First Niagara Center (formerly Marine Midland Arena and HSBC Arena), Buffalo's new $127 million entertainment facility, was scheduled to come on line September 21, 1996 with a preseason professional hockey game.
The arena's primary tenant, National Hockey League's Buffalo Sabres, can draw a maximum crowd of 18,595, while concerts can accommodate 20,500. The first concert act booked was Buffalo's own Goo Goo Dolls with Toronto's Barenaked Ladies on September 28, 1996. The concert followed the September 27 opening gala.
The facility has two public levels, two private levels, 80 suites and 5,000 club seats. It boasts a large food court with interactive sports opportunities, a sports bar and a private restaurant. The arena and the Sabres are owned by Niagara Frontier Hockey L.P. Other tenants are Major Indoor Lacrosse League's Buffalo Bandits and National Professional Soccer League's Buffalo Blizzard.
The venue, designed by Ellerbe Becket, lies just south of its predecessor, the old Buffalo Memorial Auditorium, currently the last stop on the city's subway line. Officials would like to see the city construct a sheltered stop closer the the arena. The distance between buildings might not seem like much in August, but it will seem quite far in the midst of a Buffalo winter, said Carolyn Hoyt, the arena's project director. Another change officials anticipate is the development of the waterfront in the area.
The arena's main entrance is a grand foyer. A glass-enclosed pavilion, it is 330 feet by 60 feet and reaches 60 feet high. The floor sports a wavelike pattern and overhead is a sculpture of sail cloths.
On the pavilion level, which will be used as function space, are 12 ticket windows on the east side and an 8,000 square foot team store on the west. Officials wanted such a large store so that as many people as possible could fit inside during peak times, Hoyt said. Fantastix is the arena's in-house ticketing company.
There are five locker rooms on the event level. Besides the basics, the Sabres's locker room has a player's lounge, weight room and medical and dental areas. Many rooms, including the press room, on that level can be cordoned off into two separate areas by dividing walls. There is a five-bay loading dock and two truck-access ports.
The 100 level, an escalator ride up from the pavilion, offers concession stands, a public sports bar called Pepsi Headlines, and Harbour Club, the private banquet facility for premium seat holders. The sports bar, which overlooks the pavilion, can hold up to 300 people. The Harbour Club's main floor seats 600, while its second level can hold a few hundred more. The club's second level looks onto the arena floor. Sportservice handles the arena's food service.
A new 1,100 space parking garage - specifically for premium seat holders - was built adjacent to the arena. The two are connected by a causeway that exits onto the club level. Club-seat holders benefit from in-seat food service but have a concession stand at their disposal as well. The level also consists of a family room for players' families, a party suite that holds up to 100, and a directors room for Sabres team owners.
The 80 suites separate club seats from the 300 level. They contain 12 seats, a stand-up bar with stools, two television monitors (one with a VCR). Suites, the interiors of which were designed by Gensler Associates, were leased for $55,000 -$100,000 for three, five and seven years. Executive offices are also on the suite level.
Above the suites is the 300 level, with three food court areas and an ATM. Above that is the press level, which also houses a series of broadcast and radio rooms.
Quick First Niagara Center Facts!
* Opened: September 21, 1996
* 18,595 seats on four levels; club level seats with access to weather protected parking garage, concierge and in-seat food and beverage service.
* 80 mid-level suites, featuring all the club seat amenities plus private restrooms.
* The Harbour Club possesses extensive banquet facilities (including seating for 800) while offering views of both the arena floor and the Buffalo waterfront.
* Eight-sided Jumbotron scoreboard with video and instant replay capabilities on four sides,and message capabilities on four sides.
* Team Store - At 5,000 square feet, it is one of the largest in-arena merchandise stores in the NHL.|
* Pavilion - The 330' long by 65' high glass-enclosed structure serves as the major entrance/exit for the arena.
* Pepsi Headlines Bar - A sports bar with displays and other features telling the history of amatuer and professional sports in Buffalo.
* 1,100 space attached parking garage.
* Features Tops Food Court with interactive games and Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame
* Cost: $127.5 million - private and public financing
By Mary Kay Melvin - September 16, 1996
The scoreboard at Buffalo's new $127.5 million HSBC Arena (at the time called Marine Midland Arena) crashed onto the ice, hours before the NHL game between the Sabres and Boston Bruins. There were no injuries.
The game was postponed (it has been rescheduled for March 17, 1997) and may have been good for a few yuks. But what if that happened during a game?
The $3 million Sony Jumbotron fell between 1:30 and 2 p.m., about 90 minutes after Bruins assistant coach Cap Raeder and defenseman Jon Rohloff left the ice after a practice.
"It (the scoreboard falling) does cross your mind, especially when you see it being lowered so they can work on it," said Bruins winger Jeff Odgers. "The thought does go through your mind - that thing could fall, with me under it."
Boston defenseman Dean Chynoweth said, "When we came in (to the arena) one of the guys looked up at the scoreboard and said, 'Holy smokes, look at the size of that thing. Can you imagine what it would be like if that thing ever came down?'"
Sabres president Larry Quinn had the comforting news that the mishap was caused by the scoreboard moving, so it wouldn't happen with anyone on the ice. He added that no one is allowed on the ice. He added that no one is allowed on the ice when the scoreboard is being lowered, which is done by remote control.
Many of the Bruins thought it was a joke when they heard the news. Once it was clear no one was injured, the accident was good for a few laughs.
"From now on, we stay wide," said Jozef Stumpel to Rohloff, his defensive partner.
BANK SUES BUFFALO ARENA OVER REFUSAL TO CHANGE NAME
August 12, 1999
Copyright 1999 MediaVentures
HSBC Bank is suing a subsidiary of the Buffalo Sabres over the team's refusal to change the name of Marine Midland Arena. Marine Midland Bank bought naming rights in 1995 for $15 million over 20 years, but the bank has now changed its name to HSBC, but the arena's name can only change with the team's consent.
The bank is asking a judge to order the change, but if the judge declines, the company may have to pay extra for the renaming. Team officials declined comment.
Directions To First Niagara Center
From the North (including Canada):
Take I-190 South. Exit 5 (Louisiana Street): At the bottom of the exit turn left. Turn right onto Perry Street (1st light) or onto South Park Avenue (2nd light). The First Niagara Center is straight ahead. Parking is available just past Michigan Street.
From the South, East, and West (via Thruway):
Take Interstate 90 (Thruway) to Exit 53, which is I-190 North. Exit 6 (Elm Street): As you exit 190, bear right to the ramp, and turn right onto Seneca Street. Take Seneca Street to the first light and turn right onto Michigan Street. Take Michigan Street over the bridge. You will see the First Niagara Center to your right. Parking is available in the lot and ramp off both Perry Street and South Park Avenue.
From the East:
From Interstate 90 (Thruway) take Route 33 to Downtown Buffalo. Continue on Oak Street all the way to 190 South and exit immediately at Exit 5 (Louisiana Street). At the bottom of the exit, turn left. Turn right onto Perry Street (1st light) or onto South Park Avenue (2nd light). The First Niagara Center is straight ahead on the right. Parking is available just past Michigan Street.
From the South (Lakeshore):
Take Route 5 over the Skyway. Exit onto Route 190 South. Exit 5 (Louisiana Street): At the bottom of the exit turn left. Turn right onto Perry Street (1st light) or onto South Park Avenue (2nd light). The First Niagara Center is straight ahead. Parking is available just past Michigan Street.
