Returning basketball fans reflect on the new Buffalo

Posted at 7:27 PM, Mar 16, 2017

Basketball fans from all over are coming to not only experience March Madness, but also take a look at the 'new Buffalo'. Some of them had a lot to say about Buffalo in 2014, and the one they're seeing today.


"Villanova keeps us together," said Don Tavoletti, a Villanova fan and graduate. "The basketball team keeps us together going to the tournament every year."


To some, it's more than just a game, more than just a team. To Don Tavoletti and Mike Reil, who graduated from Nova in 1986, March Madness is the greatest excuse to get to see each other once a year.


"We were here in 2014," said Reil. "We left a little disappointed but last year we had some redemption."


Thursday night, they're hoping to leave with a smile on their faces, and some Buffalo wings in their stomachs. Especially from restaurants that didn't exist last time they came to Buffalo for the NCAA tournament in 2014.


"It's nice down here," said Tavoletti. "We heard there were some new bars and restaurants and things. Usually we go to a different one on Pearl Street but this one's really nice - you get to see all the games on the big screen."


"We were surprised and excited at the same time," said Reil. "We do like it here. This new area by the stadium down here is fantastic and we love you guys here in Buffalo."


A nice surprise for Mike Reil who drove nine hours to make it to the City of Good Neighbors. But the new and developed Buffalo is also a nice sight for those who live closer.


"I actually went to UB for school here, and it's improved in the last 30 years," said Mike Egnaczyk, who drove from Philadelphia. "It's improved greatly. The downtown experience is improved compared to what it was and I think it's a great place to visit!"


That's exactly what the CEO of Visit Buffalo-Niagara, Patrick Kaler, wants to hear. As the visitor's bureau strives to bring more people, and more entertainment, to a 'new Buffalo'.


"In 2014 when we last hosted the tournament," said Kaler, "Harborcenter and Canalside were all under construction. So anybody that was here in 2014, they're seeing a whole new welcome mat if you will of Canalside."


Kaler says they've added more than 25 new restaurants to the downtown area since March of 2014. The only thing that's missing for those coming from out of town? Ridesharing apps like Uber, and... well... warmer weather would be nice.