Opening ceremonies began Thursday for HARBORCENTER, one the most ambitious development projects ever constructed in downtown Buffalo.
Following the opening of a Tim Hortons coffee shop at HARBORCENTER early Thursday morning, officials led a tour of the new facility, which is nearing completion. The multi-purpose facility will employ 350 people and feature a number of destinations.
The $172 million building, which includes a 750-space parking ramp, was developed and funded by Terry and Kim Pegula, who own the Buffalo Sabres and the Buffalo Bills. It sits on what became known as the Webster Block directly across from First Niagara Center, which previously held an above-ground parking lot.
(716) Restaurant, which is set to open in a week, includes three bars and 63 television screens. HARBORCENTER president John Koelmel says the focal point is the main bar, which has a 38-foot television screen that will air various sporting events.
"The concept was to create a real theater environment," Koelmel said.
The week-long opening bash will continue with the Canisius College Golden Griffins' first game at HARBORCENTER against the Ohio State Buckeyes Friday night. The Griffins and the Junior Sabres will share two NHL-size hockey rinks.
Vice President and Director of Hockey Nik Fatty says Rink One seats 2,000 spectators while Rink Two seats 200. He says the arenas will include a rare feature for a hockey venue, natural light from outside.
"It's very rare for a rink to have natural light. When you're in here, you can see the sights and the views and look down at Canalside," said Fatty.
HARBORCENTER also includes 11 locker rooms, two of which are designated for the Griffins and Junior Sabres.
The facility is also home to the Hockey Academy and a training center called IMPACT Sports Performance. The facility will be open to the public, but will primarily focuses on athletic training.
Late Thursday, a statue of Sabres hockey legend Tim Horton was unveiled outside of the new downtown coffee shop that bears his name.
Retail stores and a Marriott Hotel are the only two features left to be completed at HARBORCENTER. They are expected to be open by summer 2015.
Check out excerpts from Thursday's media tour of HARBORCENTER below: