Tag Archives: Sabres

Tim Bits

6 Mar

All of these sketches were done in the last week by Marquil at EmpireWire.com

 

 

 

 

 

12 Years a Sabre

3 Mar

Courtesy Marquil at EmpireWire.com

Surface Parking Protectionism

13 Feb

The image shown above is a rendering of the HARBORcenter – the Sabres’ proposed hotel, restaurant, retail, and indoor hockey destination planned for construction on the long-abandoned Webster Block.  It’s no Fallingwater, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s not ugly and it’s wholly functional, and will bring people and their money to a fledgling entertainment district that’s growing in fits and starts of its own accord. 

Buffalo antideveloper Tim Tielman has started a company named after the “neighborhood workshops” that have been part and parcel of the formulation and implementation of Buffalo’s soon-to-be “Green Code” zoning law. On Tuesday, Tielman, on behalf of his “Neighborhood Workshop, LLC” appeared before the Planning Board to complain about how the Pegula-led “HARBORCenter” project for the Webster Block isn’t pretty enough for him and his clientHi-Temp Fabrications, which occupies an eyesore across the street from an HSBC Atrium surface lot. 

Four speakers, including the owner of a neighboring business, spoke against the project during a City Hall public hearing today.

Speakers said the development would contribute to congestion and that it did not resemble historic architecture styles.

“The central planning issue that we’re facing in Buffalo today … is how to connect downtown to the waterfront,” said Tim Tielman, whose Neighborhood Workshop consultancy developed an alternative concept on behalf of John and Shelley McKendry, who own Hi-Temp Fabrication, at 79 Perry St. Tielman said the project adds to the separation of downtown and the water, as the Skyway does.

Yes, it’s time to hold our horses and literally obstruct something being planned imminently to replace a surface parking lot.  Perhaps we can make it more historically interpretive by adding hay bales and hitching posts? A museum of downtown surface parking might be good for the cultural tourists? Or maybe we can just re-pave and re-stripe the lot? Perhaps we can retain Fred Kent and his extortionate traveling “placemaking” salon to discuss “flexible lawns” and colorful benches? Where are the solar-powered carousels?

Better yet, maybe we can tell the Sabres to go to hell and construct some ugly hodgepodge of buildings with outdoor rinks as an afterthought up on the roof. 

Mr. Tielman and his uncharacteristically disclosed patrons are coming to protect downtown’s connection to the waterfront – that is, if you ignore the fact that the railyard and the really big hockey arena both do that very thing already. 

Who are we in Buffalo to expect or want a nice hotel and hockey facility to help build on a solid entertainment district foundation now anchored by CanalSide, First Niagara Center, and Helium Comedy Club? 

If Hi-Temp Fabrications wants to weigh in on a development’s design, it should invest in the development or buy the parcel. The 11th hour unwanted micromanagement of a $170 million hockey destination and for what? For this eyesore, which looks like a Crayola marker box come to life; Curaçao by the Arena.

 

 This isn’t a case for historic preservation or even one where a better design is being proposed in place of an existing one. This is about ego, power, and subjective design prejudices. That hotel would look great in coastal Florida. In 1977. Those little phony colorful row houses look as stupid as they do out of place. The idea of outdoor rinks completely flies in the face of the Sabres’ intent – to design a destination Division 1 AAA hockey facility to attract tournaments of all ages from all over. Just leave the Sabres alone. When it comes to attracting people and money, they’ve already got things figured out pretty well. 

Battlezone: Webster Block

30 Jul

Late last week, two proposals to redevelop the Webster Block – across from the First Niagara Center and Canal Side – were put before the public. Physically similar, the major differences between the two plans is that one includes publicly accessible indoor ice rinks, costs more money, will take longer to build, and relies more heavily on public money. 

Submitting the two proposals for public vetting and comment, for the use of land the City currently holds, is laudable. However, I will be not at all surprised to see it devolve right into bitter litigation, because of the ease with which that can happen, and stymie the whole project. It’s cost of doing business in our so-called “lighter, cheaper, faster” placemaking/crowdsourcing development culture in contemporary Buffalo. It’s also why our skyline has not changed significantly since the 1960s. 

