Imagine thousands of people leaving downtown when a Sabres game ends, just as thousands are arriving for a Sabres game that is about to begin.
That should give you some idea of what will happen when two sets of back-to-back Garth Brooks concerts draw thousands to First Niagara Center on Friday and Saturday. And that’s why venue officials are warning ticket-holders that traffic, parking and entry to the arena itself could take extra time.
Michael Gilbert, vice president of public and community relations for the Sabres, said he and center management have been working for months with police and transportation agencies to come up with a plan to ease the expected gridlock.
Gilbert said the center and promoters agreed to have an extra hour break between shows to accommodate the crowds.
“It’s going to be a challenge, but it will be a positive challenge,” Gilbert said, noting the influx of people to downtown businesses and area hotels.
Concertgoers are urged to use public transportation from NFTA Park & Ride lots at the UB South Campus and at LaSalle Street stations, or to park in one of many lots along Main Street and board Metro Rail there. The NFTA has added additional trains throughout the evening; Metro Rail service will be extended 30 minutes after the Thursday and Sunday concerts and 90 minutes after the conclusion of the Friday and Saturday shows.
The center’s website, firstniagaracenter.com, provides a list of nearly 100 downtown parking lots.
The biggest crunch might be expected between the time the 6 p.m. shows let out on Friday and Saturday and the time the 10:30 p.m. shows start, with both arriving and departing patrons clogging the streets.
Doors will open at 4:30 p.m. for the 6 p.m. concerts, and “guests for the 6 p.m. shows are encouraged to arrive early,” according to the website. On the other hand, “We encourage guests for the 10:30 shows not to arrive any earlier than 10:00 p.m.,” says the website. “Due to the unique nature of hosting back-to-back events, there may be a delay in the opening of doors for the 10:30 p.m. shows.”
To ease entrance to the arena, officials are reminding patrons of items that cannot be brought in, including backpacks and large bags, food and drink, any weapons, audio or video recording devices and detachable or zoom camera lenses.
The Garth Brooks World Tour with Trisha Yearwood concerts are set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 6 and 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday.