Proposed Study to Look at Convention Center

June 27, 2013 Updated Jun 27, 2013 at 11:52 PM EDT

By Rachel Elzufon

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June 27, 2013 Updated Jun 27, 2013 at 11:52 PM EDT


Buffalo, NY (WKBW) - There's a new push on an old idea -- building a new convention center in Buffalo.

Talks have been on-and-off since the 1990's, and the Erie County Executive says our current center is not doing the job it could.

A few years ago, the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center, which was build in 1978, received a reported $7 million upgrade. However, even with the facelifts, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz (D) says it's old, outdated, too small and losing business.

"You can put new lights on, you can put carpeting down, but it's still too small," Poloncarz says. "It was too small when it was built. It was shoe-horned into downtown Buffalo."

Poloncarz is now pitching a new study to look into retrofitting the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center, or build a new one all together.

The proposed study would address these questions: "What size should it be. How big should it be with one floor plan in one room? How many rooms do we need off of it? Do we need a hotel," explains Poloncarz.

It's no secret the BNCC is considered outdated and small. Just last year, the National Association of Sports Commissions pulled out of holding a major convention in Buffalo after looking at the center.

Right now, each convention brings in about a million dollars.

Poloncarz hopes to bring that number up to three million. He says more room could bring in a few thousand more people at each event. The County Executive also hopes these guests would stay for a longer period of time.

"If we feel that we can generate more money, more people to this community -- more dollars to our economy then it makes sense," Poloncarz says.

The proposed study would cost $500-thousand and last about a year.

However, at least one developer says the study should not even look at a new center.

"There's no space that can be acquired or is massive enough to put it back in the same district with all that walking hotel infrastructure in place, " says developer Mark Croce.

Croce says the current building needs to be spruced up and expanded. He is throwing his original plan in the ring -- a mid-air connection between Statler City, which Croce owns, and the BNCC.

Croce believes a new or retrofitted convention center needs to be state of the art, with 150-thousand extra square feet and a hotel attached. He adds parking is a critical issue to address.

"That's where we're missing the boat," Croce says, "because of the way our parking system is run now, there's no space left for use for the Convention Center."

The proposed study will go in front of the County Legislature later this year as part of the 2014 budget. If approved, the study would begin in 2014 and is expected to end in the first quarter of 2015.

If the study finds a new convention center should be build, the reporter would also look into other uses for the building and area that currently houses the BNCC.