Buffalo Memorial Auditorium (also known as The Aud) was an indoor arena in downtown Buffalo, New York. It hosted the Buffalo Bisons of the AHL, the Buffalo Sabres of the NHL, the Buffalo Braves of the NBA, the Buffalo Stallions of MSL, the Buffalo Bandits of MILL, the Buffalo Blizzard of the second NPSL and the Buffalo Stampede of RHI. It also held a number an NCAA basketball games, as well as numerous entertainment events, such as concerts, the Ringling Brothers circus and Disney on Ice.
The Aud opened on October 14, 1940 and was renovated in 1970 and 1990. It was closed in 1996 following the conclusion of the Sabres', Bandits' and Blizzard's seasons, and remained vacant until its demolition in late 2008 and early 2009.
Planning and construction
The Buffalo Memorial Auditorium began as a public works project to replace an aging civic auditorium (Buffalo Broadway Auditorium c. 1898) and the recently collapsed Peace Bridge Arena across the border in Fort Erie. In June 1938, city officials sent a loan and grant application to the WPA for funds to build the new structure. The approval of the $1.2 million grant was announced in Washington D.C. on October 7, 1938, and construction began on November 30, 1939. The arena was built on the junction of the old Erie Canal and Main-Hamburg Canal.
The Auditorium's construction brought a great deal of activity to downtown Buffalo. On December 31, 1939, Buffalo Evening News reporter Nat Gorham wrote:
Built for $2,700,000, Memorial Auditorium's grand opening celebration was held on October 14, 1940. The arena originally seated 12,280 for ice hockey, with an additional 2,000-3,000 sitting in the floor area, for basketball and other events. Among the first events held in Memorial Auditorium were an auto show and roller skating.
In its first seven months, Auditorium events drew nearly one million spectators and the first year's attendance was 1.3 million.
Circuses, dog shows and political events all took place at the Aud. The building was also set as a war memorial for the Spanish-American war.
Expansion and renovations
An $8.7 million renovation took place after the 1970–71 inauguration of the Sabres and Braves franchises. The arena's roof was raised 24 feet, making room for a new upper Orange level. This raised the total capacity of the arena to over 17,000 for basketball and 15,858 for hockey, making it a more suitable home for the NBA and NHL. A new scoreboard was installed, which would be the Aud's final scoreboard upgrade. The exterior structure required for the new upper level also added extra stairways and escalators, as well as new upper exits for the top of the lower bowl. The original gray seats at the top of the lower bowl were painted blue, and all seats in the lower sections were replaced with new cushioned seats in the Red and Gold sections. Other changes from the Aud's original design included the removal of the exit tunnels in Red sections 6, 7, 14, 15, 22, 23, 30, and 31, and Blue sections 2, 3, 10, 11, 18, 19, 26, 27, 34, and 35. The areas occupied by those tunnels were replaced with seats, and the continuous wall separating the Red and Blue sections was opened at each stairway. The removed exit tunnel openings in the wall separating the Red and Upper Gold sections were closed into a continuous wall between the remaining Red exit tunnels.
In the summer of 1974, five permanent seats were added, increasing capacity for hockey in the 1974-1975 season to 15,863. After the hockey season ended, the walls and aisle separating the Upper Gold and Red seating sections were removed and replaced with 570 gold seats, which raised the total capacity of the arena to 16,433 for hockey and over 18,000 for basketball.
In an effort to keep the Sabres in Buffalo, plans began to be made by the Buffalo Common Council and then mayor James Griffin to extensively renovate the Aud in the late 1980s and into the early 1990s. A multi-million dollar plan was drafted but was scaled back when the Sabres owners (the Knox family) made it clear that the long term viability of the franchise was dependent upon a new multi-purpose Arena being constructed. Finally in 1990, the scaled back Aud renovation and rehabilitation took place. Along with minor structural and cosmetic improvements, handicap-accessible seating areas were installed (lowering the total seating capacity to 16,325 for hockey), and air conditioning and elevators were added to the Aud to help keep the building functional until discussions and decisions on a new Buffalo arena could be completed. The money borrowed to pay for these improvements was not paid back until well after the year 2000, years after the Aud had closed.