THE ULTIMATE SPORTS ROAD TRIP
By: Andrew Kulyk & Peter Farrell
April 19, 1998 - We had just met and fast became good friends, and at the center of that new association was the common passion we had for sports and following our favorite teams. So we met up at Headlines Sports Bar in the arena on this night, the last night of the NHL regular season, and as we proceeded to our seats we could not even conceive that this game would be the first stop on what would become the Ultimate Sports Road Trip.
|HSBC Arena Ranking by USRT|
|Fan Support|| 6|
|Concourses/Fan Comfort|| 7|
|Bonus: USRT Red Carpet Treatment|| 4|
|Bonus: Cobblestone District|| 2|
|Bonus: Pour Mans Aud Club|| 2|
|Total Score|| 69.5|
This is our home venue, and we have plenty of good things to say. HSBC Arena is the home of the Buffalo Sabres, and is located right downtown Buffalo at the foot of Main Street, adjacent to the waterfront and part of the emerging historic Cobblestone District. The arena opened in 1996, replacing the old Aud almost directly across the street.
You enter the arena through a main entry pavilion, which is the largest of any of the NHL venues. At one end is a large team store, at the other, ticket offices, and as you walk through the center turnstiles, a streaming sports ticker and video monitors hang overhead. On the second level of the pavilion is Headlines Sports Bar, which is the best place in Buffalo to view the downtown skyline and to people watch. Concourses are wide and bright, with plenty of exhibits of Sabres greats, and an interactive kiosk sponsored by Adelphia Cable, complete with internet hookups.
The Bowl and Premium Seating
The arena is broken into four levels – lower, club, suite and upper. Club and suite level ticket holders have access to the Harbour Club, offering a premium buffet and a la carte items served up at individual food stations. A parking ramp is built right into the arena and premium ticket holders have their own exclusive entrance to the club level.
A huge eight sided scoreboard serves as the centerpiece, at the top of the board are Sabres logos which snort out smoke each time the home team scores a goal. Stationary ad panels and message boards are hung sporadically along the balconies.
Two sandwiches on the menu rate high on our list - next to Headlines Sports Bar is a carving station offering famous Buffalo Beef on Weck. This is the real deal folks and don't forget the horseradish! Also, the bologna and onions is awesome! The Sabres team store is one of the largest in the league and has many cool items.
The Sabres display their division and conference champions, and retired numbers include the famed members of the French Connection and NHL icon Tim Horton, who played his last days in a Sabres uniform. Banners honoring the founding owners of the Sabres – Seymour and Northrup Knox, are also displayed.
This is one of the NHL’s best venues, because it combines all the best of Buffalo’s strong hockey tradition, the work ethic of friendly, gritty, blue collar Buffalo people, our good friends across the border in Canada who come down in droves to support the Sabres (as well as their teams, which makes for some interesting banter!) and a sleek yet intimate modern arena. Should the adjoining waterfront and historic district ever get built as planned, and the old Aud get a new life, this will be one great place to come and spend some time.
April 7, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures
The aerospace museum inside Buffalo's HSBC Arena is looking for a new home right now because Sabres new management has declined to renew the group's lease, WIVB reported. The Sabres say they are looking at other uses for the space. The museum has been in the arena for three years.
BUFFALO ARENA GETS NEW NAME
September 8, 2011
Copyright 2011 MediaVentures
Buffalo, N.Y. - First Niagara, which took over 195 HSBC Bank branches Aug. 1, took the next
step in increasing its regional presence by acquiring the naming rights to the Sabres' arena, the Buffalo News reported. The building is now known as First Niagara Center, with the team and bank agreeing on a 15-year deal to replace the moniker HSBC Arena.
The name change is the fourth for the downtown arena. It was called Crossroads Arena during its construction and became Marine Midland Arena prior to opening in September 1996. The HSBC Arena name came in 2000 when the bank, which owned Marine Midland, rebranded itself.
First Niagara initiated naming rights discussions late in the negotiations to acquire HSBC's branches. HSBC's deal with the Sabres was amended to allow the company to assign the lease to First Niagara, and the sides then terminated the contract. The new 15-year deal will run until 2026, which is also when the Sabres' lease for the arena expires with Erie County.
Financial terms were not disclosed, but the deal brings the Sabres significantly more cash than their previous contract. The News said HSBC was set to pay $24 million during the course of a 20-year deal that began in 1995.
The Sabres' goal is to have all signage changed by the team's home opener Oct. 14.