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An artist's rendering of HARBORcenter.
An artist's rendering of HARBORcenter.

Sabres break ground on HARBORcenter

by jmaloni

Press release

Sat, Apr 13th 2013 01:20 pm

Mixed-use hockey and entertainment facility to open in September 2014

HARBORcenter Development LLC officially broke ground Saturday on HARBORcenter, a mixed-use hockey and entertainment facility being developed on the Webster Block in downtown Buffalo, directly across Perry Street from First Niagara Center.

"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. "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."

Upon its completion, the $172 million project 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.

"Getting from concept to groundbreaking has been a very complex undertaking, but we have a quality group of professionals who have each worked tirelessly to ensure that every step runs as smoothly as the last," said HARBORcenter President Cliff Benson. "We hope that the continued success of our project serves as an indicator of how, with the public and private sectors working together, we can build a better Buffalo."

The two NHL-sized 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 ice sheet at HARBORcenter will have a seating capacity of 1,800, matching the largest spectator capacity for an ice rink in Erie County, excluding First Niagara Center.

The facility will have ample locker room space for simultaneous use of both rinks, as well as the "Center of Excellence," a training facility designed specifically to elevate the level of development of youth hockey players in the Buffalo area.

These elements will allow HARBORcenter to be utilized for a variety of functions, including public skates, youth hockey tournaments and clinics, and team practices for the Buffalo Sabres. It will also be home to the Buffalo Sabres AAA, a Tier 1 youth hockey organization that will begin play under the Buffalo Sabres in the 2014-15 season.

"This is a proud moment for me because, in less than 13 months, we are seeing my vision to transform a surface parking lot, known as the Webster Block, into a $172 million project," said Mayor Byron Brown. "This is a unique opportunity to shape the future of Buffalo and its waterfront in a strategic way. I am thrilled to be part of the Sabres' groundbreaking today for a project that will be a huge economic asset to downtown Buffalo, create hundreds of new jobs, and stimulate additional investment interest."

The Webster Block is a 1.7-acre site located between Main, Washington, Perry and Scott streets. The development of HARBORcenter is expected to provide approximately 1,600 local construction jobs over the course of about two years. Once complete, the facilities are expected to create 350 full-time jobs and generate $48 million in state and local taxes over the next 10 years.

"The HARBORcenter project represents a new chapter in Buffalo's storied hockey history, with much more waiting to be written following the construction of this unique facility," said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz. "With public support and significant investment from the Sabres and Mr. Pegula, our area will once again be known as one of the premier hockey markets in North America. Moreover, the new facility will serve as a training ground for local hockey talent, be a catalyst in attracting visitors to the downtown area, and will provide an unparalleled hockey experience at the NHL level."

Populous is the architect for the project, with GSB serving as associate hotel architect and Mortenson Construction serving as construction manager. ICON Venue Group is the owner's representative firm.

"The design of HARBORcenter complements the historic architecture of Buffalo's canal district while introducing modern architectural materials and elements, including glass and geometric volumes clad in metal panels," said Wayne London, principal at Populous and project manager for HARBORcenter. "HARBORcenter will position the City of Buffalo as an elite leader in training, providing state-of-the-art facilities to youth and coaches that will inevitably draw talent to the area. Coupled with the retail, hotel and dining components, HARBORcenter will have a lasting impact on the community."

"This is the culmination of a tremendous amount of work by the project team," said Derek Cunz, Mortenson Construction Sports Group vice president and general manager. "After nearly a year of intense planning and collaboration, we are ready to start construction and continue the transformation the Canalside District into a premier entertainment destination for the City of Buffalo. We're excited to put local tradesmen and tradeswomen to work and maximize local workforce and business participation."

HARBORcenter Important Dates

Feb. 15, 2012

Mayor Byron Brown, in his state of the city address, announces an RFP for the Webster Block development.

July 28, 2012

HARBORcenter Development LLC presents a concept to City of Buffalo officials.

Aug. 29, 2012

City of Buffalo selects HARBORcenter Development LLC as the preferred developer of the Webster Block.

Feb. 19, 2013

Erie County Industrial Development Agency, Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp., and the Buffalo Common Council unanimously approve the HARBORcenter project.

March 1, 2013

Construction of HARBORcenter begins.

March 8, 2013

Final purchase agreement between the City of Buffalo and HARBORcenter Development LLC is executed.

April 13, 2013

Official Groundbreaking ceremony takes place on the project site.

Sept. 1, 2014

HARBORcenter ice rinks, restaurant and parking facility open to the public.

May 30, 2015

HARBORcenter hotel opens to the public.

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