First Niagara Center is a multi-purpose indoor arena located in downtown Buffalo, New York, USA. It is home to the Buffalo Sabres of the National Hockey League and the Buffalo Bandits of the National Lacrosse League. The arena was the home of the Buffalo Destroyers of the Arena Football League, the Buffalo Blizzard of the National Professional Soccer League II, and the Buffalo Wings of Roller Hockey International during each team's brief existence.
For sporting events, the arena can seat 18,690 spectators. In the event that the arena is being used for a concert, basketball game, or similar event, the total number would increase - accounting for seats or standing space on the arena's floor. Both sporting events and concerts at the arena are served by the Special Events station of the Buffalo Metro Rail.
First Niagara Center opened September 21, 1996, replacing the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium. It was known during construction as Crossroads Arena. However, naming rights were sold to Marine Midland Bank, part of the HSBC banking group, and the building was renamed Marine Midland Arena before the first game had been played. In 1999, as part of HSBC's worldwide corporate rebranding, the arena's name was changed to HSBC Arena. This name change coincided with the playing of the first college basketball tournament game in the arena's history. The press box in the arena is named after former Sabres broadcaster and Hockey Hall of Fame member Ted Darling.
In time for the Buffalo Sabres' 2007–2008 season, a new scoreboard manufactured by Daktronics was installed. In addition the four main speaker racks were removed and replaced and two additional speaker racks were added. The new scoreboard features four large high-definition video screens, surrounded by two 360-degree LED ribbon boards. The bottom of the board features large Buffalo Sabres logos with giant sabres crossed behind them. The handles of the sabres are lit with blue LED lights. The Sabres logos shoot smoke out of the Buffalo's nostrils every time a Sabres goal is scored or when the Sabres win at home. The last major update for the 2007–2008 season was the addition of two lighted Sabres logos in the upper level of the pavilion on the wall either side of the Sports Headlines bar.
In 2011, Buffalo based First Niagara Financial Group reached an agreement to purchase HSBC Bank's upstate New York and Connecticut branch network. While naming rights to HSBC Arena were not included in the sale, First Niagara, HSBC, the Buffalo Sabres, and other parties reached an agreement to establish a new naming rights deal with First Niagara.
On November 16, 1996, the arena's first JumboTron, an eight-sided scoreboard made by Sony, fell to the ice while it was being remotely moved minutes after a few players ended practice and hours before a game between the Sabres and Boston Bruins. Nobody was injured, but the game was postponed. The scoreboard was replaced later that season.
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