BUFFALO, NY - The Buffalo Sabres and HARBORcenter Development LLC broke ground Saturday on the new $172 million sporting and entertainment complex coming to downtown's Webster block across from First Niagara Center.
Sabres officials, including owner Terry Pegula and family, and local political leaders, including Mayor Byron Brown, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz and Congressman Brian Higgins, were on hand as the shovels hit the dirt.
Construction is already under way at the site. The Sabres finalized the purchase of the Webster Block property last month, right before streets started getting blocked off for construction.
Plans for HARBORcenter include two NHL-size ice rinks, a hotel, a two-story restaurant, street-level retail space and an 850-vehicle parking garage. HARBORcenter was designed to complement the historic character of Buffalo's burgeoning canal district, according to the architects who planned the project.
"In the two years since I purchased the Buffalo Sabres, the passionate support of our fans has made it evident that hockey is woven into the fabric of this community in a way that is rivaled by few other areas," said Sabres owner Terry Pegula in a statement released by the Sabres on Saturday. "With HARBORcenter, our goal is to create a destination representative of that passion which will transcend the sport, helping to build downtown Buffalo into a place that visitors can't wait to come back to again."
The two ice rinks, when coupled with the existing rink at First Niagara Center, will make the three-rink complex the first of its kind in the National Hockey League. The main rink at HARBORcenter will have a seating capacity of 1,800, matching the largest spectator capacity for an ice rink in Erie County, except for First Niagara Center, according to the statement.
The project is expected to support around 1,500 construction jobs, and while it is getting tax breaks, it's expected to pump $200 million into the local economy.
The ice rinks, restaurant and parking facility are scheduled to open in September of 2014. The hotel should be completed by May of 2015.