BUFFALO, N.Y. - Seven years ago, Larry Schwab watched his alma mater West Virginia win two NCAA Tournament games in Buffalo, marking the beginning of the Mountaineers' run to the 2010 Final Four.
This year, the Morgantown, W.V., native has returned to Buffalo, hoping to see West Virginia win a few more games and maybe start a similar run.
This time around, though, Schwab has noticed a lot more activity in the corridor near the KeyBank Center.
"I'm seeing an area of Buffalo that's being renewed," Schwab said.
We hear that all the time-- but it's undeniably true. The city of Buffalo looks markedly different than it did back in 2010, and it even looks different than it did in 2014, the last time the city hosted the NCAA Tournament. The growth has been fast: 716 Food and Sport, HARBORCENTER, Canalside development and a surge in new hotels and restaurants across downtown.
To get a better sense of how out-of-town fans feel about this city, we headed over to Anchor Bar, the most classic tourist attraction we could think of. We expected to find fans from specific teams-- maybe some Villanova fans eager to defend their national championship, or perhaps a busload of Wisconsin or West Virginia fans, Notre Dame fans celebrating St. Patrick's Day, or even fans of the eliminated teams who wanted to hang out and watch more basketball on Saturday.
But that's not what we found. Instead, we came across almost a dozen rabid college basketball fans from Canada, most of whom had come down from the Toronto area to witness the pinnacle event of college basketball.
"It's kind of an elite thing in Canada," Veronica Martin said. "It's really exciting."
Twin brothers Dennis and Don Ablett crossed the border to see the 2014 NCAA Tournament in Buffalo. They came back again this year-- and they've been pleasantly surprised by even more progress.
"Even just driving around, in the community, there seems to be building going on-- the homes, it was really nice, great place," Don Ablett said. "Lovely day to go for a drive."
But don't think Buffalo has lost its charm.
"We've enjoyed our visit, and we like the people of Buffalo and the community," Schwab said. "And we've enjoyed the warm hospitality we've received."
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