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The Final Countdown

   It's almost spooky to see the News' story, video and pictures of Memorial Auditorium, just before it's finally slated for demolition. Even though I haven't been in the place since 1996, it all looks so familiar.

   And what stands out about the inside of the place after all those years? It's still the cylinders.

   If you spent any time in the Aud, you know what I'm talking about. The first time I was in the building, which was in Oct. of 1970 for a Braves' game, I undoubtedly looked up at the ceiling, pointed at the cylinders and asked, "What the heck are those?" They were supposedly a device to help the acoustics in the place, although I never saw any scientific backing to that. I just knew that when I saw them, I knew it was the Aud, because I never saw them anywhere else.

   Memorial Auditorium held a lot of roles for me. I saw events there. I covered games there. I worked there. Heck, I even had a key to the side door of the building for a while. I'm still not sure I saw all of the cavernous structure, but I tried.

   Whenever I went there for an event, I knew it was going to be a good time. Sure I watched hundreds of Sabres games, and dozens of basketball games. But I also saw the Stallions and Bandits. I saw Joanie Weston, a roller derby queen from the Sixties, skate. I saw Roberto Duran and Ray Mancini box. I saw Ernie Ladd and Johnny Powers wrestle. I got to shoot baskets, skate on the ice, and run laps around the second level concourse at lunch hour in the winter.

   And that's just the sports. I saw Billy Joel put on the most frantic concert I've ever seen. I saw Bruce Springsteen on a September night that was so hot the railings on the stairways seemed to sweat. I also saw U2, Rush, Genesis, Elton John, Diana Ross, Bob Seger, the Who, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Supertramp, INXS and Yes perform. Heck, as I was walking out of the building one afternoon, I saw Roger Waters start to rehearse a full-scale version of "Money." So I sat down and watched, the only person in any of the seats.

   I was lucky enough to cover the last Sabres game ever played in that building for The News. Besides a laptop, I brought something extra to the game that night -- a screwdriver. I unscrewed the little piece of plastic on the writing table in the press box that had my seat number, and took it home. It was easier than carrying one of the cylinders in a briefcase. Still have No. 35 in my desk, too.

   Twelve years is a long time to wait for the actual demolition, but the time is finally arriving. I'll bet you have plenty of memories too. So feel free to share them in the comments section. It's a day to look back.

-- Budd Bailey

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