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Poloncarz dismisses downtown stadium-convention center tie

Talk of potential sites for a new Buffalo Niagara Convention Center has led to questions about whether it could be paired with a new football stadium downtown, particularly at a site near Canalside.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz this week said any prospect of a new downtown Bills stadium had no bearing on a consultant's recommendations for the best two sites of a new convention center.

The prospect of a new stadium wasn't even raised as something the county's consultant should consider.

Poloncarz spoke this week with Bills and Sabres co-owner Kim Pegula about the convention center site study.

She said she and her husband Terry Pegula support the idea of a new convention center and expressed interest in the consultant's recommendations, Poloncarz said. But the issue of pairing it with a new Bills stadium was not brought up.

"The Pegulas have invested $18 million in the stadium this past year, and my understanding is they're going to put another $18 million in the stadium next year," Poloncarz said a news conference Thursday as he officially unveiled the convention center study recommendations. "They're wise business people. I don't think they're going to be putting $36 million in a two-year period and leave in three years."

His comment refers to the $18 million in renovation money spent at the stadium this year, and another $18 million earmarked to upgrade the ADPRO practice facility at the stadium complex.

HVS Consulting recommended two options for replacing Buffalo's "obsolete" convention center.

New sites proposed to replace Buffalo's 'obsolete' convention center

One option calls for expanding the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center between Franklin Street and Delaware Avenue, renovating the existing convention center, expanding it into what is now the rear part of the Statler building across the street and taking over the entire block north of the Statler.

The other option calls for building one large and contiguous convention center at the HSBC site between Washington Street and Michigan Avenue. A convention center would be built near Canalside on land currently used as paved parking by HSBC and The Buffalo News near KeyBank Center.

Poloncarz told The Buffalo News Editorial Board that given the restricted amount of downtown real estate, relocating the Bills stadium would essentially end the long culture of extended tailgate parties around the facility. There simply wouldn't be enough room to accommodate the kind of sprawling parking lots that surround New Era Field.

Poloncarz, however, did not dismiss the idea that a stadium still could be located downtown, regardless of the convention center site recommendations.

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