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Bisons hope meeting room is a home run ; Coca-Cola Field conference room due to open next month is creating interest

Watching a game at work could be reason enough to fire an employee, but at Coca-Cola Field, the Buffalo Bisons will encourage it.

The Bisons, partnered with SLR Contracting & Service Co., will be opening a high-tech conference room in Coca-Cola Field early next month -- a meeting space they hope area businesses will come to for off-site interviews, seminars and workshops throughout the year, even when the Bisons are not on the field.

"The vision of all parties involved was to offer a game day experience like no other in Western New York," said Vincent Ricotta, business development manager for SLR. "Our goal was to create a multipurpose suite to be utilized year-round."

The 800-square-foot meeting space, called the SLR Premium Suite, will hold about 30 people and feature four 50-inch televisions equipped for Web conferencing, a surround-sound audio system, a bar and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the baseball diamond along with 60 seats outside. Events will be catered by Pettibones Grille, located in the stadium on the floor below.

With the current revitalization efforts under way downtown, the theme for the space is the "rebirth of Buffalo."

"We have it set up to showcase a lot of the projects in Buffalo," said Christopher Hill, sales director for the Bisons. "There's a lot more energy downtown than there was years ago." One of the TVs will have a slide show of images from Buffalo's past and present, and the room's exposed steel frame is a nod to the city's industrial history.

The Bisons brought up the idea of a joint venture with SLR about a year and a half ago, and the contractors came on board in the past six months. Under a 7-year deal, the general construction firm built the suite in exchange for naming rights and use of the room for a designated number of days every year. Construction has sped along for the partners, with work beginning right after opening day. The room is on schedule for a July 1 opening.

The project, expected to cost $225,000, has already generated plenty of interest among local businesses: The meeting suite is booked for all but two Bisons home games. Many of the subcontractors who worked on the project are getting to use the room as a thank you for their services.

The biggest remaining question for the partners is whether they can sustain that interest after the baseball season.

"The key part of this [project] is what it will do on nongame days," Hill said. The Bisons plan to start taking reservations for days without games in early August.

e-mail: dgrandoni@buffnews.com

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