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
Owner City of Buffalo (1940–2007)
Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation (2007–2009)
Operator City of Buffalo
Capacity 14,337
Broke ground November 30, 1939
Opened October 14, 1940
Renovated 1970, 1990
Expanded 1970
Closed 1996
Demolished 2009
Construction cost $2,700,000
($45.9 million in 2015 dollars[1])
Architect Green and James (1939)
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 was an indoor arena located in downtown Buffalo, New York. Opened on October 14, 1940, it hosted the AHL's Buffalo Bisons, the NHL's Buffalo Sabres, the NBA's Buffalo Braves, the MSL's Buffalo Stallions, the MILL's Buffalo Bandits, the second NPSL's Buffalo Blizzard and the RHI's Buffalo Stampede. It also hosted 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 was renovated in 1970 and 1990. It closed in 1996 after the Sabres' Bandits' and Blizzard's seasons and remained vacant until 2009, when it was demolished.


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


Built for $2,700,000, Memorial Auditorium's grand opening celebration took place on October 14, 1940. The dedication event was a luncheon attended by 3,000 people, including the mayors of more than 60 local communities. The arena originally seated 12,280 for ice hockey, with an additional 2,000-3,000 seats in the floor area for basketball and other events.[4] Memorial Auditorium's first event—a rally for Republican Presidential candidate Wendell Wilke—took place on October 14, 1940. In its first seven months, Auditorium events such as auto shows, roller skating, circuses and dog shows drew nearly one million spectators and the first year's attendance was 1.3 million.[2]

Expansion and renovations[edit]

An $8.7 million (approximately $50.8 million in 2015 dollars)[1] renovation took place after the 1970–71 inauguration of the Sabres and Braves franchises. The arena's roof was raised 24 feet (7.3 m) to make room for a new upper level that raised the arena's capacity 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] Other changes to the Aud's original design included:

  • A new scoreboard which would be the Aud's final scoreboard upgrade.
  • The new upper level's exterior structure added stairways, escalators and 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.
  • 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 were removed. The areas those tunnels occupied were replaced with seats, and the continuous wall that separated the red and blue sections was opened at each stairway.
  • The removed exit tunnel openings in the wall that separated the red and upper gold sections were closed into a continuous wall between the remaining red exit tunnels.

In the summer of 1974, the city added five permanent seats, increasing capacity for hockey in the 1974-1975 season to 15,863. After the hockey season, the walls and aisle that separated the upper gold and red seating sections were removed and replaced with 570 gold seats, which raised the arena's capacity to 16,433 for hockey and over 18,000 for basketball. In the late 1980s, the Buffalo Common Council and then-mayor James D. Griffin began forming plans to extensively renovate the Aud. The city's multimillion-dollar plan was scaled back when the Sabres owners (the Knox family) made it clear the franchise's long-term viability depended upon the construction of a new multi-purpose arena.

A compromise was eventually reached in which the city of Buffalo would construct a brand-new arena for the Sabres (this arena would later become Marine Midland Arena), but in the meantime, the Aud was given minor refresh to keep it functional until plans for the new arena were complete. Finally, during the summer of 1990, the scaled-back renovation began. This renovation mainly included the designation of handicap-accessible seating areas (lowering the total seating capacity to 16,325 for hockey) and the installation of air conditioning and elevators. The money borrowed to pay for these improvements was not repaid until 2001, five years after the Aud closed.

At the time of its closing in 1996, the Aud's concessions included The Aud Club, a sports bar; BBQ Pit, a sports bar and restaurant; and Sport Service bar.[citation needed] The Aud's seats 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.

Closing and vacancy[edit]

The Aud closed in 1996, at which time the Sabres, Bandits and Blizzard moved to the new Marine Midland Arena (now First Niagara Center). After 1996, the building remained closed to the public, although Buffalo's Studio Arena Theatre periodically used the large floor surface to paint backgrounds for its productions. During the 2001–02 season, Sabres officials and the city of Buffalo moved items from The Aud's main concourse to the HSBC Arena, including a sign for the "Pour Man's Aud Club" which was re-incarnated by popular demand.

