BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula and his wife Kim’s vision for a world-class hockey facility in downtown Buffalo will soon become a reality. Construction of the $172-million dollar HARBORcenter, planned for the Webster Block, actually started weeks ago.
Saturday, the Pegulas were joined by Sabres alumni and local politicians for the ceremonial groundbreaking.
The 650,000 square feet entertainment center is set to open in September 2014.
“Our plan,” said Terry Pegula, “is to build two sheets of ice, a parking garage, a hotel connected to [the First Niagara Center].”
When the Pegula’s bought the Sabres two years ago, they were already thinking about creating a place where hockey players, coaches and professionals from all over the world would come to train and learn.
“We talked to each other about what NHL ownership means to a community where the team is located. How can our ownership affect and help the people in the region in which we live?” Pegula said.
Mayor Byron Brown calls it “a unique opportunity to shape the future of Buffalo and its waterfront.”
Redevelopment can be seen in every direction of the Webster Block including: Cliff Benderson’s transformation of the former Donovan State Office building as well as the expansion of the historic Erie Canal. That was the spot where the Sabres of yesteryear entertained fans in Memorial Auditorium.
Buffalo Sabres Chief Development Officer Cliff Benderson said, “This is a new day, folks. We do get things done in Buffalo. We get them done quickly, we get them done with a spirit of cooperation between private and public. And I think it’s time for us to say to the world, This is a better Buffalo, and we’re going to get it done.”
“We can be proud in Buffalo of the way that we work together. We can be proud of the new Buffalo,” Mayor Byron Brown said.
But the cordial mood quickly dissolved when, during a one-on-one interview after the press conference, reporters began to press Pegula for answers about the Sabres’ abysmal on-ice performance this season.
“I just look at it optimistically. We’ll move forward and do the right thing,” Pegula said.
One reporter then asked Pegula about the firing of veteran head coach Lindy Ruff. Pegula has not spoken publicly about that, since Ruff was let go.
“I don’t need to answer that now. This is a different topic today,” the Sabres’ owner responded.
At one point later, Pegula was asked how he has felt, as a fan, watching all that has transpired for the Sabres this season.
“I was a fan,” Pegula replied. “I’m still the owner of the team. But, this is a business now. And it’s a little different. I’ve got to take the emotion out of it.”