When Buffalo News staffers sit down a year from now to pen the epitaph for the year 2013, there no doubt will be plenty of surprises. ¶ That’s how news works. ¶ But part of the agenda already has been written – or at least vaguely outlined: ¶ The year 2013 should see local ice skaters taking their first spins around the refrigerated canals downtown, a new outdoor amateur-skating venue on the same site as the Buffalo Sabres’ former playpen, the old Memorial Auditorium. ¶ In the same neighborhood, the Sabres’ new downtown mega-complex will begin taking shape, with some of it opening the following year. ¶ The new year also should see continued expansion of the area’s other new jewel, as more pieces go up on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. ¶ Two other popular “sports” – politics and the real sports world – will bear watching. ¶ Buffalo will hold a mayoral election this year and, as always, many of us will live and die with the exploits of our major-league teams, the Bills and Sabres. ¶ It should be a hot summer on the entertainment beat, too, when downtown Buffalo hosts two of the nation’s hottest-ticket events, Justin Bieber’s “Believe Tour,” on July 15 in First Niagara Center and the “Book of Mormon’s” six-day run in June at Shea’s Performing Arts Center. ¶ All those stories – and many more – still need to be written.
Here’s a look:
The new year promises to be a turning point on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, with four projects that will focus public attention.
The University at Buffalo plans to start relocating the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences from its South Campus to the downtown medical corridor in a project estimated to cost $375 million.
Roswell Park Cancer Institute raised enough money to start construction this year on an addition to the cancer center at Michigan Avenue and Carlton Street, abutting its main hospital building. Services in the Clinical Sciences Center will include a breast care center and expanded chemotherapy infusion.
Women & Children’s Hospital is moving from the Elmwood Village to the medical campus. Ground-breaking for the new facility, which will be renamed the John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital, is expected in the spring. The $200 million building will go up at Ellicott and High streets.
Ciminelli Real Estate Corp. is expected to start construction soon on a Main Street medical office building. Major tenants will include doctors associated with the UBMD medical group and services related to the new Women & Children’s, which will abut the office building.
The future of Ralph Wilson Stadium will remain on the minds of local leaders in 2013.
Erie County lawmakers will be asked to approve a proposed new 10-year lease negotiated by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz with the Buffalo Bills.
The agreement calls for $130 million in renovations to the county-owned stadium that will be paid for by the state, the county and the Bills. It also calls for the creation of a “working group” that will begin to explore whether a new stadium could be built and where it would be located if the team remains in Western New York.
Terms of the proposed lease state that money should be set aside starting in 2018 that could pay for studies and other work toward a new stadium. The working group could begin meeting this year.
A six-year legal battle over the fate of the Seneca Nation’s downtown casino could be decided once and for all this year.
A group opposed to the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino filed a federal court lawsuit in 2009 accusing the federal agency that approved the Nation’s gambling application of changing the rules to benefit the Senecas.
The suit, the latest of three filed by Citizens Against Casino Gambling in Erie County, repeats many of the same arguments made in the previous two suits, which the group won, but asks the court to close the legal loopholes that have allowed the casino to continue operating.
The upcoming decision by Chief U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny could very well decide whether the Senecas go ahead with plans for a larger $130 million downtown casino.
Sometime this summer or next fall, the long-awaited, historically aligned Erie Canal system of replica canals, towpaths and bridges is expected to open at Canalside.
The refrigerated canals – located in the footprint of the former Memorial Auditorium – are expected to become a wintertime ice-skating attraction from December through March, with an area three times the skating surface of Rockefeller Center.
Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp., the state waterfront agency that has piloted the project, expects the canal system to be a catalyst for a future public market, children’s museum, as well as retail, dining and drinking establishments.
Look for news on major projects in Buffalo this year.
The Buffalo Sabres’ HARBORCenter Development is expected to break ground in March on two new ice rinks, a hotel, parking deck and restaurant and retail space, with an opening of the rinks scheduled for September 2014.
The remaking of the former Donovan State Office Building should be completed by the end of the year. It will be the new home of the Phillips Lytle law firm, which is moving out of the city’s tallest building, the HSBC Center. It also will house a boutique hotel.
Meanwhile, the authority that oversees the Peace Bridge is moving ahead with plans to improve its property while seeking to expand the plaza onto property it would like to acquire, including a city street. The Common Council would have to approve any sale of city property to the authority. The Peace Bridge’s plans are also the target of a federal lawsuit, which is ongoing.
Buffalonians will vote for mayor this year, with incumbent Democrat Byron W. Brown expected to seek a third term. Brown is considered a heavy favorite, especially with $1 million already socked away in his treasury for the upcoming campaign. Only Bernard Tolbert, former special agent in charge of the Buffalo FBI, has hinted that he may challenge the mayor in the September Democratic primary.
The County Legislature also is expected to provide a major source of campaign activity, as Republicans try to tip the current 5-4 Democratic majority their way. Watch also for a flurry of primaries as various factions of the Democratic Party flex their muscles for control.
Arts and entertainment
In the coming weeks, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery is expected to announce the appointment of its new director, arguably the most important arts job in Western New York. Former director Louis Grachos, who ran the museum for 10 years, fostered enormous change at the gallery and in the community, and his successor will be charged with doing the same.
The theater and comedy scenes also will heat up this year with the addition of the 325-seat Helium Comedy Club in the Cobblestone District and the return of locally produced theater to the former Studio Arena Theatre, now known as 710 Main.
And finally, collaboration among arts advocacy organizations, from the young Arts Services Initiative Greater Buffalo Cultural Alliance and growing Give for Greatness campaign, will likely increase and exert more influence over elected officials this year.
High points of the upcoming year of commemorative celebrations of the War of 1812 Bicentennial will surely include events tied to the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Lake Erie.
But, for sheer historical magnitude and emotional impact, nothing will top the remembrance – in December – of the Burning of Buffalo, which happened 200 years ago, at the end of December 1813. Buffalo homes and business were burned to the ground by British soldiers, and dozens of people died.
Black Rock and Lewiston also were razed, in attacks that came in retaliation for American advances in Ontario.
On gridiron and ice
Local residents also are hoping the new year will be a better one for Buffalo’s major-league teams.
That shouldn’t be hard. In short, Buffalo Bills fans want the team to play better, while hockey fans hope the Sabres just play.
Long-suffering fans of the Bills hope that 2013 will bring an end to the unlucky 13-year playoff drought, certainly with a new coach, possibly with front office changes and probably a new quarterback.
Buffalo Sabres fans, giddy about the prospects of the team’s kiddie corps of youngsters making their way through the junior ranks or through Rochester, can’t wait for the National Hockey League lockout to end. If this season can be saved, that will have to happen this month. If not, pro hockey wouldn’t resume until next fall, at the earliest.
The Buffalo Bisons will begin a new era of their history as the top affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays when they open their season at 2:05 p.m. April 4 against the Rochester Red Wings in Coca-Cola Field. The Bisons dropped the New York Mets as their parent club in September after four seasons, three of which ended in losing records. The Bisons are scheduled to unveil their new jerseys and caps for the 2013 season sometime this month.
The Blue Jays will become the fifth parent club in Buffalo’s modern era of Triple-A baseball that dates to 1985, joining the Mets, Chicago White Sox, Pittsburgh Pirates and Cleveland Indians.