Delay could put pond hockey in jeopardy

Jack Kemp & Daryle Lamonica (AP)

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – A winter-time tradition in Buffalo could be in jeopardy because construction has ground to a halt.

The annual Labatt Blue Pond Hockey Tournament is expected to draw hundreds of players to a new complex along the waterfront, but city leaders have issued a stop work order over traffic concerns.

Buffalo RiverWorks developer Doug Swift is construction two, $2.5 million ice rinks along Ganson Street that will be used for the tournament in February.

“We’re already over the hump of the heavy lifting in this project,” Swift said.

Much of the work that remains is all underground, including 28 miles of piping to carry the refrigerant for the rinks. But it hasn’t been an “easy skate” trying to get two rinks built in three months in the dead of winter.

The rinks are part of a bigger $15 million entertainment complex on an eight-acre site along the waterfront. General Mills is also on Kelly Island and it has concerns about traffic and safety.

General Mills GM David Tincher said, ” Without solutions to the mixing of industrial and commercial traffic on Ganson Street, we believe this will be very detrimental to our operations.”

City lawmakers want a little more time to study issues of traffic, parking and safety, but outgoing Common Council President Rich Fontana is optimistic a solution can be reached and construction can get back underway.

“We’re going to talk to General Mills again this week, maybe Thursday, Friday, and then see what could be done,” Fontana said.

But Swift’s target date for completion is February 1st.

“We have a cushion. If we go much past a week it’s going to become a challenge. Every day is precious here,” Swift said.

Eight hundred pond hockey players along with friends and family are counting on the tournament scheduled for February 21st and 22nd.

Swift said, “If the city and our development team work together we don’t see any reason why we can’t solve these issues.”

And the delay by city leaders at this point isn’t impacting construction. The frigid weather would have delayed the pouring of concrete anyway.

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