At the time of its closing, the Aud's concessions included The Aud Club, a sports bar; BBQ Pit, a sports bar and restaurant; and Sport Service bar. Seats at the Aud were mostly made of white ash, but the gold seats were converted to padded cushion seating. From top to bottom (floor level), the colors of the seating went orange, blue (originally grey), red, and gold.
Closing and vacancy
Template:Unreferenced section The Aud closed in 1996, at which time the Sabres, Bandits, and Blizzard moved a few blocks south to the new Marine Midland Arena (now First Niagara Center). Since 1996, the building remained closed to the public although Buffalo's Studio Arena Theatre was at times allowed to use the large floor surface to paint backgrounds for its productions. During the 2001–02 season, Sabres officials and the city of Buffalo entered the building to relocate some items from the main concourse of The Aud to HSBC Arena, including a sign for the "Pour Man's Aud Club" which was re-incarnated by popular demand. In 2003, the Sabres produced a 30-minute infomercial to boost season ticket sales inside the closed Aud. Footage from this production showed the building still very much intact. However, the building was without major utilities and the crew thus had to supply all light and electrical sources.
The building continued to deteriorate following the 2003 production visit. Water pipes began to break and moisture began to take its toll. The city of Buffalo became lax in their monitoring of the building, which allowed the general public to find ways of breaking into the building and resulted in graffiti and vandalism. Many artifacts were stolen or destroyed. While obviously suffering from neglect, the major aspects of the building remained intact. During the CBC Television Hockey Night in Canada broadcast of the 2008 NHL Winter Classic, the inside of The Aud was shown during a segment featuring the arena. The video showed that the seating bowl and arena floor had remained virtually untouched. Most notably, the advertisements that were on the boards during the final Sabres home game in 1996 were still present and the scoreboard hanging above center ice remained in the rafters.
In the mid-2000s, plans were in the works to renovate The Aud and re-purpose it as a Bass Pro Shops store; however on March 29, 2007, these plans were officially abandoned. Instead, it was announced that Bass Pro was to construct a new building on the site of the to-be-demolished auditorium. In December 2007, the Aud was sold by the city of Buffalo to the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation for $1 in hopes that it would move along asbestos removal and demolition. All salvageable items were to be sold, stored, or removed before demolition began. The sales of these artifacts, especially of seats, will help pay for a memorial to the Aud. The salvaged items include art deco flag holders, limestone eagles, and a time capsule. Also salvaged from the Aud were a number of "blue" and "orange" level seats, which were then auctioned off.
Asbestos removal and other environmental remediation was performed in preparation for the demolition in late 2008. Major demolition of the Aud began in January 2009. On February 9, 2009, the "Buffalo Memorial Auditorium" edifice that sat above the main entrances was torn down. Much of the front of the Aud was torn down that same month. The entirety of the demolition was expected to cost $10 million The formal "Farewell Buffalo Memorial Auditorium Ceremony" was held on June 30, 2009 at 1:30 PM. The copper box time capsule was also opened. The final standing pieces of the Aud came down in early July 2009. Bass Pro announced in February 2010 that it was no longer pursuing a superstore in Buffalo, leaving the former site of the Aud vacant.
Before the National Basketball Association and National Hockey League came to Buffalo, college basketball was Memorial Auditorium's most popular sporting event. On December 11, 1940, the Auditorium hosted its first college basketball game when Canisius College played the University of Oregon.
After World War II, the era of college basketball doubleheaders began. While the participants were typically from Western New York—Canisius, Niagara University, St. Bonaventure University, the University at Buffalo, and Buffalo State College—teams from outside the area such as Cornell University also took part. Over time, the rivalry among the "Little Three" colleges—Niagara, Canisius, and St. Bonaventure—came to dominate the Auditorium's college basketball schedule. Throughout the 1950s, the three schools were each national powers, and their games at Memorial Auditorium drew strong local and national interest.
