Ongoing construction at HarborCenter will be new to NCAA fans this year.

Out-of-town basketball junkies returning to Buffalo for the first time since 2010 might not recognize the view around First Niagara Center. The past four years have brought dramatic change.

Count the ways:

• A larger $130 million Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino opened in August, replacing a slots-only casino the Seneca Nation previously operated in a small, blue corrugated metal building.

• The boarded-up former Donovan Building, which had been surrounded by a chain link fence, has been transformed into a modern office building.

• Establishments such as Helium Comedy Club, Buffalo Iron Works and Laugerhaus 95 have opened in the Cobblestone district adjacent to First Niagara Center, and Liberty Hound, a seafood restaurant, opened at Canalside.

• The massive $172 million HarborCenter, quickly taking shape next to the arena atop a former parking lot, should be completed in 2015. The complex will include a couple of full-size ice rinks, a training facility, a hotel, a 750-space parking ramp and a large restaurant. While the construction work may disrupt traffic, it also conveys the image of a city on the move.

“I think the optics of all that is going on down there – the cranes and everything – are great for Buffalo,” said Edward Healy, vice president of marketing for Visit Buffalo Niagara.

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