HARBORcenter Takes Shape

July 30, 2013 Updated Jul 30, 2013 at 6:43 PM EDT

By WKBW Admin

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July 30, 2013 Updated Jul 30, 2013 at 6:43 PM EDT

Buffalo (WKBW) - The new HARBORcenter development in Downtown Buffalo now has a college hockey team that will call it home. Canisius College will play its home games at the new downtown facility starting in the fall of next year.

After basically renting space at Buffalo State for the last few years, the Griffs will have their own home complete with locker room, banners, and plenty of blue and gold.

"It's a natural partnership," head coach Dave Smith said. "The next step is great."

Details of the agreement were not released, but it is a multi-year deal between the school and the facility.

Economic development officials expect 500 thousand people to visit the HARBORcenter every year, making up part of the millions drawn to downtown Buffalo and Canalside. Now with a college hockey program and a top hotel chain in Marriott making up its tenants, the expectations for the new building are high.

"I'm confident that its going to attract a significantly better, different, and incrementally stronger demographic to Canalside each and every day," HARBORcenter President John Koelmel said.

That is the hope and the goal of HARBORcenter officials as the 172 million dollar facility rises out of a former parking lot.

From basically nothing, to a significant part of the Canalside district when all is said and done.

Eyewitness News sat down with the President of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation, Tom Dee, to ask him about the high expectations of the new hockey-centric facility.

"HARBORcenter is a spectacular addition to the waterfront, and there's no taking away from that. And there's no such thing as a flop, it's guaranteed," Dee said.

A guarantee made partly because no state or federal money is being used to build it. Dee says investment in other projects paved the way for this type of private investment.

But that comes with its share of expectations.

Besides the Sabres themselves and Canalside concerts, the HARBORcenter is expected to be the next biggest draw for people to come see Buffalo's waterfront.

So does that make Canalside dependent on the HARBORcenter?

"No, HARBORcenter is a component of Canalside. There is 21 acres of canalside. So it's not one entity, it's a combination of all of it, and it's making Buffalo's waterfront the destination and the place to be," Dee answered.

With plenty of work yet to be done, and lots of construction work continuing, those involved in waterfront development say they are happy where things are right now, but that they're not done yet.