With the Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up” playing in the background, HarborCenter President John R. Koelmel led reporters and photographers on a tour of the new $172 million HarborCenter on Thursday. The walk-through focused mainly on (716) Food & Sports, which opens next Friday, and the ice rinks on the sixth and seventh floors, where hockey games will be played starting today.
The Buffalo Sabres-themed Tim Hortons coffee and doughnut shop opened to a huge reception, with long lines of curious patrons forming early.
Here are the highlights of the tour.
(716) Food & Sports
The sleek and modern 13,000-square-foot sports bar has a two-level, 38-foot television screen over the main bar. They call it the largest indoor restaurant screen in North America. There are nine TVs underneath it and 13 surrounding it. In all, the establishment has more than 60 televisions, include those inside bathroom mirrors.
All three of (716)’s bars, including one on the second level, have illuminated blueish-green bar tops that resemble slabs of ice with skate marks, formed from six layers of glass.
The sports bar’s flash was complemented by the warmth generated by muted grays and browns, frosted glass and green, black, orange and white lettering throughout. The establishment has 360 seats, including 135 bar stools, all expected to be filled before and after Sabres games.
Three walls display numbers from the sports bar’s name, which comes from the telephone area code used for most of Western New York. It’s where one can learn that tennis great Chris Evert won seven French Open women’s singles titles, sports stars Nate Archibald, Warren Moon and Gilbert Perreault all wore No. 1 and hockey legend Gordie Howe completed his 26th season on April 6, 1980.
A VIP lounge on the upper level, outfitted with soft leather chairs, will be available for private events.
It was also revealed that a food truck – (716) Clubhouse – will debut next year.
It was a banner opening for Tim Hortons Café & Bake Shop, where lines formed early and didn’t let up. Andrew Czerwonka, the manager, estimated some 1,600 would pass through the doors, a first-day record.
The coffee shop, about 120 feet from the entrance of (716) Food & Sports, displays wall images of Miles Gilbert “Tim” Horton, who played 24 years in the National Hockey League, including two seasons for the Sabres at the end of his career starting at age 42. A statue of Horton was unveiled in the afternoon across from the shop’s Scott and Main street entrance.
A history of Memorial Auditorium, where the Sabres once played, is displayed across two walls.
The blue-and-gold color scheme from 1964, when the first Tim Hortons opened in Hamilton, Ont., is featured, as are rows of one of Buffalo’s guiltiest pleasures – the store’s doughnuts.
Rink One, the feature ice rink that spans the sixth and seventh floors, has wood bench seating for 1,800. The barrel roof is made from thin and sturdy spruce trees grown in northern Ontario. The brightly lit rink – with the dasher boards already full of ads – looked ready for tonight’s sold-out Canisius Griffins game against the Ohio State Buckeyes.
The rink also will be home to the Erie Community College Kats and the Buffalo Junior Sabres teams.
National youth and amateur hockey tournaments are also planned.
The second ice rink – also NHL-regulation size but with seating for just 135 – is on the sixth floor, too.
There is also a small skate shop, the Rink Side concession stand, Academy of Hockey and Impact Sports Performance training facilities on the seventh floor. The complex offers impressive views of Canalside from large windows at the northeast corner on both floors.
The five floors of brightly lit parking can accommodate 750 vehicles. The ramps provide a second entrance to (716), and to the ice rinks, allowing the option of not leaving the building. That also will be true for those entering First Niagara Center.