First, the Sabres’ proposal. Costing over $123 million, with a promise of 450 permanent jobs, “HarborCenter” is projected to open in mid-2015, include two ice rinks, and rely somewhat heavily on public incentives and subsidies, although the exact figure hasn’t been determined.  It features a sports bar, hotel space, retail space, and a 965-space parking garage. 

Next, here’s a proposal put forth by “Webster Block, LLC”, a joint venture led by Carl Paladino’s Ellicott Development. It features retail space, residential condos, a hotel, office space, and 1,089-space parking garage. 

 

Recognizing that design is largely subjective, I somewhat prefer the Paladino proposal. I don’t like the overuse of brick in every new development save the Avant, and these two proposals incorporate that. The archways over the street-level retail in the Paladino plan, along with the awnings and other features one typically sees in big-city urban developments appeal to me. I have seen some criticism about the visibility of the parking ramp in the Paladino proposal, but the Sabres’ renderings seem to conveniently omit that, so Webster Block, LLC gets points for transparency on that point. 

But the brick-and-windows designs are, to me, so late-80s post-modern. The clean simplicity of the Avant should be a model for contemporary high-rise design in Buffalo. This all looks like an NYU or BU dorm, ca. 1986. 

Aside from money and the need for subsidies, the major difference here is the Sabres’ inclusion of two rinks. I think it’s a pretty neat idea, especially if there’s non-hockey related just general skate time available to local and visiting families. Adding amateur hockey space to downtown is clearly a positive, and would be a great asset to have to attract league play and tournaments to downtown. 

But either way, Buffalo wins. This isn’t currently a site, but a blight; another surface parking lot in a city jam-packed with them. It’s the site where the Adelphia Tower was supposed to go – first 40 stories, then 15, then zero as Adelphia went out of business, in disgrace during the last decade.  Anticipating complaints about parking – of course you need parking. It’s not the existence of parking that’s bad, but its visibility and use – a surface lot is an utter waste of space, but a parking garage nestled within a larger project and hidden from view is an absolute necessity. Anticipating complaints about the historic nature of the site of some sort, any such complaints would be disingenuous nonsense. No one moaned about historical significance during the decades during which it was a parking lot. Is someone going to complain that it should be a replica of the original Webster Block? A low grouping of brownstone warehouses

Either proposal would enhance the area around the Arena and Canal Side. Either proposal would be a net plus for the inner harbor area of downtown Buffalo. Either proposal would be a welcome change from the status quo. We have to get past the mentality where one person can halt civic progress for the public benefit with one lawsuit. I wonder if we’ll get there with this project. 

Looking up Main Street 1905 (Shorpy.com)

If you want to add your two cents, you can email the city at websterblockrfp@city-buffalo.com.

The Daily Five – Top 5 Good News Stories in Buffalo 2011

9 Dec

As a blogger, my tendency is to criticize and write about issues I feel need to be addressed or things that need to be improved. Rarely do I take the opportunity to write about the positive news and events that happen in Buffalo and WNY each and every day. Maybe I need to shake it up a bit, eh?

However, there is one talented writer who spends all of his energy documenting why this region is an awesome place to live, work, and play. His name is Seamus Gallivan and he is the editor of a fantastic website called The Good Neighborhood.

His website is a daily read for me and I encourage you to add it to your daily media diet as well, maybe even add his site on Facebook.  Gallivan’s mission for “the good hood”?

The Good Neighborhood is all about community, and we want everyone to participate –

  • Read and comment on the stories!
  • Submit ideas and original work in the spirit of Gathering for the Greater Good!
  • Advertise your business through spots and sponsored content!
  • Spread the good word about The Good Hood!

So when it came time to write up the top five good news stories of the year? Well, Seamus was the first guy I thought could give this story angle the love it needed. Primarily because he’s the happiest guy I know and he and his website can put a big time hop in your step.

Waterfront Activity, Finally

As the battling and bickering wages over what we could have, should have, and have to be doing to earn our city a waterfront worth talkin’ proud about, major movement was made this summer to bring a critical mass of people to Canalside – it’s finally becoming an actual destination, thanks in great part to public input.

