Two popular downtown events will overlap this afternoon, possibly creating traffic and parking issues around First Niagara Center.
But Buffalo Sabres and police officials predict fans will have a relatively smooth ride in for the 3 p.m. hockey game despite encountering the end of the largest Shamrock Run in history.
“We don’t see this being an inconvenience to the fans at all,” said Sabres spokesman Michael Gilbert.
Multiple roads will be closed to traffic starting at 11 a.m. as more than 5,000 runners make their way through the industrial areas of the Old First Ward.
Major arterials such as Seneca Street, South Park Avenue, Michigan Avenue and surrounding side streets will be closed to vehicles and teeming with runners for the nearly five-mile run, which begins at noon.
“I think it’s going to be crazy,” said Maryann Schuta, who has helped organize more than 30 of the road races. “Early, it’s going to be worse.”
Race officials have received permits to close the roads to traffic until 4 p.m., but they plan to open them earlier because of the hockey game.
Michigan Avenue should be opened to traffic by 1 p.m. after the initial pack of runners clears that stretch, officials said.
That would make commutes to the game much easier – depending on when people leave their homes to come downtown.
“As long as people don’t come too early, it shouldn’t be a problem,” said Laura Kelly, director of the Old First Ward Community Center. “As the runners go by, we don’t let the roads sit idle. We should be in pretty good shape.”
Motorists coming into downtown from the Niagara Thruway should avoid the Louisiana Street, Hamburg Street and Seneca Street exits, race organizers say.
The Elm Street exit should be passable, and Washington Street or Pearl Street could serve as alternative routes to the arena.
Buffalo police will have additional traffic officers on detail because of the concerns, said police spokesman Michael J. DeGeorge.
DeGeorge said motorists coming to the game from South Buffalo should leave some extra time for traveling, and those coming from the north could use parking ramps near the Main Place Mall or take Metro Rail.
Runners also are expected to linger in the bars and restaurants surrounding the Shamrock Run for hours after the race ends, taking some of the parking spaces on city streets typically used by Sabres fans.
The former parking lot on the Webster Block development site also will be closed, DeGeorge noted.
But Gilbert said that “parking is not an issue down here,” noting that the Sabres’ parking ramp for season-ticket holders will be open, as well as multiple surface lots.