In 2003, the Sabres filmed a 30-minute infomercial inside the closed Aud to boost season ticket sales. While the production showed the building was intact, it was without major utilities and the crew had to supply all light and electrical sources. The Aud continued to deteriorate after the 2003 production visit. Water pipes ruptured, moisture began to take its toll and the city of Buffalo's lax monitoring of the building resulted in graffiti, vandalism and theft of many artifacts. 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 the seating bowl and arena floor had remained virtually untouched. Most notably, the advertisements on the boards during the final Sabres home game in 1996 against the Hartford Whalers were still present and the scoreboard hanging above center ice remained in the rafters.


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

In 2006, plans were in the works to renovate The Aud and repurpose it as a Bass Pro Shops store. However, those plans were officially abandoned on March 29, 2007 when Bass Pro announced it would construct a new building on the site after the auditorium's demolition. In December 2007, the city of Buffalo sold The Aud to the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation for $1 in hopes it would lead to asbestos removal and demolition. All salvageable items were to be removed and sold or stored before the demolition began. The sales of these artifacts, especially of seats, would help pay for a memorial to the Aud.[10] The salvaged items include art deco flag holders, limestone eagles, a time capsule[11] as well as a number of blue and orange level seats, which were sold at auction.

Also salvaged were ten cylindrical stainless steel "ice tanks" that were part of a system that used air blown over an icy slush to maintain chilly conditions at ice level during hockey season and keep event-goers cool during warm-weather seasons. In 2007, the ice tanks were moved to Shea's Performing Arts Center as part of a $1.5 million overhaul of the landmark theater's heating and cooling system.[12]

Asbestos removal and other environmental remediation took place in late 2008 and major demolition of the Aud began in January 2009. On February 9, 2009, the "Buffalo Memorial Auditorium" entablature above the main entrance fell and much of the front façade met the same fate shortly after. The entire demolition was expected to cost $10 million.[13] The formal "Farewell Buffalo Memorial Auditorium Ceremony" took place on June 30, 2009 at 1:30pm when officials opened the copper box time capsule. The final pieces of the structure came down in early July 2009. In February 2010, less than three years after the plans to repurpose the Aud as a Bass Pro Shops store, Bass Pro announced it was no longer pursuing a superstore in Buffalo, a decision which left the site vacant.


After the Bass Pro Shops decision, the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation began to convert the site (known as the Aud Block) into an extension of Erie Canal Harbor with the junction of the old Erie Canal and Main-Hamburg Canal re-dug (although shallower than the original canals) and new bridges. The canals that opened in 2014 are frozen for skating and other winter activities by an underground refrigerant plant in a rebuilt sub-basement that was part of Memorial Auditorium, and a marker on the canal ice denotes center ice's former location.[14][15] Across Main Street at HarborCenter is the one-of-a-kind Tim Hortons restaurant with a memorial to the Auditorium. A statue of the chain's namesake, who played at the arena during his time with the Buffalo Sabres, occupies the corner of the site facing the restaurant.


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.[16]

Interest in college basketball grew after World War II, and the first college basketball sellout crowd occurred in the 1946-1947 season when 11,029 spectators saw Canisius lose to Notre Dame.[16] Ten days later, a record 11,891 watched Canisius defeat Niagara, 52-44.[16]

While the participants were typically from Western New York, including 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.[16] 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 all national powers, and their games at Memorial Auditorium drew strong local and national interest.

Professional basketball[edit]

The first professional basketball franchise to call Memorial Auditorium home was 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.[18] After the 1949 merger between the National Basketball League and the Basketball Association of America and 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 and later to Los Angeles in 1984, where they are now the Los Angeles Clippers.

College Hockey[edit]

College hockey made its modern debut at Memorial Auditorium on January 23, 1972, when the University at Buffalo Bulls met the Central Collegiate Hockey Association's Ohio State University. Ohio State won the game 5-2.

Professional ice hockey[edit]

American Hockey League[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. They folded in 1970 after Buffalo was awarded a National Hockey League expansion team. 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-- the largest playoff crowd in AHL history at the time. The Rochester Americans also played several games at the Aud after they became the Sabres' affiliate, including games during their 1987 run to the Calder Cup championship.