A flurry of free programming, from small-scale concerts with historical context to the Explore and More Children’s Museum and Tifft Nature Preserve presentations, was met with festivals such as Pride and the Great Lakes Experience and the ballyhooed move of Thursday at the Square, all of which got a lot of people poking around the water far more often than before. Naysayers whined over $46 tickets to see the Tragically Hip there, only to see it sell out without worry and become the event of the summer.

Buffalo Riverfest aka Peg’s Park opened just down the Buffalo River past the Edward M. Cotter; On the Water Productions held events such as the Outer Harbor Fest at the Seaway Piers; the Queen City Water Ferry is open and hopin’ to have more places to take people; and the Buffalo Main Lighthouse is finally accessible again to the public – we have a long way to go and there’s a lot of public money flying around, so may the watchdogs keep sniffing, and whiners keep sniffling, and the powers-that-be keep listening.

Buffalo Green Code Changing our Landscape

I’ll admit that until this year, I didn’t know nor care much about zoning codes. But part of caring about Buffalo and atoning for our past mistakes is fixing our way-outdated and misguided codes, and the city’s Office of Strategic Planning has made the planning process for the historic Buffalo Green Code educational and engaging enough for ignorant schmucks like me to learn and participate to the point of coming away fired up about the public’s role in shaping our city as a national leader in 21st century land use.

They’ve pounded the pavement to get public input, from nine neighborhood meetings earlier in the year, to meeting with community action organizations and last month revealing the results of our feedback and how they plan on moving ahead – if you care at all about reshaping neighborhoods, reusing abandoned land, removing horribly-placed highways, and redefining Buffalo, get hip to the Buffalo Green Code, and get involved while it’s still in development.

Amherst Street Emerges

When I moved back to Buffalo in late 2009 and set out to launch The Good Neighborhood, the first person I sought for support was Sportsmens Tavern owner Dwane Hall. Hall has taken an unassuming hole in the wall in Black Rock and made it first a formidable music venue free of riff-raff, and since a favorite destination for touring musicians who draw fans from hundreds of miles away. In a neighborhood belittled as rundown and unsafe, the 28-year family-run “Honkiest, Tonkiest Beer Joint in Town” is undergoing a six-figure expansion and has never been robbed.

“I think they think I’m cool because of the music,” Hall says of the neighborhood ne’er-do-wells…sure, that and the fact that the Stone Country stalwart and Marine Corps vet can’t feel some of his knuckles from putting their predecessors in their place.

The Sportsmens, as reigning Grant-Amherst Association Business of the Year, is an anchor in an emerging Amherst Street scene that has welcomed new tenants this year from taverns Rohall’s Corner and Black Rock Kitchen & Bar to buzz-builders such as Delish Cooking School & Pastry Shop and an expanded arts presence around Artsphere and 464 Gallery.

In the City of No Illusions, Amherst Street is real, receiving, and rising.

The Sabres Assert Themselves as Top Dogs

First off, owners don’t win championships – players do, and the Buffalo Sabres are not currently playing like champions. But new owner Terry Pegula is putting pressure on the players by putting his money where his mouth is when it comes to winning, investing on and off the ice to assert the franchise as an industry leader, including a red carpet for one of the Sabres’ greatest assets – its alumni.

In The Good Neighborhood, we leave the reporting of game scores and stats to other publications – our interest is in what the team and players are doing in the community, and there is no better story from this past year than the rapid rise of the Miracle League of Western New York and Sabres’ role in it.

The Miracle League is a baseball league for special needs kids with a motto of “Every Child Deserves a Chance to Play Baseball,” enabled by a custom rubberized playing surface that literally levels the playing field to alleviate mobility issues. Building a field is expensive, and of the three communities in which I’ve been involved with the emergence of the Miracle League, Western New York got the field built the fastest. With an incredibly united front on Grand Island that got the land in Veterans Park and the crew to build it, The Buffalo Sabres Alumni and Sabres Foundation stepped in with a pledge of $150,000, enabling the field to open in August – from conception to fruition in half the time it takes most communities.

One might ask what our hockey team is doing funding baseball leagues, and the answer is simple – the Buffalo Sabres care about more than hockey; they care about Western New York.

