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PANEL TO WEIGH SPORTS FACILITY NEEDS AUD RENOVATION TOPS AGENDA; PILOT FIELD EXPANSION ALSO TARGETED

A committee to help plan new and expanded professional sports facilities in Buffalo was established today, and one of its first tasks will be to recommend how much should be spent renovating Memorial Auditorium.

The 16-member task force announced by Common Council President George K. Arthur will study the Buffalo Sabres' request for a new arena.

"This distinguished panel will study how we should conduct ourselves as regards the type of facility we will need to develop to service our city into the 21st century," Arthur said.

The Council president said the task force also will review expansion of Pilot Field should the Buffalo Bisons obtain a major league franchise. A consultant already has prepared a plan that would expand the stadium to 42,000 seats.

Arthur said the first job of the committee will be to examine a proposal to renovate the Aud. The plan originally included adding a new roof, installing air conditioning and lengthening the ice rink.

Mayor Griffin decided last week to recommend reducing the work. He advocated dropping the ice rink extension after bids came in $2 million over budget and the Sabres threatened to leave the facility in five years. The mayor's proposal would still cost $6.7 million.

Arthur said he wants the committee, which will be led by Ellicott Council Member James W. Pitts, to offer a recommendation on the Aud renovation before March 1. City officials have said bids must be prepared by then to meet construction deadlines.

The Council president said he believes the original Aud renovation package should be continued, including the ice rink extension.

"I've said we should proceed with the phase one of renovation work," he said. "I disagree with the mayor. We need to lengthen the arena. We're now missing a lot of events that could be placed at the Aud."

Arthur said he'd also like the committee to examine whether the Aud should be demolished to make way for a new arena. He said former Buffalo Convention Center Director Glenn Arnette was in the city recently and suggested keeping the Aud even if the Sabres leave.

On Tuesday, Erie County Legislator G. Steven Pigeon suggested the county should establish a committee to follow the needs of the area's professional teams. County Executive Gorski also has plans to appoint a Rich Stadium Commission to study the needs of the facility and the Buffalo Bills.

Arthur said the task force he has appointed will not be involved with Rich Stadium. He also said it should be able to co-exist with whatever committee would result from Pigeon's suggestion.

"The county is often slow, very slow," Arthur said. "We have to move now. When we can work together, we will."

The new task force includes two representatives from the county. Arthur said Gorski and Roger I. Blackwell, the chairman of the County Legislature, have agreed to participate.

Arthur said he has set no deadline for the task force to return with recommendations on an arena or Pilot Field.

The other members of the task force:

Vincent Tese, chief executive of the New York State Urban Development Corp.; State Sen. Anthony M. Masiello, D-Buffalo; North Council Member David P. Rutecki; Delaware Council Member Alfred T. Coppola; Charles Rosenow, president of the Buffalo Enterprise Development Corp.; George Gould, director of Buffalo Memorial Auditorium; George L. Wessel, president of the local AFL-CIO and a member of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority board of commissioners; William J. Greeley, business representative of the Service Employees International Union.

Also, Mary Martino, Women for Downtown; Seymour H. Knox III, chairman of the Buffalo Sabres; Donald P. Quinlan, chairman of the Erie County Industrial Development Agency; the Rev. Bennett W. Smith, pastor of St. John Baptist Church; Robert D. Fernbach, Buffalo Place chairman.

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