Buffalo Memorial Auditorium

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Buffalo Memorial Auditorium
The Aud
HSBC Arena and the Aud.jpg
Buffalo Memorial Auditorium (center) in October 2007 with the HSBC Arena (now First Niagara Center) in the background.
Location Buffalo, New York
Coordinates 42°52′41″N 78°52′39″W / 42.87806°N 78.87750°W / 42.87806; -78.87750Coordinates: 42°52′41″N 78°52′39″W / 42.87806°N 78.87750°W / 42.87806; -78.87750
Broke ground November 30, 1939
Opened October 14, 1940
Renovated 1970, 1990
Expanded 1970
Closed 1996
Demolished 2009
Owner City of Buffalo (1940–2007)
Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation (2007–2009)
Operator City of Buffalo
Construction cost $2,700,000
($45.8 million in 2014 dollars[1])
Architect Green and James (1939)
Capacity 14,337
Tenants
Buffalo Bisons (AHL) (1940–1970)
Buffalo Bisons (NBL) (13 games in 1946)
Buffalo Sabres (NHL) (1970–1996)
Buffalo Braves (NBA) (1970–1978)
Buffalo Stallions (MISL) (1979–1984)
Buffalo Bandits (MILL) (1992–1996)
Buffalo Blizzard (NPSL) (1992–1996)
Buffalo Stampede (RHI) (1994–1995)

Buffalo Memorial Auditorium (also known as The Aud) was an indoor arena in downtown Buffalo, New York. It hosted the Buffalo Bisons of the AHL, the Buffalo Sabres of the NHL, the Buffalo Braves of the NBA, the Buffalo Stallions of MSL, the Buffalo Bandits of MILL, the Buffalo Blizzard of the second NPSL and the Buffalo Stampede of RHI. It also held a number an NCAA basketball games, as well as numerous entertainment events, such as concerts, the Ringling Brothers circus and Disney on Ice.

The Aud opened on October 14, 1940 and was renovated in 1970 and 1990. It was closed in 1996 following the conclusion of the Sabres', Bandits' and Blizzard's seasons, and remained vacant until its demolition in late 2008 and early 2009.

History[edit]

Planning and construction[edit]

The Buffalo Memorial Auditorium began as a public works project to replace an aging civic auditorium (Buffalo Broadway Auditorium c. 1898, now a highway department garage known as the "Broadway Barns") and the recently collapsed Peace Bridge Arena across the border in Fort Erie. In June 1938, city officials sent a loan and grant application to the WPA for funds to build the new structure. The approval of the $1.2 million grant was announced in Washington D.C. on October 7, 1938,[2] and construction began on November 30, 1939. The arena was built on the junction of the old Erie Canal and Main-Hamburg Canal.[3]

The Auditorium's construction brought a great deal of activity to downtown Buffalo. On December 31, 1939, Buffalo Evening News reporter Nat Gorham wrote:

As if overnight the Terrace once more is coming back to life. The massive new hall will be the mainstay, but city planners also want to improve the section with a boulevard in the old canal bend, waterfront parks and relocation, if not removal, of the New York Central tracks. Visible proof of these good intentions is construction of the new hall, which is being watched daily by hundreds of citizens.[2]

—Nat Gorham

Opening[edit]

Built for $2,700,000, Memorial Auditorium's grand opening celebration was held on October 14, 1940. The arena originally seated 12,280 for ice hockey, with an additional 2,000-3,000 sitting in the floor area, for basketball and other events.[4] Among the first events held in Memorial Auditorium were an auto show and roller skating.

