City halts work on 2 ice rinks for Labatt pond hockey tournament - The Buffalo News

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City halts work on 2 ice rinks for Labatt pond hockey tournament

Construction has stopped at the outdoor hockey rinks along the waterfront where 800 players are expected to descend for a pond hockey tournament in February, following action by City Hall lawmakers and administration officials.

Unless construction resumes quickly, developers warned lawmakers Tuesday, the delays would put the Labatt Blue Pond Hockey Tournament, scheduled for Feb. 21 and 22, at risk.

“If we lose a couple of days’ time, we are severely challenged,” Buffalo RiverWorks developer Doug Swift said. “We’re only asking for permits to continue building the ice.”

Swift later said that meetings with City Hall officials are scheduled to address traffic issues and that he thinks that construction will begin again in time.

“We’re hopeful we’ll be able to start work on Friday,” he said. “It would really be just a bump in the road.”

Questions about traffic, specifically how heavy industry on Kelly Island and the trucks that go with it will co-exist with the planned entertainment complex and accompanying pedestrians, have caused City Hall officials to review the project.

In earlier City Hall meetings, companies such as General Mills, ADM and St. Mary’s Cement have opposed the project, though they have not spoken publicly against it since it won Planning Board approval two weeks ago.

The refrigerated rinks at 333 Ganson St. are being built quickly to accommodate the tournament and to provide a reliable playing surface no matter the temperature outside.

So far, Labatt is not showing signs of concern, at least publicly.

“Buffalo RiverWorks is a unique project with unique challenges, which is why it’s so exciting for the city,” said Lisa Texido, brand manager for Labatt. “We know the RiverWorks team is working incredibly hard, and we plan on being on the ice this February.”

The Common Council last week decided to pause before approving the project, and a stop work order from the Permits and Inspections Department was issued Monday. The project has site plan approval from the city Planning Board, but it is subject to approval by city lawmakers because it is in a coastal review district.

In an intense meeting Tuesday of the Common Council’s Legislation Committee, South Council Member Christopher P. Scanlon said he has concerns about traffic and pedestrian and worker safety in the Ganson Street area, where the $15 million entertainment complex is planned.

“It’s an industrialized area,” Scanlon said. “I have major concerns.”

Public Works Commissioner Steven J. Stepniak agreed and said the developer and city departments should work together on traffic safety issues.

Work stopped Monday, and a meeting to address the issues is planned for Thursday. Swift said he hopes to have construction permits re-issued for work to resume Friday.

However, Corporation Counsel Timothy A. Ball said lawmakers must approve the project before those permits could be reissued, and the Council does not meet again until Tuesday.

But Swift said he is hopeful.

“We’re committed to making it happen, and Labatt has been an incredible partner for us on this, and the city has really bent over backwards to help us make this happen,” he said. “If it wasn’t for trying to build two hockey rinks in three months in the middle of winter, this would be a non-issue.”

The project has moved quickly, from a public announcement in late October to Planning Board approval in December. It involves two outdoor, refrigerated ice rinks, a brewery, restaurant and performing arts space.


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