BUFFALO, N.Y. — With the conclusion of another first and second round of March Madness now in the books, it's time to ask if Buffalo won over another group of NCAA fans from places like Iowa City, Providence, and Arkansas?
There have been glowing reviews for how the city handled the tournament, a simultaneous hockey tourney, and St. Patrick's festivities, but the KeyBank Center is still a question mark going forward.
Amidst the dancing teams and all their fans and a hockey tournament and St. Patricks, - Buffalo - Niagara seemingly scored well as hotels and restaurants apparently put up great numbers - a projected economic impact of $7.5 million - and in the bonus - Chamber of Commerce weather for the game-day Thursday.
Patrick Kaler is President and CEO of Visit Buffalo - Niagara and says "Community really came together to show off our best assets - coming out of the pandemic and did a really good job."
And looking down the Road to Future Final Fours - Buffalo is already a lock for the 2026 first-round regionals and then beyond bidding soon for 2032...based on past experience.
"If you think back to the last three times that we've hosted - you know Canalside continues to evolve. We get more restaurants, more breweries. We're having a debriefing with the staff on Wednesday of this week to talk about 2026 "
But what about the KeyBank Center - a facility that some feel needs an upgrade for the Sabres fans and others. We asked "Is it your hope that we could start to see some improvements at the arena eventually?
Kaler: I know that PSE is completely committed to that overall fan experience and they're going to do whatever they can with the resources they have available to them - whether it be the county or the state or even out of their own pocket."
Some Sabres fans still maintain it's a bit shabby with needed upgrades just like Nashville's showplace Bridgestone Arena.
So back here any complaints this weekend from the college hoop crowd?
Kaler says, "Honestly I didn't hear anything about any complaints coming out of the arena. Everything that I've heard has been very positive."
Knowledgeable observers do point to Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center and its $300 Million dollar renovation for the Sixers and Flyers fans in that larger market. And then $100 million dollars in upgrades for the TD North Center for the Celtics and Bruins funded by owners Buffalo-based Delaware North and the Jacobs family.
KeyBank Center is actually owned by Erie County which says any internal improvements to the arena complex must come from Sabres' owner Pegula Sports and Entertainment which so far did not respond to us. Of course, they are perhaps preoccupied with the new Bills Stadium negotiations and questions overall about the future of the NHL franchise
So as Buffalo hosts another men's NCAA round in 2026 and actually dreams of drawing the NCAA Women's Final Four Championship, 2 On Your Side had to ask Kaler, "Do you have any concerns that if they cannot do anything right away to the arena - that that could be a detriment going forward to these types of events?
Kaler: At this point that hasn't been something that's been brought up in our conversations. We are getting ready to start the bidding process that will go through 2032. That's a long time away. And I'm sure those conversations will continue to happen between the Pegulas and the NCAA."