                In an article from June 1995 I came across the line, “Local and state officials hope that Crossroads Arena will act as a catalyst for the long-awaited rebirth of the Buffalo Waterfront.” Well, it’s taken nearly twenty years but it seems that hope is finally coming to fruition with the almost continuous announcements of projects and proposals in the downtown area focused on rebuilding the waterfront. The HarborCenter project, with two ice rinks, training facility, indoor parking, a 205-room hotel and other restaurant and retail space, is currently under construction on Webster, adjacent to the arena. Canalside and the Commercial Slip has been gaining ground since 2009 in rebuilding portions of the canal system that made the city an industrial hub. With concert series, festival and its weekly Saturday Artisan Market, as well as the Military & Naval Park and Liberty Hound restaurant, the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation has been steadily revitalizing the area.

 Crossroads Arena               So maybe the name has changed, from Marine Midland to HSBC to First Niagara, but the idea behind the arena is still there. It was called the Crossroads Project before any other name, and while that may initially have simply meant a single location for large sporting and entertainment events in the city, its presence in downtown Buffalo has made it a crossroads of something much more. With the construction of HarborCenter and the rebuilding of the Commercial Slip, the arena has anchored the crossroads of Buffalo’s past and future. It may have changed names and it may have taken almost twenty years, but the investment in Crossroads Arena seems to finally be paying off.

No Goal, Wide Right, and the Cigarette Smoking Man / 100 Things Fans Should Know About Buffalo Sports

previously published on BuffaloSoapBox

There are two new books out on the topic of Buffalo sports as part of the 100 Things series that will make a great addition to any Bills or Sabres fan’s bookshelf.  Or more realistically, they’d make great coasters during the game.

100 Things Buffao Bills Fans Should Know and Do Before They DieJeffrey Miller, who already has Rockin’ the Rockpile and Game Changers under his belt, has compiled one hundred facts and places and inside stories that every Bills fan should know or do.  Miller recounts the best drafts, the worst drafts, the comebacks and the close ones; tailgating and road trips to Canton, the history of the Rockpile and a rundown of training camp at St. John Fisher.  And yes, there will be many mentions of the four Super Bowl losses, but in one chapter, we’re reminded how incredible it was that the Bills did make it to four straight, a feat no other team has ever or probably will ever accomplish.

100 Things Buffalo Sabres Fans Should Know and Do Before They DieSal Maiorana, who has written several books on the Bills as well, helmed the Buffalo Sabres entry into this series.  Maiorana covers everything from what it took to get a team in Buffalo to the Derek Plante goal in the ’97 playoffs, as well as May Day, No Goal, the Party in the Plaza and the coming and going of all Sabres’ greats including Perreault, Ramsey, Hasek and LaFontaine (simply and appropriately titled ‘LaLaLaLaLaLaLaFontaine’—admit it, you were doing the chant in your head anyway).

Each chapter is a quick read, only a page or two each, more than manageable for any sports fan and perfect for commercial breaks or a new bathroom book.  Perfect as gifts and great to reinvigorate the hometown team spirit, these books chart the highs, lows and remarkable moments in between; just what any fan needs as we wonder where the Bills’ season will take them or if the Sabres will even have one.

Just remember…

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