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New Buffalo Niagara Convention Center plans put on hold

Posted at 6:51 PM, May 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-27 18:51:52-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — With the Hyatt Regency going dark, Erie County is already feeling the trickle-down effects of losing one of the largest hotels in downtown Buffalo.

“I don't know if building a new convention center while losing this revenue while losing the hotel attached to it is something that is going to be feasible,” said Joe Lorigo, Erie County Legislature Minority Leader.

Lorigo said the county should reconsider building a new convention center.

County Executive Mark Poloncarz unveiled a plan in February for a $440 million convention center along Delaware Avenue.

“Part of the question with the new convention center was hotel capacity to begin with. Do we have enough hotel capacity? Now we have less,” Lorigo said.

Poloncarz said a new convention center to replace the outdated 1970s center is still needed.

“The convention center is certainly something that is going to be needed for our community,” Poloncarz said.

But with COVID-19 deflating the convention business, plans for a new center are on hold.

“When it comes to plans with the convention center, it is something that we are still going to go ahead with it has just been delayed,” Poloncarz said.

The issue is getting money from the state in a post-pandemic world.

“The county could never afford it on its own. The state needs help right now just like local governments need help, so the convention center is on the backburner,” said Poloncarz.

“One of our partners was supposed to be New York State. At the time they had a $6 billion budget deficit, now the estimate is from anywhere between $30 billion to $60 billion,” Lorigo said.

Lorigo said the loss of bed tax revenue is another reason the conversation should shift.

“It needs to shift back to wait we have this convention center. We have this building. What can we do to use it better? What can we do to maximize the revenue that's brought in through the current one? Not how can we spend a half of a billion dollars on a new one,” Lorigo said.