Buffalo bid launched for NCAA hockey, lacrosse events

October 14, 2013 Updated Oct 14, 2013 at 11:14 AM EDT

By James Fink, Buffalo Business First

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Buffalo bid launched for NCAA hockey, lacrosse events

October 14, 2013 Updated Oct 14, 2013 at 11:14 AM EDT

The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference has submitted a series of bids to the NCAA to host a number of high-profile events including the Frozen Four men's hockey finals back to First Niagara Center and the Division I men's lacrosse quarterfinals to Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Canisius College and Niagara University are members of the MAAC.

Using Canisius, Niagara, Visit Buffalo Niagara and the Buffalo Sabres as partners, the MAAC has submitted a bid to bring the Frozen Four back to First Niagara Center during a four-year window between 2015 and 2018. The Frozen Four was held at the downtown Buffalo arena in 2003.

First Niagara Center has hosted a number of NCAA men's basketball tournament regionals and will do so again in March 2014.

Buffalo is facing steep competition for the Frozen Four. Among the competing bids is that of Quinnipiac University, which although located near New Haven, Conn., is partnering with Orlando's Amway Center to host the Frozen Four during that same 2015-2018 window.

"We're definitely in a better place to host the Frozen Four than we were in 2003," said Michael Even, Visit Buffalo Niagara senior vice president.

Even noted downtown Buffalo has undergone a major transformation since 2003's Frozen Four. The city has more full-service hotels including the Embassy Suites on Delaware Avenue and the 200-room Marriott that will help anchor the HarborCenter when it opens. The HarborCenter will be directly connected to First Niagara Center. Canisius College's men's hockey team is one of the HarborCenter's anchor tenants.

"There is a strong partnership between Niagara, Canisius and the MAAC and that helps," Even said. "That partnership carries a great deal of respect inside the NCAA."

Richard Ensor, MAAC commissioner, said his conference is being very aggressive in landing more top level NCAA events. Besides the hockey and lacrosse competition, it is also vying for NCAA Division I men's wrestling to be held at Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center and Division I women's basketball and volleyball at Albany's Times Union Center.

"The current bid submissions are a continuation of that commitment and the strategic planning of the conference," Ensor said.

Ted Black, Buffalo Sabres' president, said his organization's legacy of successfully hosting various NCAA events should help the MAAC, Canisius and Niagara.

Bringing the Frozen Four back to Buffalo was at the top of the Sabres' wish list, Black added.

"We're very proud of the resume we've built hosting large-scale sporting events," Black said. "Our ability to cater to the demands of big events will only be accentuated with the arrival of the HarborCenter next year. Buffalo is well known for being a sports-crazy town, especially in hockey, and our facilities will soon rival any across the country."

Organizers also hope to tap into the same local passion for the growing sport of lacrosse.

Again, using Niagara and Canisius as the lead, the MAAC has submitted a bid to bring the NCAA's Division I men's lacrosse quarterfinals to Ralph Wilson Stadium during a four-year window running between 2014 and 2018. If awarded, it would mark the first time the lacrosse competition was held in the region.

The Buffalo Niagara region has a strong lacrosse following, thanks to its proximity to Canada and several nearby Indian nations. The Buffalo Bandits indoor lacrosse team attracts near capacity crowds for the 19,070-seat First Niagara Center.

The NCAA is expected to award its various bids later this fall and early winter.

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