The Buffalo Sabres are getting a new home. Well, sort of. More precisely, there’s a new name for their current home. Starting in the 2011-12 season, the HSBC Arena in Buffalo will now be called the First Niagara Center.
The name change gives the building its third name in 15 years. The building was called Marine Midland Arena when it originally opened in 1996. Three years later, the name changed to HSBC Arena in 1999—Marine Midland Bank was a subsidiary of HSBC. Today, the building gets yet another moniker.
“In connection with First Niagara Bank, N.A.’s acquisition of Upstate New York and Connecticut branches from HSBC Bank USA, N.A., the Buffalo-headquartered regional bank agreed to purchase the naming rights to HSBC Arena, the 18,690-seat home of the hockey club and Western New York’s premier sports and entertainment facility.
First Niagara will be the official bank of the Buffalo Sabres, deepening the company’s connections with its customers in the region as it strengthens its Upstate New York leadership through its previously announced HSBC-branch acquisition. First Niagara’s 15-year agreement with the Sabres also includes exclusive exterior facility naming rights, category exclusivity in the facility’s bowl, other interior and exterior signage and branding, exclusive on-site ATM presence, television and other value-added promotional benefits. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.”
The Sabres say that the naming rights sale wasn’t only about money. As has been his reputation since taking over the Sabres, the new owner wanted to make sure the new business partners were good people. He wanted to make sure this was a good deal for Buffalo, as well as the Sabres. Sabres President Ted Black spoke to WGR 550 in Buffalo about his conversation with Pegula:
“When I talked to Terry about this deal, his first question really wasn’t about money or sponsorship, it was ‘Terry, what kind of people are they?’ And I was certainly happy to let Terry know that John Koelmel and Dan Contera, the two folks I’ve been dealing with, and their teams are very much Buffalo people, very much like the Pegulas. As Terry would say, they’re our kind of people.”
Of course, it’s a little bit about money. The sale gives the team yet another infusion of money that it didn’t have 8 months ago. With Pegula’s billions and the millions acquired in the naming rights sale, the Sabres are quickly becoming one of the richer teams in the league. Gone are the days when the Sabres would watch talented players walk because they simply couldn’t afford to keep talent in Buffalo. Now, they have the deep pockets to compete with any market in the league.
The people over at First Niagara considered using “Auditorium” in the name in a nod to The Aud that housed the Sabres from 1970-1996. Unfortunately, the powers that be thought “First Niagara Center” rolled off the tongue better.
Yep, the Sabres’ F’N Center certainly rolls off the tongue a little better.