“This field in the best way encapsulates for me and my teammates what we love about Buffalo,” Sabres Alumni President Larry Playfair told me on the day the field opened. “People ask us, ‘Why stay in Buffalo when you can go anywhere?’ This is why.

“…Folks throughout Western New York who bought those raffle tickets [at Sabres and World Juniors games] chipped into this, and that feels good,” Playfair added. “The contractors, bricklayers, cement pourers – the people who built this field come from both Erie and Niagara counties. This is a Western New York effort.”

You and Who is Born

I first met You and Who Founder and President Dan Gigante in early 2010 at a New Era bubble hockey tournament. After I explained my goals with The Good Neighborhood, he said he was the guy at local internet solutions firm Clevermethod who handles all their community initiatives, arguably spending too much time on them. A few months later, he orchestrated a buyout from the company he co-founded in order to launch You and Who, an apparel company that for every purchase donates matching items or meals to organizations that help neighbors in need, inspired by “buy one, give one” models such as Tom’s Shoes. You and Who’s main product so far is t-shirts, most designed by artists and others bearing messages such as, “Two People are Wearing This Shirt.”

In addition to working with Western New York artists, organizations such as Compass House and Buffalo City Mission, and outlets from Thursday at the Square to his display today at the Walden Galleria, Gigante launched You and Who in a handful of cities around the country, and this fall trekked to 30 cities in 90 days to forge new partnerships. For example, if you purchase a shirt designed by an artist in Austin, the artist will receive a commission and the extra shirt will be donated to a local cause such as ARCH – Austin Resource Center for the Homeless.

Follow Gigante and You and Who in The Good Neighborhood with his weekly “You and Who’sday” report every Tuesday.

Mayor Brown, No Orange For You

18 Apr

As the Sabres-Flyers NHL Playoff series shifts to Buffalo for games three and four, today Mayor Byron Brown declared the lobby of City Hall a “No Orange (Flyers) Zone”. To emphasize the point, the Mayor has hung a banner with those words in the lobby of City Hall.

 

Before the series began, Mayor Brown said he was not going to wear or eat anything orange during the series. Evidently, this doesn’t include neckties.  The Mayor picked the Sabres to win the series in six games.

Chasing Joe Daley

12 Apr

A guest post by Chris O’Brien

When I was in second grade, the newly-minted Buffalo Sabres selected as the first member of their team a goalie named Joe Daley.  With that move, Punch Imlach, the Sabres’ general manager, set in motion an odyssey which would span forty years for me, finally ending last Friday.

That first season, anything connected to the Sabres had a sense of awe attached to it.  NHL hockey was new and wonderful in Buffalo; for a second grader, a program dad brought home from a game was a treasure to be shown off the next day at school.  I still remember the cover story, “Joe Daley: He Belongs.”  What that meant, I really didn’t know, but I thought it was the best article in the best program ever.

Fast forward to the 1990s.  I finally started playing hockey in a league with a team stocked with defensemen who couldn’t skate backwards and forwards who had trouble going forward.  Goalie for that team?  It was yours truly, but only after the captain promised that if I bought all the equipment, I would play every game, no matter how bad I was (and I was plenty bad).  When we ordered jerseys, there was no question what number I wanted: 30, Joe Daley’s number.  Our team that year resembled the first year Sabres: what we didn’t have in skill, we made up in camaraderie.  I often faced a ton of shots; unlike Daley, I was happy with the occasional save.

After the season was over, a goalie friend of mine begged me for my autographed Grant Fuhr jersey.  I wasn’t a huge Fuhr fan so I agreed, on one condition—that he have a Buffalo Sabres Joe Daley jersey made up for me.

The jersey became kind of a running joke with the guys I grew up with.  They all knew that when they would say, “Joe Daley?”  I would respond with, “He belongs!”  The jersey began to achieve a reputation of its own.  Before going to important Buffalo Bills’ games, I would get the call from a friend, “You wearing the Daley?”  At the games, walking into the stadium, at least two or three voices would yell, “Joe Daley? Great jersey!”  All told, the jersey had a lifetime win-loss-tie record of 21-6-3, including NHL games, NFL playoff games, and one memorable outdoor NHL game. In its later years, the jersey was reserved for only the most important games, as I knew it could only have so much magic in it.

