Hockey and curling get underway today at Buffalo RiverWorks, the new sports and entertainment center on the Buffalo River.
A grand opening is expected to follow in February, with the debut of a 6,000-seat entertainment and recreation venue that will include a restaurant and three bars.
The city’s newest waterfront attraction, built at a cost of $18 million, is occurring in an unlikely location – a former grain elevator at 333 Ganson St., a stone’s throw from the General Mills plant and the Michigan Street Bridge.
RiverWorks is also down the road from Silo City, the cluster of grain elevators that has become an arts destination, and across the river from Ohio Street, which is being redeveloped as a link between Canalside and the Outer Harbor and the new RiverFest Park.
“We are really excited about all of the feedback and interest we have been receiving at RiverWorks,” said developer Douglas Swift, who is partners with restaurateur and brew pub operator Earl Ketry.
“RiverWorks will have an eclectic combination of attractions, from banquets and weddings and trade shows and concerts to roller derby and curling. It’ll also be a restaurant that’s open seven days a week for lunch and dinner,” Swift said.
In the summer, a brewery and distillery, as well as a small, seasonal food and beverage service, are planned in the cluster of six 100-foot-tall silos, which were painted blue in September and encircled with vinyl wrap to advertise Labatt Blue. A beer garden also is expected to open then in the remnants of a grain elevator demolished three years ago, which Swift calls the “Stonehenge ruins.”
For now, the focus is on ice sports. The twin professional-sized ice rinks, under a 50,000-square-foot open-air roof, were completed in the past week, a year after work began. The rinks will host hockey and curling leagues, and the Queen City Roller Girls begin playing games there in February.
The site also will host the 2015 Labatt Blue Buffalo Pond Hockey Tournament and Buffalo Curling Club Bonspiel, with dates to be announced soon. The Buffalo Curling Club league is looking for members, with information at buffalocurlingclub.org. Announcement of a public skate also will be made in the near future.
Food and beverage service will be limited in the beginning, Swift said, since a liquor license can’t be issued until a certificate of occupancy has been issued.
Construction is continuing on a 55-foot space between two warehouses once used for the grain elevator operation. A glass atrium will rise above the buildings to create the 60,000-square-foot entertainment and recreation space, which will include the restaurant, bars and pro shop. A 10,000-square-foot catering kitchen is also being built.
“I toured there a month or two ago, and they’re going great guns. The place looks phenomenal,” said Tom Dee, president of Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp., who said that project and others planned for the waterfront are part of the “synergy” that’s developed as a result of the success of Canalside.