In its first seven months, Auditorium events drew nearly one million spectators and the first year's attendance was 1.3 million.[2]

Circuses, dog shows and political events all took place at the Aud.[4] The building was also set as a war memorial for the Spanish–American War.[citation needed]

Expansion and renovations[edit]

An $8.7 million (approximately $50.7 million in 2014 dollars)[1] renovation took place after the 1970–71 inauguration of the Sabres and Braves franchises. The arena's roof was raised 24 feet, making room for a new upper Orange level. This raised the total capacity of the arena from 10,449 for hockey to over 17,000 for basketball and 15,360 for hockey in 1971-72,[5] to 15,668 for hockey in 1972-73,[6] and to 15,858 for hockey in 1973-74,[7] making it a more suitable home for the NBA and NHL.[8] A new scoreboard was installed, which would be the Aud's final scoreboard upgrade. The exterior structure required for the new upper level also added extra stairways and escalators, as well as new upper exits for the top of the lower bowl. The original gray seats at the top of the lower bowl were painted blue, and all seats in the lower sections were replaced with new cushioned seats in the Red and Gold sections. Other changes from the Aud's original design included the removal of the exit tunnels in Red sections 6, 7, 14, 15, 22, 23, 30, and 31, and Blue sections 2, 3, 10, 11, 18, 19, 26, 27, 34, and 35. The areas occupied by those tunnels were replaced with seats, and the continuous wall separating the Red and Blue sections was opened at each stairway. The removed exit tunnel openings in the wall separating the Red and Upper Gold sections were closed into a continuous wall between the remaining Red exit tunnels.

In the summer of 1974, five permanent seats were added, increasing capacity for hockey in the 1974-1975 season to 15,863. After the hockey season ended, the walls and aisle separating the Upper Gold and Red seating sections were removed and replaced with 570 gold seats, which raised the total capacity of the arena to 16,433 for hockey and over 18,000 for basketball.

In an effort to keep the Sabres in Buffalo, plans began to be made by the Buffalo Common Council and then mayor James D. Griffin to extensively renovate the Aud in the late 1980s and into the early 1990s. A multi-million dollar plan was drafted but was scaled back when the Sabres owners (the Knox family) made it clear that the long term viability of the franchise was dependent upon a new multi-purpose Arena being constructed. Finally in 1990, the scaled back Aud renovation and rehabilitation took place. Along with minor structural and cosmetic improvements, handicap-accessible seating areas were installed (lowering the total seating capacity to 16,325 for hockey), and air conditioning and elevators were added to the Aud to help keep the building functional until discussions and decisions on a new Buffalo arena could be completed. The money borrowed to pay for these improvements was not paid back until well after the year 2000, years after the Aud had closed.

At the time of its closing, the Aud's concessions included The Aud Club, a sports bar; BBQ Pit, a sports bar and restaurant; and Sport Service bar.[citation needed] Seats at the Aud were mostly made of white ash, but the gold seats were converted to padded cushion seating.[9] From top to bottom (floor level), the colors of the seating went orange, blue (originally grey), red, and gold.[citation needed]

Closing and vacancy[edit]

The Aud closed in 1996, at which time the Sabres, Bandits, and Blizzard moved a few blocks south to the new Marine Midland Arena (now First Niagara Center). Since 1996, the building remained closed to the public although Buffalo's Studio Arena Theatre was at times allowed to use the large floor surface to paint backgrounds for its productions. During the 2001–02 season, Sabres officials and the city of Buffalo entered the building to relocate some items from the main concourse of The Aud to HSBC Arena, including a sign for the "Pour Man's Aud Club" which was re-incarnated by popular demand. In 2003, the Sabres produced a 30-minute infomercial to boost season ticket sales inside the closed Aud. Footage from this production showed the building still very much intact. However, the building was without major utilities and the crew thus had to supply all light and electrical sources.

The building continued to deteriorate following the 2003 production visit. Water pipes began to break and moisture began to take its toll. The city of Buffalo became lax in their monitoring of the building, which allowed the general public to find ways of breaking into the building and resulted in graffiti and vandalism. Many artifacts were stolen or destroyed. While obviously suffering from neglect, the major aspects of the building remained intact. During the CBC Television Hockey Night in Canada broadcast of the 2008 NHL Winter Classic, the inside of The Aud was shown during a segment featuring the arena. The video showed that the seating bowl and arena floor had remained virtually untouched. Most notably, the advertisements that were on the boards during the final Sabres home game in 1996 were still present and the scoreboard hanging above center ice remained in the rafters.