In the back of my mind, I always wondered if I would ever meet the real Joe Daley.  About ten years ago, I found his website, a sports trading card store in Winnipeg, but I never followed through on actually contacting him.  After all, what would I say?  “I’m a 37 year old lawyer who wears your jersey even though you last played for the Sabres thirty years ago.”  Right.  How long until the RCMP would arrive at my door to ask me to please leave Mr. Daley alone.

I guess for a while it was enough for me just to know he was still around.  But then God dropped an out-of-town billionaire named Terry Pegula on the Buffalo Sabres.  It turns out that Pegula had spent years following the Sabres the same way my generation did, listening to the games on the transistor radio.  And what does the new owner do but invite all former Sabres to the last game of the season!

I knew I had to be at the game.  This might be my only chance to actually meet Joe Daley.  The fact that the Sabres needed a point to make the playoffs was important, too, but I was focused on meeting the man behind the jersey.  I called the Sabres to make sure he was coming into town.  I pleaded with a friend to share his tickets with me.  And I suited up for the game, a grey-haired 47 year-old former second grader who only wanted one thing, to meet Joe Daley.

So there I was, in the second period, worried because the Sabres were down 3-2 halfway through the game.  Making the playoffs was starting to look in doubt.  I realized that maybe wearing the jersey wasn’t enough.  Maybe I needed the man himself.

I turned to my friend and said, “Let’s go!”

He looked at me blankly and said, “What?”

“Let’s go, we gotta find Joe Daley!”

It wasn’t just for me anymore, it was for the Sabres—they needed the karma (or so I convinced myself later).

So we walk around the arena, spotting the famous and the near-famous former Sabres who are mingling with the crowd in what is perhaps the best day in the history of the Sabres, for players and fans alike.  But no Joe Daley.

Finally I head to the private box where I see a bunch of former Sabres  watching the game.  Unfortunately, there’s an usher positioned to keep people like me from ruining the former players’ chance to enjoy the game.  In what I can only describe as a Pegula-like move, the usher allows me to approach the box and a Sabres official spots the jersey I am wearing.  He waves me around to the back door, where he welcomes me into a room full of Sabres history .

The next thing I know, I am walking up to a table where there’s a man in his 60s just about to eat a plateful of wings.  “Joe, you’re not going to believe this… “ the Sabres guy says.  The man looks up, sees the jersey I am wearing, jumps out of his seat and literally lifts me off my feet with the biggest bear hug I’ve ever had.

The next ten minutes are a blur of me and Joe Daley.  I tell him about the jersey and its winning record.  I tell him about all the fans through the years who have remembered him.  I tell him about the “Joe Daley” call with the “He Belongs” answer.  And I tell him of the only time I met the late Rick Martin, who at the first game of this season had spotted me wearing a Joe Daley jersey and had come over and shared a beer with me and my friends only because I was wearing that jersey.  Looking at the smile on Daley’s face, I know it’s a close call between which of us is happier, the kid who finally met his idol or the man who now knows he is still remembered forty years after he last played a game in a Sabres’ sweater.  His smile, his bear hug, the joy he has talking hockey: I know I was right to wear this player’s jersey for so many years.  This is a good man.

Being the guy he is, Joe signs my jersey, thereby insuring that the jersey will never be worn again.  He gives me his business card and we agree to keep in touch.  Naturally, the Sabres soon tie the score and make the playoffs.  I met Joe Daley and the Sabres made the playoffs, all in one night.  Could there be anything better?

As I am leaving the arena after the game, I hear people whispering, “Is that Joe Daley?”  I can only think to myself, “No, it’s not.  But it’s pretty great to have you think that I am.”

Chris O’Brien is a partner with the law firm of O’Brien Boyd, LLP.

Palin on Mubarak

8 Feb

I caught the following quote in this article about Larry Quinn quitting the Sabres, ECHDC, and Buffalo in general:

Larry Quinn is the Hosni Mubarak of planning in Buffalo, going back to his early days in the Griffin administration and extending through the Bass Pro fiasco that set back waterfront development by at least six years,” said preservationist Tim Tielman, executive director of Campaign for Greater Buffalo. “Through it all, he has demonstrated an autocratic attitude that repeatedly went against the desires of the public and sound public policy.”

