After the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament wrapped up here in Buffalo for the second and third rounds, the sports world should have gotten the message. Buffalo is ready for the big leagues.
Or, any size league for that matter.
The tournament spent three days in First Niagara Center, during which time more than 18,000 fans gathered and spent an estimated $5.2 million. They sold out seats, and filled up hotels and restaurants. And even when their team lost – can you say Syracuse Orange? – they stuck around.
These fans discovered what everyone here has been buzzing about for the past few years. Buffalo is a happening place and it is becoming more relevant with each and every day, and each and every crane in the air.
We are excellent hosts. From the $3,000 worth of gift certificates for admission to various destinations in the area, using “random acts of kindness” to give them out, to the free Spot Coffee and doughnuts from Paula’s Donuts at the host hotels, what more could you ask for? Except that Patrick Kaler, the new CEO of Visit Buffalo Niagara, was giving out nine $100 gift certificates in First Niagara Center to fans who recognized him from his online picture and found him as part of a halftime contest.
Buffalo should know how to host an event, big or small. Sports or cultural. This is the fifth time (2000, 2004, 2007, 2010 and 2014) the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament has taken place in the arena. And there’s more. Remember the NCAA “Frozen Four” hockey tournament in 2003, or the 2011 World Junior Ice Hockey Championship? Or, for a bit of culture, the 2011 National Preservation Conference?
This city has hosted lots more conferences, events and gatherings of all stripes and sizes. We have just about anything a site selector would want. And we’re preparing more venues in which to do it.
Downtown is being remade into an action-packed, walkable, Metro-rideable, convenient destination, with hotel rooms and event venues being added. Canalside is already the center of many public activities, such as concerts, during the summer. Final touches are being put on the former Donovan State Office Building as a hotel, to add to the already up-and-running law office space.
Perhaps even more exciting to hockey fans is what’s going on at the Webster Block. Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula is constructing a huge building that will house a hotel and two full-size hockey rinks. That, alone, will leverage further economic activity for hockey fans to the north, far away and right here at home.
Buffalo has so much to offer. There is a lot more even than that going on to revitalize downtown areas, and that momentum is spreading out.
We’re ready for all the leagues – small, medium and large. Bring it on.