A 1996 Buffalo News article named Memorial Auditorium's all-time all-visitors team: Ed Macauley (Saint Louis University), Tom Gola (La Salle University), Tom Heinsohn (College of the Holy Cross), Jerry West (West Virginia University), Willie Somerset (Duquesne University), Dave Bing (Syracuse University), Sonny Dove (St. John's University) and Bob Lanier (St. Bonaventure University).
The first professional basketball franchise to call Memorial Auditorium home were the National Basketball League's Buffalo Bisons. The Bisons featured center Don Otten and coach Nat Hickey, but on December 27, 1946—only thirteen games into their inaugural season—owner Ben Kerner moved the team to Moline, Illinois. After stops in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and St. Louis, Missouri, the team became the Atlanta Hawks.
Professional basketball returned to Buffalo and the Aud in the form of the National Basketball Association's Buffalo Braves in 1970. Like the Bisons before them, the Braves ultimately left Buffalo for San Diego, California, in 1978. The team later moved to Los Angeles and became the Los Angeles Clippers.
During the 1960s, the Aud regularly hosted professional wrestling on Friday nights. The bouts were broadcast on WBEN-TV at 6:00 PM on the weekend.
The Major Indoor Lacrosse League Buffalo Bandits also played in the Aud beginning with the 1992 season. They won the MILL title in 1992 and in 1993. The Bandits continued to play in the Aud until the building's closure in 1996, and now are a member of the National Lacrosse League, playing at First Niagara Center.
Memorial Auditorium hosted two soccer franchises. The first was the Buffalo Stallions of the Major Soccer League, who played in the Aud from 1979 to 1984. Later, the Aud hosted the Buffalo Blizzard of the second National Professional Soccer League from 1992 to 1996.
The Buffalo Stampede of Roller Hockey International also called the Aud home from 1994 to 1995.
In 1974, World Team Tennis came to Buffalo as the Buffalo/Toronto Royals called the Aud home. It lasted one season.
In 2007, the auditorium was one of many targets of Urban Explorers, who visited it during "OPEX 77", an international meet of Urban Explorers. It was described as being one of the best abandoned buildings in the world, and compared to the Paris Catacombs in terms of Urban Exploration wonders.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Vogel, Mike. "Buffalo's Town Hall". The Buffalo News (Buffalo), Magazine - page 4, August 1, 1994.
- ↑ http://www.boatnerd.com/news/newsthumbs/newsthumbs_814.htm
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 "Buffalo Sabres Alumni: Memorial Auditorium". http://www.sabresalumni.com/history/theaud.php. Retrieved February 28, 2009.
- ↑ http://www.buffalorising.com/2009/04/au-natural-seating-the-beauty-behind-the-brawn.html
- ↑ Template:Citenews
- ↑ Sharon Linstedt (2009-01-17). "Time capsule unearthed in Aud's cornerstone". The Buffalo News. http://www.buffalonews.com/home/story/551854.html
- ↑ http://www.buffalonews.com/101/story/42941.html
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 8.2 Northrop, Milt. "College Basketball Breathed Life Into Newborn Aud". The Buffalo News (Buffalo), page 1D, March 27, 1996.
- ↑ 9.0 9.1 Northrop, Milt. "Here's the Score From Aud". The Buffalo News (Buffalo), page 3D, March 27, 1996
- Buffalo Memorial Auditorium History
- The Voice of the Aud: Milt Ellis with Aud Pictures, sounds, and memories by Buffalonian Steve Cichon
- Saying goodbye to The Aud from nhl.com on Sep 5, 2008, 3:32 PM EDT
- The "Aud"
- A tribute site to The "Aud"
- Photos from inside the "Aud" before demolition.
- Farewell, Old Friend: A 2 On Your Side Aud Special Channel 2 WGRZ-TV Buffalo, NY
- Weekly Photos of the Aud Demolition
- The only interactive full VR panorama of the Aud.
- The book "Buffalo, Home of the Braves", a comprehensive narrative and photo history of the Buffalo Braves