National Hockey League[edit]

The Buffalo Sabres played their first home opener at Memorial Auditorium on October 15, 1970 in a game attended by then-NHL President Clarence Campbell that began with a ceremonial faceoff between Floyd Smith and the Montreal Canadiens' Jean Beliveau and featured Roger Crozier's 53 saves in a 3-0 loss.[19] The Sabres 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 feet by 85 feet 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.[20]

— Lindy Ruff

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.[21][22] The Edmonton Oilers' Wayne Gretzky made NHL history at the Aud on February 24, 1982, when he 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 hat trick' first goal, his 77th of the season.[23][24] In March 2009, Gretzky visited Buffalo as the Phoenix Coyotes' head coach and recounted his memories of Memorial Auditorium in an interview with Buffalo News hockey reporter Mike Harrington:

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.[24]

— Wayne Gretzky

Other sports[edit]

Professional Wrestling[edit]

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

Indoor Lacrosse[edit]

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

Indoor Soccer[edit]

Major Soccer League's Buffalo Stallions 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.

Roller Hockey[edit]

The Buffalo Stampede of Roller Hockey International called the Aud home for one season from 1994-1995. In 1974, World Team Tennis' Buffalo/Toronto Royals called the Aud home for one season.

Non-sporting events[edit]

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

  • Elvis Presley began his first tour of 1972 on April 5 to a sell-out crowd of 17,360.
  • Pink Floyd's June 1973 concert featured a special effects repertoire purported to have cost $250,000.
  • Led Zeppelin played nearly three hours without a break before a sell-out crowd on July 15, 1973.
  • 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 was dedicated to those that died the night before.
  • Frank Zappa's album, Buffalo, was recorded during a concert at the Auditorium on October 25, 1980.
  • The Jacksons performed at Buffalo Memorial Auditorium on August 2, 1981, during their Triumph Tour.
  • U2 performed in October 1987.

Stage shows[edit]

On April 24, 1982, The Price is Right host Bob Barker brought The Bob Barker Fun and Games Show to Buffalo.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved November 10, 2015.
  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. ^ "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[dead link]
  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. ^ Linstedt, Sharon. "Shea's to get a cool Aud gift: 10 ice tanks to keep theater comfortable." The Buffalo News (Buffalo), July 12, 2007
  13. ^ http://www.buffalonews.com/101/story/42941.html[dead link]
  14. ^ "A sneak peek at Canalside". The Buffalo News. December 12, 2014. Retrieved 2015-03-17. 
  15. ^ Sommers, Mark (December 12, 2014). "Your Chance to skate on center ice where Sabres legends once played". The Buffalo News. Retrieved 2015-03-17. 
  16. ^ a b c d e Northrop, Milt. "College Basketball Breathed Life Into Newborn Aud". The Buffalo News (Buffalo), page 1D, March 27, 1996.
  17. ^ Varsity Pride: 1975 ECAC Men's Basketball Tournaments
  18. ^ a b Northrop, Milt. "Here's the Score From Aud". The Buffalo News (Buffalo), page 3D, March 27, 1996 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Northrop2" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  19. ^ Kelley, Jim. "All-time Aud Games Stir Lasting Memories". The Buffalo News (Buffalo), page 5D, March 31, 1996.
  20. ^ Kelley, Jim. "The Ice Age: Hockey Made the Building Famous". The Buffalo News (Buffalo), page 1C, March 26, 1996.
  21. ^ "1978 NHL All-Star Game Rosters". Retrieved March 2, 2009. 
  22. ^ "Buffalo Sabres Retired Numbers". Retrieved March 2, 2009. 
  23. ^ James F. Clarity (February 25, 1982). "Gretzky, scoring 3 goals, sets season record at 79". New York Times. Retrieved March 6, 2009. 
  24. ^ a b "Gretzky remembers Memorial Auditorium". Buffalo News. March 6, 2009. Retrieved March 6, 2009. 

External links[edit]

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