Before KeyBank Center was First Niagara Center, which had previously been HSBC Arena, which had previously been Marine Midland Arena – before nearly every professional sports venue in the United States was named with a corporate sponsorship – there was, simply, the Aud.
Buffalo Memorial Auditorium opened in 1940 after being built at a cost of $2.7 million, or about $48 million in today’s dollars, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s inflation calculator. It replaced the Broadway Auditorium, commonly known as the “Broadway Barns,” which is still used today as a public works facility.
After the Aud’s ribbon-cutting, the front page of the Buffalo Evening News crowed in all-caps, “MEMORIAL AUDITORIUM FORMALLY DEDICATED TO WORLD WAR DEAD: More Than 3000 Attend Luncheon, Thrill at Beauty of $2,700,000 Structure.”
In its first three decades, Memorial Auditorium hosted two versions of the Buffalo Bisons. One Bisons team (whose parent teams included the Montreal Canadiens, the Chicago Blackhawks and the New York Rangers) played in the American Hockey League from 1940 to 1970, and another played only 38 days in Buffalo as a member of the National Basketball League, which later merged with the Basketball Association of America to create the NBA. The latter team – whose first game was a 50-39 win over the Syracuse Nationals – eventually became the Atlanta Hawks after stops in Illinois, Milwaukee and St. Louis.
Big-time pro sports came to the Aud in 1970, when the NHL’s Sabres and NBA’s Braves began their debut seasons in Buffalo. But, again, basketball didn’t last long, as the Braves left in 1978 for sunny California. They are now – unsurprisingly, given the team’s long history of losing – the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Aud hosted many other notable events, as well, including Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd concerts, both in 1973. Frank Zappa recorded an album there in 1980.
Memorial Auditorium closed in 1996 when the Sabres, Buffalo Bandits lacrosse team and Buffalo Blizzard soccer team moved to what is now KeyBank Center. It was demolished in 2009.