Although tickets to the December 16 commissioning ceremony for the new USS Little Rock in Buffalo are all taken, there are still opportunities to get a close view of the Navy's new vessel at Canalside. But be ready to undergo security screening if you visit Canalside in the days leading up to the big event.
The new vessel is now scheduled to arrive in Buffalo on Monday, December 4. The commissioning ceremony for the LCS-9 (littoral combat ship) takes place on Saturday, December 16. Tickets for the ceremony are no longer available, but those who have worked on the local commissioning committee say there are still some opportunities to get a close look at the new Little Rock.
If you visit Canalside to see the ship in the days leading up to the ceremony, though, be prepared to undergo security screening.
"It's a state-of-the-art warship, $400+ million and there are certain safety protocols that the Navy follows," said Daniel Mecca, vice chairman of the local commissioning ceremony committee. "With that in mind, Canalside will be a secured area which means there will be a secured perimeter. There will be an entry point at which people will have to go through. It's really airport-like security, like a TSA-type screening."
Bags and people will be subject to searches to enter the secured perimeter. However, there will be nearby events leading up to the ceremony, where security will be more relaxed. On Saturday, December 9, Buffalo RiverWorks will host a watching party for the annual Army-Navy game. Mecca says the U.S. Navy crew of the new Little Rock also will be in the community doing public service.
On the morning of the commissioning ceremony, the Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park will host a buffet inside the Liberty Hound restaurant. Tickets are required for that event.
Mecca explained that because the Little Rock's crew will be on duty, tour opportunities will be limited. Schools and veterans groups have been given priority for prearranged tours. There will also be opportunities for ceremony ticket holders to tour the ship after the December 16 ceremony. The public is also invited, but given the anticipated demand by ticket holders, it's unlikely many will be granted access.
It's a rare opportunity for Western New Yorkers to see a new naval vessel commissioned next to its retired namesake. Mecca encourages the public to take advantage of the time during which the newer ship is in Buffalo Harbor.
Meanwhile, the hope is that the Naval and Military Park enjoys an uptick in business, once visitors coming to town for the ceremony see what else Buffalo has to offer in terms of military history.
"It's great to have the Naval Park involved as the custodian of the records," Mecca said. "They are our naval history cultural asset. They're going to be the ones that take all the history from this event and really be the stewards of that for future generations and future visitors."