Sabres Break Ground On HARBORcenter; Pegula Makes Rare Public Comments
The Sabres on Saturday held a "ceremonial groundbreaking" for HARBORcenter, the organization’s $172.2M hotel and ice rink complex that will "rise across from First Niagara Center," according to Jay Rey of the BUFFALO NEWS. Sabres Owner Terry Pegula in front of a crowd of 100 people or more said that the organization would "be aggressive in attracting hockey players, coaches and personnel to Buffalo," where the new complex will "serve as a first-class venue in which to play, train and learn about the game." HARBORcenter will include "two ice rinks, a 200-room hotel and an 845-space parking garage." It also will have a "12,000-square-foot sports bar and 8,000 square feet of retail space." The opening of the rinks is "scheduled for September 2014," and the hotel is "expected to debut in the spring of 2015." The ceremony was "held prior to Saturday's Sabres game, under the cover of a large tent on the 1.7-acre construction site." Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said, "The magnitude of this project even has exceeded my wildest expectations of what we were going to be able to bring to the community." Rey noted the event "wasn't entirely without drama." Firefighters "picketing outside the arena with a bullhorn could be overheard during the ceremony, while Pegula’s remarks about two people onstage with him -- Brown and [Sabres President] Ted Black -- led to an uncomfortable moment." Pegula: "I’m a little confused, I’m sitting on the stage between Mayor Brown and Ted Black, yet I look over there, and I’m wondering, is something backwards here?" (BUFFALO NEWS, 4/14).
PECULIAR COMMENTS BY PEGULA: In Buffalo, Mike Harrington noted Pegula's comments on Saturday were his "first words to the media since the day before one of the most disappointing seasons in Sabres history." The team is "about to miss the playoffs for the fourth time in six years." Pegula regarding the firing of longtime head coach Lindy Ruff said, "I don't need to answer that now. This is a different topic today." Pegula then was "told that people wanted to hear his opinion." He responded, "Why don't you figure that one out?" Harrington also noted Pegula and the team's front office "no-showed the media after last season" ended, making no public comments. Pegula on whether he will address media and fans after this season said, "We'll see. Yeah, we'll see, that's what I said" (BUFFALONEWS.com, 4/13). Also in Buffalo, Jerry Sullivan wrote Pegula's comments "provided further evidence of the owner’s fumbling grasp of basic public relations." Pegula has been an "evasive figure over the last year or so." He "didn’t bother to comment after the Sabres missed the playoffs last year," and he "still hasn’t commented on his decision to fire" Ruff two months ago. Sullivan: "Pegula doesn't have a clue." It would have been "one thing if he had already gone on record about firing an admired coach who had been on the job for 16 years, or offered the slightest comment on his team’s putrid showing at any point during the season." He said that this "wasn’t the time for discussing Ruff’s firing." Sullivan: "He was right. The proper time was two months ago, when he did it." There is an "aloof, even flippant, quality to the man." It is "as if Pegula feels he should be above criticism from the media" (BUFFALO NEWS, 4/14).