Demolition[edit]

Buffalo Memorial Auditorium being demolished in April 2009
Buffalo Memorial Auditorium demo.jpg

In the mid-2000s, plans were in the works to renovate The Aud and re-purpose it as a Bass Pro Shops store; however on March 29, 2007, these plans were officially abandoned. Instead, it was announced that Bass Pro was to construct a new building on the site of the to-be-demolished auditorium. In December 2007, the Aud was sold by the city of Buffalo to the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation for $1 in hopes that it would move along asbestos removal and demolition. All salvageable items were to be sold, stored, or removed before demolition began. The sales of these artifacts, especially of seats, will help pay for a memorial to the Aud.[10] The salvaged items include art deco flag holders, limestone eagles, and a time capsule.[11] Also salvaged from the Aud were a number of "blue" and "orange" level seats, which were then auctioned off.

Asbestos removal and other environmental remediation was performed in preparation for the demolition in late 2008. Major demolition of the Aud began in January 2009. On February 9, 2009, the "Buffalo Memorial Auditorium" edifice that sat above the main entrances was torn down. Much of the front of the Aud was torn down that same month. The entirety of the demolition was expected to cost $10 million.[12] The formal "Farewell Buffalo Memorial Auditorium Ceremony" was held on June 30, 2009 at 1:30 PM. The copper box time capsule was also opened. The final standing pieces of the Aud came down in early July 2009. Bass Pro announced in February 2010 that it was no longer pursuing a superstore in Buffalo, leaving the former site of the Aud vacant.

Events[edit]

College basketball[edit]

Before the National Basketball Association and National Hockey League came to Buffalo, college basketball was Memorial Auditorium's most popular sporting event. On December 11, 1940, the Auditorium hosted its first college basketball game when Canisius College played the University of Oregon.[13]

After World War II, the era of college basketball doubleheaders began. While the participants were typically from Western New York—Canisius, Niagara University, St. Bonaventure University, the University at Buffalo, and Buffalo State College—teams from outside the area such as Cornell University also took part.[13] Over time, the rivalry among the "Little Three" colleges—Niagara, Canisius, and St. Bonaventure—came to dominate the Auditorium's college basketball schedule. Throughout the 1950s, the three schools were each national powers, and their games at Memorial Auditorium drew strong local and national interest.

The Auditorium hosted the men's Division I ECAC Upstate Region Tournament organized by the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) in 1975.[14]

In 1991, a visit from Buffalo native Christian Laettner and the national champion Duke University Blue Devils drew an Aud collegiate-record crowd of 16,279.[13]

A 1996 Buffalo News article named Memorial Auditorium's all-time all-visitors team: Ed Macauley (Saint Louis University), Tom Gola (La Salle University), Tom Heinsohn (College of the Holy Cross), Jerry West (West Virginia University), Willie Somerset (Duquesne University), Dave Bing (Syracuse University), Sonny Dove (St. John's University) and Bob Lanier (St. Bonaventure University).[15]

Professional basketball[edit]

The first professional basketball franchise to call Memorial Auditorium home were the National Basketball League's Buffalo Bisons. The Bisons featured center Don Otten and coach Nat Hickey, but on December 27, 1946—only thirteen games into their inaugural season—owner Ben Kerner moved the team to Moline, Illinois.[15] After stops in Milwaukee and St. Louis, the team became the Atlanta Hawks.

Professional basketball returned to Buffalo and the Aud in the form of the National Basketball Association's Buffalo Braves in 1970. Like the Bisons before them, the Braves ultimately left Buffalo, moving to San Diego in 1978. The team later moved to Los Angeles and became the Los Angeles Clippers.

College Hockey[edit]

College hockey made its modern debut at Memorial Auditorium on Sunday, January 23, 1972 when the University at Buffalo Bulls met Big Ten representative Ohio State University. Ohio State won the game 5-2.