Mubarak? Who the hell does Tim Tielman think he is?  Does he think that he doesn’t demonstrate an autocratic attitude, or that he always works in concert with the public’s desires or sound public policy?  Who died and made him king of Buffalo development?  It’s the most self-important, arrogant, and – with the Mubarak reference – childishly offensive piece of mouth-shit I’ve yet seen come from the Sarah Palin of Buffalo development.  Shame on him.

Cultural Tourism

28 Dec

A few weeks ago, Assemblyman Sam Hoyt wrote this:

“There’s a lot of ball-dropping going on,” said Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, a Buffalo Democrat. “This is, in my opinion, a crisis in the making.”

Hoyt, in a letter to the Buffalo Niagara Convention and Visitors Bureau, expressed concern about a “lack of cooperation” between the Buffalo Sabres, who are hosting the event, and the CVB.

“We can’t do these things in silos,” he told The Buffalo News. “What’s important is to take what little time we have left to make this right.”

The Sabres, who spent more than a year planning the 12-day, 10-team international tournament, reacted angrily to Hoyt’s claims…

…Hoyt said his concern is that whatever planning has taken place is insufficient for an event as large as the World Juniors.

He referred to the 2000 NCAA basketball tournament, when out-of-town fans walked out of HSBC Arena with no clue where to find food and drinks.

“What concerns me is that we have an opportunity to create thousands of Buffalo ambassadors,” he said. “The alternative is we leave thousands of visitors saying, ‘Boy, I saw a great tournament but Buffalo— what a lousy city.’ ”

At the time, some roundly criticized Hoyt for “bashing” the Sabres because of his ongoing feud with Floridian billionaire and Sabres-seller Tom Golisano.  Based on the outrageous & breathless media outrage over a 17 year-old hockey player’s Tweet calling Buffalo a “ghost town” that’s worse than Medicine Hat, Alberta, it seems as if Hoyt was exactly correct.

What, precisely, is a 17 year-old supposed to do holed up in the Hyatt or in the last Adam’s Mark on the planet? He can’t go drinking.  There’s quite literally no shopping.  The downtown mall is an embarrassment. All the stuff a teenager might enjoy is either up on Elmwood or out in the suburbs.

Too bad Mark Goldman’s Ohio Street arts corridor isn’t yet open.  Too bad Etem can’t go watch a laser light show projected onto a rusting eyesore of a grain elevator in subfreezing temperatures.  Too bad there’s nothing – not even a taco truck – at Canal Side for Etem to do or see.

While Allentown merchants banded together to promote their neighborhood to visitors, there’s no easy way to get there if you don’t have a car.  Not everyone enjoys the allure and mystique of grabbing exact change and waiting 20 minutes in the cold for a bus to appear.  A dedicated bus circuit specifically for hockey players and attendees wouldn’t have cost a lot, and would have gone a long way towards showing off the city and helping to entertain a visitor population that isn’t here to get drunk or admire Frank Lloyd Wright’s handiwork.

I realize that it doesn’t really matter what anyone thinks of the city, and that it shouldn’t be a media frenzy at all.  The point here is to bring up the fact that Hoyt specifically foresaw this and asked that planning be adequate to accommodate out-of-towners who don’t have cars and want to do things.

Missed Marketing Opportunities

30 Nov

Buffalo is the Beirut of New York State – even hapless Governor Paterson thinks we fight too much over ever-smaller crumbs. Or perhaps Buffalo is the Palestine of New York State: to paraphrase the famous quote, we never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

