By Matt Sabuda:
While on the surface, what I’m proposing sounds suspiciously like just another silver bullet, hear me out on this. With Canal Side lacking a typical anchor and going the ‘lighter, faster, cheaper’ route, how about including an anchor that would fit a diversified number of uses and relatively speaking also fits the lighter, faster, and cheaper model?
It is probably unlikely that we’ll see the Bills relocate to a waterfront stadium, but what about a different kind of football. In the image above, a multi-use complex is being constructed for a Texas high school with the primary focus being their popular high school football team. This multi-use complex seats 18,000 and comes with a price tag of $60 million.
Here comes the part where you are going to have to close your eyes and use a little imagination. Imagine a similar complex being built on the Outer Harbor, within let’s say a soccer ball’s kick from HSBC Arena and Canal Side. This soccer-specific stadium, paid for in part by the $35 million that Bass Pro no longer needs, would create a number of draws in ways that a simple retail store could never hope to accomplish.
With the parking infrastructure for 18,000 seats located just a shuttle ride, or newly constructed pedestrian bridge walk away, a multi use stadium like this could serve a number of purposes. One of the most successful Major League Soccer franchises is located 90 miles away in Toronto. The Canadian sports fan shows up for soccer events and spends more per fan at MLS games than any other team in the league. It’s no coincidence that one of the most successful indoor lacrosse teams is our own Bandits who rely on a substantial Canadian draw. The possibility to have this stadium within sight of the Peace Bridge and all of its Canadian Soccer fans seems like a real opportunity to me. Imagine a multinationally branded team, I’ll call them the Buffalo Niagara Rapids entering this stadium and the MLS to serve as the complex’s anchor resident playing at least 17 games from March to October (not counting friendlies and exhibitions) while taking advantage of some of our best weather along the waterfront. The Rapids vs. FC Toronto matches would be guaranteed sell-outs.
I know what you’re thinking. Let’s say the stadium gets built and the MLS collapses or is an unlikely failure here in Buffalo. Here’s where the multi-purpose facility is a real ‘can’t miss’. After we stop pretending that Darien Lake counts as a Buffalo summer concert venue, imagine seeing Dave Matthews, the Goo Goo Dolls or Toby Keith playing in a venue they’d actually come to for their summer tours along our waterfront. The concert-goers instead of spending their money way out in Darien, are buying drinks and dinner at Pearl Street, at Canal Side, or in the Cobblestone District. And that hotel component that is part of the Canal Side plan, now it has some real opportunities to sell out. In addition to concerts, the complex could host local colleges and some of their sports programs in a way that Robert Rich All-High stadium does for our high schools (By the way, did anyone know that Bob Rich sponsors a small pro soccer team in England called the Bedlington Terriers). The complex would definitely make the list to host American World Cup Soccer Qualifiers, an enormous draw for precious outside dollars.
I could go on and on with the various uses that a complex like this could have in an absolutely picturesque location along our waterfront near already existing parking and necessary transportation infrastructure. In a day and age when NFL stadium costs approach a staggering BILLION dollars to play 8-10 games/year, think of the economic impact a complex like this could have for about 5% of the price. This is lighter, cheaper, and boy would it be fun to go to!
By the way, anyone can, feel free to forward this to Bob Rich, Terry Pegula, or Jeremy Jacobs if they feel like it.