The Buffalo Sabres open their 2016-2017 National Hockey League regular season tonight at home against Montreal in the recently-renamed KeyBank Center. That's just one of several changes fans will notice when they arrive.
The arena's new name is the most obvious change beginning this hockey season. KeyBank, as part of its acquisition of First Niagara, picked up the naming rights to the Sabres' home facility.
New lighting has been installed inside, lighting that team executives say will noticeably brighten the arena bowl.
"Also, we've put in a new state-of-the-art wi-fi system," said Sabres Vice President of Administration Michael Gilbert. "Anybody coming in with their smartphones and want to see more information, it'll be there. It'll be much quicker than what they've seen in the past."
The team is also rolling out a digital ticketing system that phases out traditional printed tickets and introduces options including a scannable season ticket holder card and the ability to use the team's app to call up images of their ticket on the phone. Arena staff will scan a QR code on that ticket image to admit the fan.
Fans will still have the option of printing tickets from home, but administrators hope fans will quickly learn to embrace the changes.
"At the end of the day, this is about trying to really enhance the experience through a digital, mobile way," said Brent Rossi, Executive Vice President of Marketing for Pegula Sports and Entertainment. "We wish we could go back to (traditional print tickets) for some season ticket holders, but this is really the way of the future and where we're stepping in as an organization."
The Sabres provide a video tutorial on their new digital ticket system on the team's official website.