Professional ice hockey[edit]

The American Hockey League's Buffalo Bisons played 30 seasons at the Memorial Auditorium, beginning with the 1940–41 season. The Bisons won five Calder Cup championships, with the last coming in 1970 in the franchise's final game. When Buffalo was awarded an expansion team in the National Hockey League—the Sabres—in 1970, the Bisons folded.

The Buffalo Sabres played their first home opener at Memorial Auditorium on October 15, 1970.[16] They occupied the Auditorium through the 1995–96 season, when they moved a few blocks away to the Marine Midland Arena. Michael Peca scored the last in-game goal at the Aud while Pat LaFontaine put in a ceremonial goal after the 4–1 win over the Hartford Whalers. It was the last arena in which the ice sheet fell short of the league-mandated 200 ft. by 85 ft. size (though Maple Leaf Gardens still had irregularly shaped corners).

Many Sabres players noted Memorial Auditorium's atmosphere:

The thing about that building was that everyone was so close that you could recognize people just by looking up. You don't get that in a lot of places today. The people felt like they were a part of the team and we felt like they were a part of our success. That was the special thing about Memorial Auditorium. I don't think anything like that can ever be replaced.[17]

—Lindy Ruff

On May 15, 1973, the Cincinnati Swords, then the Sabres' AHL affiliate, played the final game of the 1973 Calder Cup Finals at the Auditorium. The Swords won the Calder Cup with a 5–1 win over the Nova Scotia Voyageurs in front of 15,019 fans—at the time the largest playoff crowd in AHL history. The Rochester Americans also played several games at the Aud after becoming the Sabres' affiliate, including during their run to the Calder Cup championship in 1987.

Memorial Auditorium hosted the 1978 NHL All-Star Game on January 24, 1978. Two members of the Sabres' "French Connection" line—Gilbert Perreault and Rick Martin—played in the game for the Wales Conference. Both had a significant impact on the game's outcome: Martin scored a goal with 1:39 left in regulation to tie the game at 2–2 and force overtime, and Perreault scored the game-winning goal 3:55 into overtime to defeat the Campbell Conference 3–2.[18][19]

NHL history was made at the Aud on February 24, 1982, when Wayne Gretzky of the visiting Edmonton Oilers scored a natural hat trick in the final seven minutes of the third period to help defeat the Sabres 6–3. Gretzky broke Phil Esposito's record for the most goals in a season (76) with the first goal of the hat trick, Gretzky's 77th of the season.[20][21]

In March 2009, Gretzky visited Buffalo as head coach of the Phoenix Coyotes. In an interview with Buffalo News hockey reporter Mike Harrington, he recounted his memories of Memorial Auditorium:

As much as the 77th goal was exciting for me as a NHL player, I think the biggest thrill was watching Gilbert Perreault play. I’d come down to the Aud with my dad or a friend and watch the Sabres play with the French Connection line...There was a great atmosphere in this building, it was always a hockey atmosphere, and it was always fun to watch the Sabres play.[21]

—Wayne Gretzky

Other sports[edit]

During the 1960s, the Aud regularly hosted professional wrestling on Friday nights. The bouts were broadcast on WBEN-TV at 6:00 PM on the weekend.

The Major Indoor Lacrosse League Buffalo Bandits also played in the Aud beginning with the 1992 season. They won the MILL title in 1992 and in 1993. The Bandits continued to play in the Aud until the building's closure in 1996, and now are a member of the National Lacrosse League, playing at First Niagara Center.

Memorial Auditorium hosted two soccer franchises. The first was the Buffalo Stallions of the Major Soccer League, who played in the Aud from 1979 to 1984. Later, the Aud hosted the Buffalo Blizzard of the second National Professional Soccer League from 1992 to 1996.

The Buffalo Stampede of Roller Hockey International also called the Aud home from 1994 to 1995.

In 1974, World Team Tennis came to Buffalo as the Buffalo/Toronto Royals called the Aud home. It lasted one season.

Non-sporting events[edit]

In addition to sporting events, the auditorium has hosted concerts by famous artists, spanning many different genres.

Elvis Presley began his first tour of 1972 here on April 5 to a sell-out crowd of 17,360.

The Who performed on December 4, 1979, one night after 11 fans were killed in a crowd crush at Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati. Their performance on this night in Buffalo was dedicated to those that died the night before in Cincinnati.

Frank Zappa's album, Buffalo, was recorded from a concert held at the auditorium on October 25, 1980.

The Jacksons performed at Buffalo Memorial Auditorium on August 2, 1981 during their Triumph Tour.[22]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–2014. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved February 27, 2014.
  2. ^ a b c Vogel, Mike. "Buffalo's Town Hall". The Buffalo News (Buffalo), Magazine - page 4, August 1, 1994.
  3. ^ "News Photo Gallery: May 9-10, 2009". boatnerd. 2009-05-09. Archived from the original on 2013-01-28. Retrieved 2013-11-21. "The Buffalo Memorial Auditorium (the "Aud") under demolition at this time. The Buffalo Skyway Bridge crosses the Buffalo River to the right of the shot. The basement of this building was dug right through the remains of the junction of the old Erie Canal and Main-Hamburg Canals in downtown Buffalo. Development proposals for the rehab of the site include plans to rebuild part of these lost waterways as a tourist attraction right where the remains of the Aud are coming down in this photo." 
  4. ^ a b "Buffalo Sabres Alumni: Memorial Auditorium". Retrieved February 28, 2009. 
  5. ^ "1971-72 Buffalo Sabres Results and Schedule". Hockeydb.com. Retrieved February 25, 2013. 
  6. ^ "1972-73 Buffalo Sabres Results and Schedule". Hockeydb.com. Retrieved February 25, 2013. 
  7. ^ "1973-74 Buffalo Sabres Results and Schedule". Hockeydb.com. Retrieved February 25, 2013. 
  8. ^ ""The Aud" - Memorial Auditorium". Buffalo Sabres Alumni Association. sabresalumni.com. Retrieved July 11, 2012. 
  9. ^ http://www.buffalorising.com/2009/04/au-natural-seating-the-beauty-behind-the-brawn.html
  10. ^ "Aud memories many, but old seats are few". Sabres Insider. Retrieved 2008-01-31. [dead link]
  11. ^ Sharon Linstedt (2009-01-17). "Time capsule unearthed in Aud's cornerstone". The Buffalo News. [dead link]
  12. ^ http://www.buffalonews.com/101/story/42941.html
  13. ^ a b c Northrop, Milt. "College Basketball Breathed Life Into Newborn Aud". The Buffalo News (Buffalo), page 1D, March 27, 1996.
  14. ^ Varsity Pride: 1975 ECAC Men's Basketball Tournaments
  15. ^ a b Northrop, Milt. "Here's the Score From Aud". The Buffalo News (Buffalo), page 3D, March 27, 1996
  16. ^ Kelley, Jim. "All-time Aud Games Stir Lasting Memories". The Buffalo News (Buffalo), page 5D, March 31, 1996.
  17. ^ Kelley, Jim. "The Ice Age: Hockey Made the Building Famous". The Buffalo News (Buffalo), page 1C, March 26, 1996.
  18. ^ "1978 NHL All-Star Game Rosters". Retrieved March 2, 2009. 
  19. ^ "Buffalo Sabres Retired Numbers". Retrieved March 2, 2009. 
  20. ^ James F. Clarity (February 25, 1982). "Gretzky, scoring 3 goals, sets season record at 79". New York Times. Retrieved March 6, 2009. 
  21. ^ a b "Gretzky remembers Memorial Auditorium". Buffalo News. March 6, 2009. Retrieved March 6, 2009. 
  22. ^ Triumph Tour

External links[edit]

Preceded by
first arena
Home of the
Buffalo Braves

1970 – 1978
Succeeded by
San Diego Sports Arena
Preceded by
first arena
Home of the
Buffalo Sabres

1970 – 1996
Succeeded by
First Niagara Center
Preceded by
Pacific Coliseum
Host of the
NHL All-Star Game

1978
Succeeded by
Joe Louis Arena