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John Koelmel hired as president of HARBORcenter

by jmaloni
Thu, Jun 6th 2013 04:15 pm
An artist's rendering of HARBORcenter.
An artist's rendering of HARBORcenter.

Former CEO of First Niagara Bank will be responsible for facility's day-to-day operations

The Buffalo Sabres today announced the hiring of John Koelmel as president of HARBORcenter, the mixed-use hockey and entertainment facility currently under construction on the Webster Block in downtown Buffalo.

As president, Koelmel will oversee the day-to-day operations of the complex, including the facility's hotel, restaurant, ice rinks and parking structure. Upon its completion, the HARBORcenter will feature two full-size NHL ice rinks, a full-service hotel, a two-story restaurant, street-level retail space, and a five-level, 850-space parking structure. The ice rinks, restaurant, and retail stores are scheduled to open in September 2014. The hotel is slated to open in the spring of 2015.

"John is among the most well-respected professionals in Western New York," Sabres owner Terry Pegula said. "He has a long history as a successful businessman in the region, which will serve him well in his new role. We're excited to welcome him to the team and we look forward to his contributions as president."

Koelmel, who most recently spent more than 10 years with First Niagara Financial Group - including six years as CEO and president - has nearly 30 years of management experience in his career.

"It was important to us that the individual who would be leading the day-to-day operations of HARBORcenter was someone who is in touch with the local community," said Sabres Chief Development Officer Cliff Benson. "John has repeatedly demonstrated that he measures up to that qualification throughout his career."

"I am honored and humbled to be joining the Pegula team," Koelmel said. "Terry and Kim have been able to take HARBORcenter from concept to actual construction in less than 12 months. Their phenomenal commitment to Buffalo is evident with this significant project and I'm tremendously excited to join the HARBORcenter team. I obviously have tremendous passion for this community and look forward to not only making HARBORcenter a world-class facility, but otherwise supporting the incredible investment Terry and Kim are making in Western New York."

A native of Orchard Park, Koelmel has spent the entirety of his career in Western New York. Prior to joining First Niagara, he spent 26 years at the Buffalo office of KPMG, an international audit, tax and advisory firm. His tenure culminated with a stint as managing partner of the firm's Upstate New York operations.

"John will be a significant addition to our HARBORcenter team," said Sabres President Ted Black. "His business acumen is going to play a vital role in attaining the success that we anticipate for HARBORcenter as a destination in downtown Buffalo."

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