Exhibit A is the obvious opportunity unrealized. Professional busybodies and baby-boomer obstructionists, reliving their protesting youth by finding a new Man to rail against (read: ECHDC board), are currently impeding the Canal Side construction and have won yet another “pause” in waterfront development, the latest in a fifty year string of pauses.  The plan is already significantly behind schedule, the latest published date (now 18 months old) for life at the water being May 2011. I trust the pause seekers are vindictive enough to realize that ECHDC board member, Buffalo Sabres Managing Partner, and regular foil Larry Quinn is actually planning two events on the waterfront – one the construction at Canal Side, the other the World Junior Hockey Tournament in December and January. The irony that may be lost on the true believing obstructiontariant, however, is that while they are blunting the potential impact of a $100 million international event, they are selling their soul for their own $2.5 million preservation conference in October. How does someone walk out of a Save the Statler event, that offered a Faustian bargain simply to make the landmark look good for a week long convention, and (metaphorically) walk to a protest by a movement that has ensured a giant hole in the ground when the hockey world and international spotlight comes to Buffalo. Never let this group claim the city love high moral ground again – if boosting Buffalo was the goal, we’d have more than lame catering at 95 Perry Street for the crowds that will fill our city for five weeks. As it is, Swedes, Germans, Slovakians, Canadians and tens of thousands of others will navigate around the giant rusting concrete holes, on their way to the arena and back to Pearl Street and the hopping, expansive, dense Cobblestone District. . . of 2 bars.

Image courtesy Buffalo News

Exhibit B is more insidious, and, to me, more frustrating – the potential opportunity required imagination. Last Thursday morning I stood on Delaware Avenue surrounded by more significantly more people than attend the Darwin Martin House yearly. 12,500 people paid over thirty bucks each to run five miles in the cold and rain.

We must be on to something. Which made me wonder, why hasn’t Buffalo cornered the market on Thanksgiving?

In the 21st Century, and our increasingly mobile culture grasping for entertainment and authenticity, Thanksgiving has come to be defined by three (oft-competing) themes: Home, Partying, and Shopping. The last is obvious, ubiquitous, well planned to attract Canadians, and receives so much attention it probably doesn’t need any help. So instead let’s look at the first two.

Everyone wants to go Home on Thanksgiving, but many would probably not prefer their actual abode. Its the ideal nostalgic Home they want to travel to, not Scottsdale or Tampa Bay. Buffalo has the river and woods to go over and through, the potential for snow, the old world charm, and the ethnic background. Germany’s Christmas Markets attract tourists from all over Europe and North America – we have the legitimate immigrants, neighborhoods, history and cultural roots to pull off the same thing here. You can already get some of the best German, Polish and Eastern European food in the country here – marry it with the right space, artists, and knick knacks. And for those still seeking traditional turkey, our restaurants do a fine job Thanksgiving day. This is not a trifle to be overlooked. I was once stuck in Birmingham, Alabama on Thanksgiving, and tried to take my new wife out for a nice dinner. After driving around the city for hours, simply looking for an open restaurant, we settled at Piccadilly’s Cafeteria for cubed lunchmeat in safety yellow gravy.

The second, growing theme of Thanksgiving is the four and a half day Party. The biggest bar night of the year nationally is the Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving, and it’s my bet college students and young adults would travel to a great party if they knew one was being thrown. Here Buffalo could win hand over fist, as the events are already in place, and little salesmanship is all that’s needed. We have a lot of strengths that line up in our favor if we mentally package them: a large expat population already coming up over the long weekend, 4 am bar times, party and entertainment districts, two professional sports teams, the Turkey Trot, and the World’s Largest Disco.  It’s like all the fun of Buffalo Homecoming on the weekend it already happens anyway and without the career fairs.

Imagine this weekend that was just possible in Buffalo: Sabres game versus the Pens Wednesday night, hit the bar til four, three hours sleep, then run the Turkey Trot where free beer awaits you at the finish line. Grab a good meal Thursday night, then Sabres/Maple Leafs Friday, World’s Largest Disco Saturday, and the Bills game (complete with the best tailgating in the league) on Sunday. The Sabres and Bills can work to ensure home game Thanksgiving weekend, and the other events are already traditions.  If we want to attract tourists and their outside dollars, I like the disposal income and reckless spending habits of young adults most of all. And as we have been saying at WNYMedia, we’d be happy if Buffalo was known nationally as just a fun place to be. Why go home to your boring parent’s house – Thanksgiving is the new spring break, and Buffalo has the new Mardi Gras. It starts with expat college kids bringing their friends, and it grows from there.  

Buffalo needs to sell itself on Thanksgiving a la another commandeered holiday. Everyone’s Irish on St. Patty’s Day, and in Buffalo, everyone is Home on Thanksgiving.