Air conditioning, new luxury sky boxes and improved concessions are a few of the improvements the city is considering as part of its multimillion-dollar renovation of Memorial Auditorium.
With the help of a private consultant, the city is nearing completion of a feasibility study that will recommend major improvements at the city-owned Aud, home of the Buffalo Sabres.
City Hall officials have estimated the work will cost at least $10 million and probably as much as $20 million.
Charles Rosenow, an aide to Mayor Griffin, said the city is "wrapping up the study," but he declined to comment on the details. Mayor Griffin said today the consultant's recommendations will be unveiled Oct. 14.
A recent article in Sports Inc., a national trade journal, indicated the city's consultant has recommended a series of improvements that would cost $20 million and take three years to complete.
The consultant, Hellmuth, Obata and Kassabaum of Kansas City, was hired last year by Development Downtown, a City Hall development company, for the Aud study. The consultant was the architect for Pilot Field.
The consultant's recommended changes, according to the magazine, include installing an air-conditioning system, perhaps the most serious need facing the Aud. Without it, the ice will continue to fog during warm weather.
In addition, the consultant reportedly has recommended adding 16 luxury sky boxes, a canopy connecting the Aud with the rapid transit system and a new food court. Kemuel Cravens, the consultants' project designer, declined to comment on the study.
Sabres officials are working with the consultant but have not seen a final report, according to the club.
Officials, however, outlined what they consider much-needed improvements at the 49-year-old arena.
"There are many things that must be done at the building to bring it up to standard," said Robert W. Pickel, the Sabres' senior vice president for finance. The Sabres' shopping list includes:
A larger ice rink. Pickel said the ice surface now is one of the smallest in the National Hockey League.
A new food court on the ground floor near the main entrance. The proposal was based on the success of the food court at Pilot Field.
Luxury boxes. The Aud has room for about 16 additional sky boxes at the south end of the arena, doubling the current number at the north end. The boxes would mean additional revenue for the Sabres and the city.
More concessions. The club would like to add concession stands to the upper levels of the arena, as well as improve stands.
Remodeled dressing rooms. Like the ice rink, the Sabres consider the locker rooms substandard.
North Council Member David P. Rutecki said the study is crucial because the city is preparing to negotiate a new lease with the Sabres. Their current 20-year lease expires in 1990.
Rutecki said he was unaware of the consultant's recommendations but indicated he would not be surprised if the price tag reached $20 million.
"I think it's realistic," he said.
Rutecki sponsored legislation earlier this year authorizing of a special task force on renovating the Aud. The task force has not yet been appointed by Council President George K. Arthur.
Arthur could not be reached to comment.
The issues that the task force will have to deal with include funding for the project.
In the past, the city has said it would seek assistance from the state, noting that the state is funding similar projects in other cities.
Harold Holzer, spokesman for Vincent Tese, state economic development director, said the state is aware of the Aud project. He said Tese will await a feasibility study before making a decision on state aid.
Holzer said it was not uncommon for the state to get involved in renovation projects, citing the state Urban Development Corp.'s involvement in the construction of a new parking ramp at Yankee Stadium in New York City.