|The First Niagara Center, formerly HSBC Arena, on a game-night in 2009.|
These are some of the questions currently racing through the minds of Sabres executives in charge. With the red-tape cut on the locker room renovation and Lindy working with the players, guys like the adamant Ted Black and Terry Pegula can now shift their focus to other pending matters on their to-do list. The next item up for bid seems to be how the organization wants to create a more exceptional and memorable experience of hockey for every fan who steps foot inside the First Niagara Center.
Terry Pegula somewhat sparked this movement when he had the brilliant idea to install the new 5' by 90' exterior LED ribbon board on the face of the arena looking down Washington Street. Now that the board is mounted, the task at hand is deciding what it should exhibit. Mr. Black spoke about how he likes the proposition of programming the board to be synced with goal celebrations inside. After catching wind that the LED's were visible from as far as Coca-Cola Field and Interstate 190, Mr. Black said they might as well promote goal celebrations and victories outdoors as well. Just please Ted, don't cause a pile-up on the thruway...
Speaking of bright lights, the thought of the First Niagara Center emitting a vertical beam of light, like that of the Luxor Casino sky beam in Las Vegas, was brought up. Beginning at dusk, the light would shine towards the sky disappearing into the clouds on game-nights announcing for miles that there is a Sabres home contest that night. Apparently, Nationwide Arena, home of the Columbus Blue Jackets, features something along these lines but I'm struggling to locate an image of it. I'm not sure if he was serious about this idea but it sure sounds fun to me.
Coming back to the LED ribbon board, the Sabres President wants arena announcements like upcoming events and of course the Sabres' schedule just like you would see on the video board outside Madison Square Garden. Some other information to display would be scores from around the league or the current standings. This would also include the ticket status for that particular night's game. If all seats are sold out, he wants it made public knowledge sooner rather than later.
Tickets already seem to be at a high demand providing Ted Black food for thought on how to squeeze more than 18,690 people into the arena doors. In a recent radio interview, Mr. Black explained how they have been looking at every possible way to accomplish their specific goal via the sale of standing-room-only tickets. Now when it comes to standing-room-only "seats" if you will, there is much to consider. In no particular order, obeying fire code would be one, preserving fan safety for two, increasing concourse congestion for three and lastly, the simple yet difficult question of how the heck to accommodate the extra fans comfortably.
When looking for prospective areas to pencil this idea into, there really aren't many to consider. Immediately you can rule out the 100's and 300's because fans standing in those aisles just would not work. The only level with space for more fans is Club Level, or the 200's. But I can tell you first hand from working there every home game, Club Level can be congested to begin with. There is absolutely no room for people to stand along the sides of the ice. The only place for this would be at the end-zones behind the nets. Both ends feature reserved box tables and you'd need to make sure those existing patrons aren't disrupted. At most, I'd say they could get away with selling 100 standing room tickets for use at either end-zone of the Club Level. Standing-room ticket holders would have to stand behind the box tables at the Canadian Club end and at the belly-bars at the Harbour Club end. But is it really worth it? Weigh in on this by leaving a comment below.