The First Niagara Center, formerly known as HSBC Arena and Marine Midland Arena, is a multi-purpose indoor arena located in downtown Buffalo, New York, USA. It is the largest indoor arena in Western New York, seating 18,690 fans in its normal configuration, and was constructed primarily for the Buffalo Sabres of the National Hockey League, who have called the arena home since its opening in 1996, when it replaced the now-demolished Memorial Auditorium.History
What was originally known during construction as Crossroads Arena opened September 21, 1996, replacing the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium. The construction cost was $127.5 million, (approximately $178 million in 2011 dollars).Naming
Naming rights were sold to Marine Midland Bank, part of the HSBC banking group in 1996, and the building was renamed Marine Midland Arena before the first game had been played. The bank bought the naming rights for 30 years then to expire in 2026. In 1999, as part of HSBC's worldwide corporate rebranding, the arena's name was changed to HSBC Arena. The official renaming of the Arena took place March 17, 2000. The name of the arena had been Marine Midland Arena though 1999 and the change was approved in March 2000. This name change coincided with the playing of the first college basketball tournament game in the arena's history. The press box in the arena is named after former Sabres broadcaster and Hockey Hall of Fame member Ted Darling.
In 2011, Buffalo based First Niagara Financial Group reached an agreement to purchase HSBC Bank's upstate New York and Connecticut branch network. While naming rights to HSBC Arena were not included in the sale, First Niagara, HSBC, the Buffalo Sabres, and other parties reached an agreement to establish a new naming rights deal with First Niagara. The name of the arena became First Niagara Center that summer. First Niagara bought the naming rights for 15 years, approximately the remainder of the time that was left on HSBC's naming rights deal with the arena.The scoreboard
On November 16, 1996, the arena's first JumboTron, an eight-sided scoreboard made by Daktronics with Sony video screens, fell to the ice while it was being remotely moved. This was minutes after a few players ended practice and hours before a game between the Sabres and Boston Bruins. Nobody was injured, but the game was postponed. The scoreboard was replaced later that season.
In time for the Buffalo Sabres' 2007–2008 season, a new High Definition scoreboard manufactured by Daktronics was installed. In addition the four main speaker racks were removed and replaced and two additional speaker racks were added. The new scoreboard features four large high-definition video screens, surrounded by two 360-degree LED ribbon boards. The bottom of the board features large Buffalo Sabres logos with giant sabres crossed behind them. The handles of the sabres are lit with blue LED lights. The Sabres logos shoot smoke out of the Buffalo's nostrils every time a Sabres goal is scored or when the Sabres win at home.
Another major update for the 2007–2008 season was the addition of two lighted Sabres logos in the upper level of the pavilion on the wall either side of the Sports Headlines bar. In 2008 a mural was installed in the lower pavilion near the main entrance. The mural contains pictures from the 2008 NHL Winter Classic held in Buffalo.
The most recent renovation is the renovation the locker rooms from 8,000 square feet to 24,000 square feet. The Sabres locker room will be in a circle and it will have state of the art exercise equipment, as well as a kitchen with a chef and a movie room where players and coaches can watch previous games. Lastly, the previous logo (used from 2006–2010) will be removed from the jumbotron and will be replaced with the current logo.Operations
First Niagara Center is home to the Buffalo Sabres of the National Hockey League and the Buffalo Bandits of the National Lacrosse League. The arena was the home of the Buffalo Destroyers of the Arena Football League, the Buffalo Blizzard of the National Professional Soccer League II, and the Buffalo Wings of Roller Hockey International during each team's brief existence.
The arena also is used regularly for college basketball games and hosts concerts. It has been home to the NCAA (2000, 2004, 2007, 2010) and MAAC (1997, 1999, 2001, 2005) men's basketball tournaments. In 2003 the Arena hosted the Frozen Four NCAA Ice Hockey tournament. In addition, First Niagara Center has been used for hosting several professional wrestling events, mainly WWE's Fully Loaded 1999, The Great American Bash (2005) and Armageddon 2008, World Championship Wrestling's Fall Brawl 2000 and the February 28, 2011 episode of Monday Night Raw.It will be the host of WWE Night Of Champions in 2011 which will take place on September 18, 2011.
The arena was also host to a house party for the 2008 NHL Winter Classic. Festivities included the Buffalo Sabres Alumni Hockey Team playing in pre-game action, followed by the Winter Classic shown on the scoreboard. In December 2010 through January 2011, the arena hosted the IIHF World Junior Championship tournament. On November 10, 2009, Metallica played a concert at the arena.Seating
For sporting events, the First Niagara Center can seat 18,690 spectators. In the event that the arena is being used for a concert, basketball game, or similar event, the total number would increase - accounting for seats or standing space on the arena's floor. Both sporting events and concerts at the arena are served by the Special Events station of the Buffalo Metro Rail.