What are NCAA fans' first impressions of Buffalo? - The Buffalo News

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What are NCAA fans' first impressions of Buffalo?

They followed their favorite team by car, bus and plane. They planned to stay for a few hours, overnight or – if their luck holds out – a few days.

And while they're here they wanted to find a good place to eat some chicken wings and see some sights, if they have time in between watching college basketball games.

They're the out-of-town fans who flocked to Buffalo for Thursday's opening round of the NCAA tournament.

In interviews just before the tipoff of the Notre Dame vs. Princeton game, visitors mostly gave high marks to Buffalo. Most said they weren't bothered by this week's storm that dumped up to 29 inches of snow on the region just as fans were preparing to travel here.

The exception to that was Spio Garbrah, a web consultant from Queens whose brother, Nana Foulland, plays for Bucknell. He said when he learned on Sunday the Bison would be playing in Buffalo, he immediately thought of the city's reputation for nasty winter weather.

"So I'm like, wow, it's going to be in Buffalo, OK. And in a snowstorm," Garbrah said. "So this is going to be like what I've see on TV, but it's going to be in real life."

He arrived in town by bus shortly before the game, but he said his initial impression of Buffalo is that it's quieter than New York.

"It's more of a residential kind of place, seems more of a family kind of place," Garbrah said. "A place where I'm sure if you get married you want to move in with your family."

The Prices of Edinboro, Pa., near Erie, are used to the snow. "We left about two feet," said mom Gwen Price, who drove up with her son, Nate, and her daughter, Morgan. Mom is an alumna of Bucknell and Morgan is a sophomore at the college, and all three wore their orange-and-blue Bucknell shirts as they prepared to grab their seats at the arena.

It was their first time in downtown Buffalo, although Gwen said, "We do pass by it a lot."

The Prices had tickets to the two games in the first session on Thursday, and planned to stick around and do more exploring Friday. "We're going to try to do some Canalside stuff," Gwen Price said.

As for food? "I will eat anything you put in front of me," Nate Price said, drawing laughs from his mom and sister. A Buffalo native's description of a beef on weck sandwich drew tentative interest.

It wasn't hard to figure out who Stephen Goldsmith was rooting for. The Princeton, N.J., resident had a eye-catching Tigers scarf draped around his neck. Five years ago, he followed the team to a tournament game in Tampa, Fla. What was his reaction this year when he saw Princeton was playing its opening game in less-temperate Buffalo?

"That it's doable. It's definitely driveable," said Goldsmith, who praised the snow-clearing efforts of city road crews.

He said Buffalo on first blush seems like a city he would like to take some time to explore at greater length. But for now, he's just hoping to get some of our signature food product. "I have a co-worker who recommended Anchor," Goldsmith said. "I'll definitely check that out because I've heard that's a good spot and I do like wings."

Friends Kevin Trickler and Dave LaRocca from Geneva, in the Finger Lakes, are big Notre Dame fans who travel whenever they can to the team's basketball games and who have personal ties to the program. They planned to watch Thursday's game from a suite at KeyBank Center.

Friends Kevin Trickler, left, and Dave LaRocca from Geneva, in the Finger Lakes, are big Notre Dame fans.

"Buffalo's nice. You've got the Bills. You've got the Sabres," LaRocca said. "You've got the casino, I like that."

Either way, they'll head back to Geneva after Thursday's game. And now that Notre Dame won, they'll come back Friday night to "do our thing for St. Patrick's Day in Buffalo," LaRocca said.

When a local pointed out that the big St. Patrick's Day event here is the Delaware Avenue parade on Sunday, LaRocca said, "Imagine if Notre Dame wins [on Saturday], I'll be celebrating, who knows, I might be in the parade."

Drew Eller might have traveled the greatest distance, coming here from Richardson, Texas, outside Dallas, with his father, Devin, to stay with family friends in Franklinville and take in the first two rounds. Eller is from Binghamton originally, so he knows about snow.

"I took some pictures to send back," Drew said before heading into the arena.

He checked out the University at Buffalo when he was applying to colleges, but ultimately decided to attend Purdue.

"I avoided Buffalo because it's cold, and that's why I'm now down in Dallas. But it's beautiful. Definitely it's now easier to get around than when I was here before," Drew said. "I've heard a lot of good things about the resurgence of the downtown area."

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